What’s in a sign?

The history of the pub sign is an interesting one – they first started to appear in the 13th century and were usually pictorial rather than written with crudely drawn ale tankards or barrels to make it obvious what they offered to the illiterate majority. Richard II then introduced the concept of a white stag appearing on the sign to make them easier to identify as hostelries for ale-conners (an inspector of prestigious standing) and ensure they maintained the proper standards of brewing. 

Over the centuries pub signs have evolved to reflect famous events, people or the area in which they are located and tell a fascinating story. 

We are storytellers at heart so when it came to creating the sign for The White Horse, we delved deep into the history of Dorking, its residents and the surrounding area. Here is just some of what we found…

  • The Dorking Chicken – a unique breed of chicken known for its five toes!
  • Laurence Olivier, the actor, was born and raised in Dorking
  • Charles Dickens was a regular visitor to Dorking as was Jane Austen 
  • Daniel Defoe is another notable resident
  • There is a warren of tunnels and caves that pass under Dorking many of which were used as wine cellars and continue to be used for storage. Indeed The White Horse boasts a tunnel that supposedly runs to St Martin’s! 

The rich history of Dorking and its notable residents was inspirational and we wanted to inject the traditional pub sign with Heartwood Inns’ characteristic quirky style. Creating something truly memorable that respected the history of the inn whilst also marking a new chapter for this beautiful building was paramount when working with our talented designers. 

Our lovely horse is a magnificent example of a traditional coaching horse – his jaunty hat is a nod to Charles Dickens whilst the feather tucked into the hat band recognises the wonderfully quirky Dorking chicken! This wonderful sign will hang proudly outside The White Horse restoring this gorgeous and historic inn to its rightful place at the centre of Dorking!