Monday, 4 April 2011

The Sand Martin: What's in a name?

What’s in a pub name? Nothing really, according to Marston’s Inns and Taverns, whose new “family dining pub restaurant” The Sand Martin opens today next to Cardiff City Stadium. They have also recently refurbished The Old College in Barry and renamed it The Cherry Orchard.

Once, pub names reflected local geography, history, culture or community. However, this is no longer the case. Marston’s policy is to choose “neutral” pub names, just like town councils naming roads around arbitrary themes on new housing estates.

The Sand Martin joins McDonalds, KFC, Subway et al. around the stadium that is home to Cardiff City Football Club and Cardiff Blues rugby club. Letters were sent to Marston’s suggesting names for the pub; for instance, The Leckwith to reflect the pub’s location, The Fred Keenor after the cup-winning Cardiff City captain (the road by the pub is already called Fred Keenor Avenue), The Gareth Edwards or other Welsh rugby legends, or The Bluebird after the football club’s nickname. Indeed, the latter suggestion fits with Marston’s nature theme (e.g., see also Otter at Newbridge, The Willow Tree at Brynmawr, The Dragonfly at Merthyr Tydfil and The Bumble Bee at Blackwood). However, in an open letter published in Jan 2011, Marston’s defended their pub naming policy by stating they always choose non-partisan names for their outlets so as not to offend anyone.

The Old College in Barry was opened around 1986 on the site of a recently demolished college. To my knowledge, there has never been a Cherry Orchard in Barry. A link to the past has been lost.

So, meaningless “neutral” names for family dining experience pubs are the order of the day. On a more positive note, Marston’s have put interesting local photographs around their establishments (e.g., a large panorama of Porthkerry viaduct in The Cherry Orchard and numerous Cardiff scenes in The Sand Martin), they are child-friendly (The Sand Martin has a play area), there are no TVs showing sport (makes a change these days), they have some good beers (not always the case in family dining pubs) and, as long as they keep the 2-for-1 and other offers, the food is good and reasonably-priced.

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