Village pub called 'The Black Boy' will be renamed next week

Village pub called 'The Black Boy' will be renamed next week

September 3, 2021

16th century village pub called ‘The Black Boy’ will be renamed ‘The Shinfield Arms’ next week after brewers Greene King said it had ‘links to racism’ following BLM protests

  • The Black Boy in Shinfield to be renamed next week following Black Lives Matter
  • Villagers decided on the new name from a short list of three choices
  • Social media users complained there was nothing wrong with the original name
  • Pub will have new signs as it switches to The Shinfield Arms from September 6

A centuries-old pub called The Black Boy will be renamed next week following a year of Black Lives Matter protests.

The pub in Shinfield, near Reading, Berkshire, will be called The Shinfield Arms from Monday, September 6. 

Villagers voted for the new name out of a choice of three options – The King’s Rest, The Merry Monarch and The Shinfield Arms.

Some have blasted the decision, with many wanting the historical The Black Boy name to stay. A bid to re-brand the pub was withdrawn in 2017 after backlash on social media.

But following Black Lives Matter protests in 2020, the decision was made to change the name to prevent customers taking offence. 

The Black Boy (pictured) pub in Shinfield, near Reading, Berkshire, will be called The Shinfield Arms from Monday, September 6

 Villagers voted for the new name out of a choice of three options – The King’s Rest, The Merry Monarch and The Shinfield Arms. Pictured, the pub’s beer garden

The official changeover will take place on September 6, when new signs will be put up around the building. 

The pub is owned by brewers Greene King, which owns 3,100 watering holes and restaurants across England, Wales and Scotland. The group has claimed the name The Black Boy has ‘racist connotations’.

The popular chain came under fire last year for its own links to slavery – with owners pledging to make donations to ‘benefit the Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic community’. 

Benjamin Greene: The 19th Century brewer who held 231 slaves

Greene King traces its links to slavery to its founder, Benjamin Greene, who records show held at least 231 on Caribbean islands.  

Born in 1780 in Northamptonshire, Greene moved to Bury St Edmonds, Suffolk, where in 1806 he founded what would become the UK’s largest brewery. 

He inherited plantations in the West Indies from Sir Patrick Blake, 2nd Baronet, upon his death.

In 1828, he bought the Bury and Suffolk Herald, at a time when the campaign to abolish slavery was being debated.

In his role as a newspaper proprietor, Greene used the pages of the broadsheet to ferociously oppose abolition.

According to his Oxford biography, he campaigned with ‘enormous vigour into representing the interests of the West Indian slave proprietors at a critical juncture of their affairs’.

His opposition to abolition saw him become a figure of controversy in Suffolk, and in 1837 he moved to London where he founded Benjamin Greene & Son – West Indian ship merchants – with his son in Russell Square.

Despite Greene’s protestations, MPs passed the Slavery Abolition Bill in 1833, on the condition that slave-owners were compensated for freeing their slaves.

Records archived by UCL show Greene claimed the modern equivalent of £500,000 for 231 slaves in the West Indies.

The claim forms show Greene received:  

January 23, 1836 – £2,672 for 156 slaves on St Kitts

February 27, 1836 – £1,262 for 69 slaves on St Kitts 

February 29, 1836 – £98 for six slaves on Monsterrat      

The pub chain was founded in 1799 by Benjamin Greene – who was one of 47,000 people who benefited from a policy of compensating slave owners when Britain abolished slavery in 1833.

He received the equivalent of £500,000 in today’s money after giving up his claim to three West Indies plantations. 

Meanwhile, some historians say ‘Black Boy’ is a reference to King Charles and was a name given to pubs and taverns by his supporters during the English Civil War. The ‘Merry Monarch’ is another nickname that was given to the king.

Charles is reported to have stayed in a house close to the pub in Shinfield when trying to relieve the Siege of Reading during the war.

But other historians say there may have been two men who lived in Reading in the 1700s who kept slaves and had links to Jamaica.

Earlier this year Victor Koroma, Reading’s Alliance for Cohesion and Racial Equality general manager explained why changing the name was important.

‘Because of the historical context I think it is offensive and it is right that it should be changed. I think that we (the Black community) would love to see it go and have a decent name on what is a public amenity rather than to keep harping back to the days that will hopefully never come again.’

Earlier this year Greene King Pub Partners managing director Wayne Shurvinton said the decision had ‘attracted a range of views’.

He added: ‘It is clear that there is a perception that the name ‘Black Boy’ is linked with racism today and we want to make this positive change for the better as we work towards making Greene King a truly anti-racist organisation.’

He said Greene King planned to re-name two other Black Boy pubs – one in Bury St Edmunds, the other in Sudbury, Suffolk.

It also planned to change the name of The Black’s Head in Wirksworth, Derbyshire.

Nick Mackenzie, Greene King CEO, said while the pub name ‘Black Boy’ exists throughout the country, ‘there is no consensus on its origins and many of those consulted felt the name was offensive and discriminatory’.

He said: ‘It is important to acknowledge our history but just as important to work proactively to eradicate racism in our society today.

‘We have looked at pub deeds, consulted with colleagues and while the origins of this pub name is obscure what is clear is that there is a perception it is linked with racism today and we want to make this positive change for the better.

‘We know this is a decision that will attract a range of views and we’re conscious of the history and heritage of pub names.

‘We’ve thought long and hard and feel this is the right thing to do as it is incredibly important to us that our pubs are warm and welcoming places for everyone as we continue on our journey to become a truly anti-racist organisation.

The Greene King has vowed to rename its pubs called The Black Boy (one in Bury St Edmunds, pictured) over fears the name has ‘racist’ connotations – sparking outrage among locals

‘We’re keen to involve local people in this project and look forward to working with them to choose a new and inclusive name for these pubs so they remain at the heart of communities.’  

Today Clive Price, managing director of Barons, said it supported Greene King’s move to rename the pub.

He added: ‘We looked at a proposed name change previously in 2017 when we took over the running of the pub and following local consultations it was decided the timing was not right then.

‘However, times have changed in the light of global issues with racism and we appreciate Greene King’s proactive move to change a number of Black Boy pub names across the country.

‘We hope a name change will add to an even friendlier, inclusive and welcoming environment for our customers and we look forward to this positive move.’

Online users are divided over the renaming of the pub, with many claiming the original name is not racist. 

On social media, Shinfield resident Windy69 said: ‘In my opinion, “racist connotations” can be found in any number of areas if you look hard enough and find the right angle.

‘Unsure what the origins of the name are, as that’s all I’ve ever known it as since living in the area, but the sign is currently a black horse (stallion, maybe for the ‘Boy’).

The Black Boy in Sudbury also dates back to the 1500s. Across England and Wales, there are at least 25 different pubs called The Black Boy, or similar

‘Greene King have every right to change the name, but don’t jump on a convenient issue to do it – devalues the whole racism issue. As I said, just my opinion.’

The possible royal origins of ‘The Black Boy’ pub name 

Across England and Wales there are at least 25 different pubs called ‘The Black Boy’, or similar. 

Though the name is thought to have a number of origins, including the soot darkened faces of chimney sweeps, it is often thought to be a reference to King Charles II.

King Charles II

The monarch, who ruled England, Scotland and Ireland from 1660 until his death, aged 54, in 1665, was nicknamed ‘Black Boy’ by his mother, Henrietta Maria of France, due to his dark hair and complexion.

He was restored as the monarch in 1660 after his father Charles I was executed and the traditional monarchy system removed in 1649 in place of Oliver Cromwell’s Commonwealth following the English Civil War.

Charles II’s nickname was taken up by those who supported his attempts to restore the monarchy, who labelled themselves ‘The Black Boys’, and it is believed a number of pubs changed their name to The Black Boy as a show of allegiance.

Other suggestions for the name’s origins including the misspelling of a nautical navigation marker, a ‘buoy’.

S8N said: ‘Please stick with something horse related, like The Prancing Pony, The Stallion or The Black Stallion. The horse is a relatively recent addition to the pub signage but I personally think it’s a beautiful and well suited one.’ 

Mr Mackenzie said the re-renaming was part of Greene King’s inclusion and diversity strategy ‘to champion equality and diversity within the company and increase support for people from Black, Asian and minority ethnic backgrounds’.

In 2020, Greene King pledged to invest in initiatives to support more young people from BAME backgrounds to begin a career in hospitality.

In August 2020, Greene King strengthened its partnership with the Prince’s Trust with a new five-year agreement, increasing funding by a third and pledging to create 1,000 opportunities for young people and an increased financial commitment to the charity linked to the diversity aims.

An employee-led group called Unity has also been created that represents Black, Asian and minority ethnic groups and is formed from representatives across Greene King with the aim of creating a more diverse and inclusive workplace.

Last October also saw the launch of a year-long partnership between Greene King and the International Slavery Museum in Liverpool to raise awareness and educate about the historic transatlantic slave trade.

It comes four years after Surrey-based Barons Pub Company, which took over the day-to-day running of the Black Boy in Shinfield, drew up plans to change the name and promptly dropped them after protests from locals.

Barons said the move had been inspired by ‘negative’ comments over the Black Boy name and their choice – The Shinfield Arms – was more PC in this day and age.

But 250 people went on social media hitting out at the change and the firm backed down and said the pub would remain The Black Boy.

They said they had pitched the name change because continuing to call it The Black Boy was ‘causing concern’.

‘We are always respectful of the history of pubs and understand that changing the name of a pub is not a decision to be taken lightly’ Barons announced in January 2017 when previous landlords Claire Hawkins and Mike Clegg sold their lease after eight years behind the bar.

The Blacks Head (pictured) in Wirksworth, Derbyshire, is also under the firing line – despite locals insisting the name comes from a bottle of ginger beer

Barons added: ‘However, in our short association with the pub, we have been surprised how many negative reactions we have had to the name The Black Boy.

‘We are proposing to change the name to The Shinfield Arms and would like to hear the views of anyone who lives in the area or anyone who has an opinion on this subject.

‘All that we ask is that this is reasonable and well considered feedback.’

They got more than 250 comments from customers urging the pub to keep the historical name and said: ‘What a fantastic response from everyone. Thanks so much for all your comments, your passion and enthusiasm – you’ve made the decision really easy.’

In Shinfield furious locals took to Facebook to vent their frustration at the pub name change

One social media user said at the time: ‘It’s not offensive. It’s an historic name that refers back to the English civil war.’

The pub’s website said there were ‘many interesting theories as to how the inn acquired its unusual’ name.

It said: ‘As the pub was around during the reign of Charles II, it is supposed that it and other Black Boy pubs around the country were named after the king, who was renowned partly for his swarthy complexion.

‘Alternatively, many believe that the name comes from a famous dark figurine smoking a pipe that once adorned the doorway.’

But on social media, Peter Metalli posted: ‘The Shinfield Arms was such a nondescript insipid, bland name.

‘There will be the usual suspects claiming that it’s not racist and it’s PC gorn-maaaaaddd but the name IS offensive and has no place in the 21st century.

‘Why not The Black Bay? Then they would not have even had to change the horse sign (ok well maybe just a ‘snip’)!’

Whitespirit wrote: ‘No it’s not offensive. It’s an historic name that refers back to the English civil war. If it were called The Tar boy or something similar that would be offensive, but not a reference to a former king of England.’ 

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