We can't expunge history, says landlord of The Black Boy pub

The Black Boy, Bricket Wood

The Black Boy, Bricket Wood - Credit: Peter Dillingham

A Bricket Wood pub has firmly stated that it has no intention to change its name, after others with the same name made the change due to racial connotations.

The Herts Ad approached The Black Boy after Greene King institutions bearing the same name were renamed last week, as part of the retailer's move to become a "truly anti-racist organisation".

The Bricket Wood pub, commonly referred to as 'The Boy', will not change its name, with landlord Peter Dillingham stating that "you cannot expunge history."

Peter appeared on BBC1's The One Show in August 2020 alongside Kevin Duala, as part of the exploration of the history behind the controversial name.

Kevin Duala and Peter Dillingham at The Black Boy

Broadcaster and presenter Kevin Duala (left) paid a visit to The Black Boy in Bricket Wood, posing here with landlord Peter Dillingham - Credit: Peter Dillingham

"We've got no plans to change the name here," Peter said.

"There have been many reasons why people think we're called The Black Boy, but in that episode they got a historian down who is a specialist in pub's names, and she told us the reason why it's called The Black Boy.

"A lot of people thought it was named after King Charles, because his mum called him the black boy due to his very dark complexion. Other's believe it may have ben named after chimney sweeps.

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"But the actual name derives from an advertisement. It meant that, in this place, you could buy anything that came from the plantations; tobacco, cotton, all those sorts of things, you could buy them in this particular shop."

Inside The Black Boy, Bricket Wood

Inside The Black Boy, Bricket Wood - Credit: Peter Dillingham

Peter went on to explain that, as many people were illiterate, the names and signs of shops were an important way of relaying to customers what a business sold.

"Just like when you go to a barbers and you see the red and white pole, it means you can get your hair cut," he continued.

"In those days, a lot of people couldn't read and write; The Black Boy was a sign."

Peter became the landlord of the now 270-year-old pub in 2001, which boasts an annual music festival - aptly named Bricket Woodstock - and is home to darts and footballs teams. He noted the diversity of pub goers that frequent his business despite the name it bears, stating he has never known anyone to be offended by it, or mention it in a derogatory manner. 

"You cannot just expunge history. We can't just wipe out things we don't like because we don't like them any more. History is how we learn.

"What we can do is educate people that, in today's diverse societies and cultures, racism has no part. We can't just keep doing this and going on."

He did, however, acknowledge that the name does have tenuous racial connotations.

"There's no racial intent there, but, because it links back to the plantations, people can make that link that it links back to slavery," he said.

"Most of the modern institution today, if you follow it right the way back, will be linked to that somewhere down the line. You just cannot keeping erasing the history. Where does it end? What else do you wipe out?"

Inside The Black Boy, Bricket Wood

Inside The Black Boy, Bricket Wood - Credit: Peter Dillingham

Chuckling about the irony, Peter added, "I've got another pub just down the road in Kings Langley called the Saracen's Head. And Saracens is another name, given by the British, to the Arab Muslims 200 years ago! Does that have to be changed as well?"

Regardless of the name the free house bears, Peter is extremely proud of his pub, and its history: "This has been a fabulous village pub. We've gone from a pub that was on its knees back in 2001, to a very successful pub."

To further explore the history of The Black Boy, visit the pub's website.