When I was very young one of my favourite Sunday excursions involved a bus to Liverpool Pier Head, the ferry across the Mersey and then another bus to Mold or even beyond to Gwernymynydd in North Wales. The bus terminus was at a place called Loggerheads.
We used to walk alongside the river through the Ash woods.
I was always confused as a child when I heard the phrase ‘they are at loggerheads’ when it was obvious the people concerned were at home in Liverpool! I discovered it didn’t mean that the people were here in North Wales – it meant they were squabbling or in contention over some point of principle. So where did the expression come from and why does the inn sign for The Three Loggerheads appear to only show two heads?
The word loggerhead had a number of different meanings and in the seventeenth century is said to have been a common inn sign (usually in the form of The Three Loggerheads). Shakespeare used loggerhead to mean a foolish person; a thickhead or blockhead (a logger being a block of wood used to hobble a horse).
The idea behind the sign having only two heads is that the visitor was tricked into asking where the third loggerhead was. He would then be told he was it!
A loggerhead was also a seafaring weapon like a large ladle which was heated and dipped into boiling tar which was then flicked at another ship, its sails and its occupants. It may be that the idea of being at loggerheads came from this weapon.
One pub called the Loggerheads (at Narrow Marsh, Nottingham) was named for another meaning of the word – a stout wooden post built into the stern of a whaling boat, to which the line was attached. Whaling relics were brought from Hull to Nottingham by bargees using the River Trent.
Nothing to do with the inn sign, but when I searched my computer for pictures at Loggerheads I came across this one I took last time we walked there, in 2005, of the rare Toothwort (Lathraea squamaria).
A parasite growing on the roots of a range of woody plants, its common name comes from its fruiting stems, which resemble a row of teeth.