Origin of "ARMS" in pub names ie "the Builders ARMS"

Why do so many British style pubs have the name ARMS in them, i.e.; The Builders Arms, The Fat Lady’s Arms; The Kensington Arms?
This Question has been keeping me awake at night frequenting pubs looking for answers and turning me into an alcoholic.

Originally the ARMS referred to heraldic coats of arms which would have been displayed on the pub’s sign - often the arms belonged to some local notable. That form of name has become almost indicative of pub-ness. More recently some pubs have extended the practice to things which have no coats of arms as sort of an Inn joke (sorry).

I think there may also be a link to the old trade guilds which had their own heraldic emblems. Some of these guilds date back well into medieval times.
If a pubs clientele was engaged in a particular task beers would be brewed specifically for them, like in Sheffield which was famous for steel, the ale nearby was less potent so as to slake the thirst of the workers.

“Arms” in English pub names is a corruption of the word “Alms”. “Alms” is charitable giving and for a pub to take that name usually means there were some alms houses built in that area to house the old and/or poor. So near where I live in Walthamstow there is the “Queen’s Arms” and the alm houses provided by the queen at that time are near the church. There is the “Baker’s Arms” at the junction of Hoe Street and the Lee Bridge Road and close by there is the alms houses estate provided by the baker’s guild at that time. If it isn’t the “Queen’s Arms” or “King’s Arms” then the first name wili likely be the name of a trade guild that provided the alms houses like near work I used to drink in the “Skinner’s Arms”.


Old Joke:
1: Can you tell me where’s The King’s Arems?

2: Around the Quen’s Ass!

There are two sets of almshouses in Walthamstow - the Monoux Almshouses and the Squires Almshouses. As their names indicate, they were founded by Sir George Monoux and Mary Squires respectively, not by some queen. (As a general rule, English queens did not just set up almshouses at random locations around the country.)

It is true that, in that particular case, the pub was named after the nearby almshouses. But that can hardly be a case of some olde-worlde-linguistic-corruption-lost-in-the-mists-of-time, as the almshouses were founded only in the nineteenth century.

Why do apartment buildings often have “arms” in their names, too?

Because it sounds classy. Really.

Apartment buildings, condos, housing developments, etc., also often pretentious names including words like “Estates” (always in the plural), “Arms”, “Manor”, and the like. These are just suggestive names, to give the property an air of fabulous baronial mansions where fabulously wealthy landed, titled noblemen lived.

Arms refers to heraldic coats of arms, as ticker notes.

Pubs generally had sleeping rooms upstairs, which appears to have mutated into an Anglophilic way to refer to apartment buildings in the US. I’ve never heard Arms used in any other context, such as a subdivision.

See, for example, Arthur Minton. “Apartment-House Names” American Speech, Vol. 20, No. 3 (Oct., 1945), pp. 168-177. (Available through JSTOR).

Do you… have the location of this particular pub? I feel the need to do some serious in-depth research.

There is one called the Skinner’s arms in the King’s Cross/St Pancras area: http://goo.gl/maps/CVfME

I don’t know where you’re getting this from but it sounds like a typical piece of folk etymology to me. Could you provide an authoritative source for this claim?

Who was the first to bear arms?

A question as old as Shakespeare, at least.

I too find the ‘alms’ link as an explanation highly unlikely.

If you look around many British cities you will often come across the same pub names, so ‘Skinners Arms’ in Leeds is, or was right next to a leather works.

I’ve seen ‘Carpenters Arms’, other trades named include. ‘Glassblowers’, ‘Felmonger’, ‘Cooper’, ‘Goldsmiths’, ‘Smith’,‘Plasterers’, Bricklayers’ and so on etc.

Many of these trades had controlling bodies known as Guilds, each guild had its own Coat of Arms.

Another reason why alms=arms is clearly nonsense is that most charities that ran almshouses tended to take a dim view of any pubs in the vicinity. The usual fear was that the inhabitants would exploit their leisurely retirement by hanging out in the local pubs. The inhabitants were expected to be sober, if not literally then at least figuratively.

In which I happened to have a beer just the other afternoon. And the reason why it is called that is because the Skinners’ Company of London owned the land. Which is probably the most common reason for such names - the arms are those of the family or institution that was the literal landlord.

I’ve never seen that. Doesn’t sound classy to me, just sounds like… well, a pub. Is it an American thing?

Well, I’ll have you know that my mother and father were living at an apartment building called “Randolph Arms” in Queens when I was born.

And my father’s name is Randolph.

Waddya think of dem apples?

I don’t know about now, but it will be in the future.