Pub signs have been used in England since the 14th century when in 1393 King Richard II ordered landlords to put signs outside their premises so they were easy to identify. Some pubs have maintained the same name for centuries. The signs were highly graphical to make it easy for travelers who would neither read nor write to recognize the name of the establishment. Pubs (or inns if they offered rooms to rent) were often used as landmarks together with churches, milestones and cairns to help a traveler find their destination. Often the signs indicated an allegiance to the crown with names such as “The King’s Head” or “Queen’s Head”, but others signified the area specialty such as “The Lamb and Fleece” (farming) or “The Cutlers Arms” (an area known for their cutlery expertise).
Another visual image used by the innkeeper provided an instant message. When he had brewed a new batch of ale, he would advertise the fact by wrapping a garland around his door post. The sign was instantly recognizable by any traveler who was therefore enticed into the inn for refreshments.
By the way, a pub is actually short for “Public House”. The landlord “invites” an individual into “his house” and therefore reserves the right to decline service and ask an unruly patron to leave his premises.