Greene King renames four pubs in England over racism concerns

By Molly Blackall

The brewery chain Greene King has renamed four of its pubs over concerns the names had perceived links to racism.

Three pubs called the Black Boy and another called the Black’s Head will be given new titles, but Greene King said it would take some time for the signs to be changed.

Greene King’s managing director, Wayne Shurvinton, acknowledged there was a perception that the names were linked with racism but said their origins were obscure.

Shurvinton said the chain “knew we had to take this step if we wanted to continue on our journey to become a truly anti-racist organisation”.

Last year, Greene King apologised for its links to slavery, having been founded by and named after the plantation owner Benjamin Greene in 1799. After consulting with staff, the firm said it would donate to charities supporting black, Asian and minority ethnic (BAME) people.

Halima Begum, chief executive of the Runnymede Trust, a racial equality thinktank, welcomed the news, saying the names had been a daily reminder of a history of oppression, but said the measures did not go far enough.

“The company has made several symbolic efforts to address its founder’s legacy of oppression, not least by diversifying its hiring practices and through its work with the Slavery Museum in Liverpool – but is the renaming of a few pubs enough to make amends? No. Not in the slightest,” she told the BBC.

“No doubt members of BAME communities walk past these hostelries and read the names above the door every day. They are essentially having the history of oppression rubbed in their faces on a daily basis.

“We should not single out Greene King. Many companies that remain household names today profited from the unconscionable ownership and exploitation of black people.”

New names for the pubs were decided via online polls, which attracted more than 7,000 people. After the results were compiled, the Black Boy pub in Bury St Edmunds will be renamed the West Gate; a pub in Sudbury, Suffolk will be titled the Lady Elizabeth; and one in Shinfield, Berkshire, will be renamed the Shinfield Arms. The Black’s Head in Wirksworth, Derbysire, will be named the Quarryman.

There are an estimated 70 pubs in the UK called the Black Boy, but the exact origins are unknown. The name was believed to have been a nickname for King Charles II, used by his mother, and this is often cited as the origin of the pub title.