London Pub Signs – The Enterprise…

November 26, 2012

Not surprisingly, this Holborn pub is named after a ship – in the case a vessel that was sent to search for the doomed fourth expedition of Sir John Franklin in the Arctic.

Franklin’s expedition – which consisted of two ships, the HMS Erebus and HMS Terror – had departed England in 1845 with the aim of traveling through the last un-navigated section of the Northwest Passage. But the ships became icebound near King William Island off the coast of Canada and all 129 people, including Sir John, on the expedition were lost.

Pressure from Franklin’s wife, Lady Jane Franklin, and a reward offered by the Admiralty led to many attempts to find the lost expedition involving numerous ships. These included the HMS Enterprise which twice set off to find Franklin’s ships, failing in the attempt both times.

The lost expedition and the numerous attempts to find it captured public attention and The Enterprise in Holborn is one of a couple of pubs in London that bears the ship’s name.

While some human remains and parts of the ships from the Franklin Expedition were found in the years following, the exact fate of the crew on the lost expedition remains something of a mystery.

The pub in Red Lion Street features a wonderful mosaic on an external wall depicting the ship sailing past an iceberg on which stands a polar bear (pictured). The work Tessa Hunkin, it was installed in 2006.

For more on the Victorian era pub – much of which has been restored, see


One Response to “London Pub Signs – The Enterprise…”

  1. It is ambivalent, I think. On one hand the pub (normally a happy place) commemorates the ship that became icebound on the far flung coast of Canada and the tragedy of losing every man on board. On the other hand, the pub reminds drinkers of the heroic attempts by the Enterprise to make sense of the losses.

    Fortunately the pub was not named HMS Terror.

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