AFTER working for 30 years for a leading brewery, surveying their buildings and maintaining the signs on their pubs, Maurice Dunn is a leading expert on the subject of pub signs - especially as his great hobby in retirement is delving into the history and meaning of those signs.

He came to the January meeting to tell members about some of them.

The first pub signs were always pictures only because in those days, people couldn't read.

Examples like The Bush, The Grapes and The Vine started a whole illustrated pub guide to British life.

After the Romans, who established ''tavernas'', withdrew from Britain, pub signs started marking other key stages of our history, like the Crusades (The Trip to Jerusalem, The Saracens Head).

In 1393, Parliament passed a law that anyone selling ales must put up a sign so we got signs like The Brewer and The Brewer and Baker, wall-mounted in wood, or in brick or stone, some even fixed right across a road - with disastrous consequences.

Skilled artists would sometimes pay for their drinks by painting a new sign.

And some signs didn't come cheap - in 1655, one licensee paid £1,057 to have a sign put up.

Signs reflected the nation's life - its religion (The Mitre, The Abbey, The Anchor); its battles (The Hastings Tavern, The Waterloo); its transport (The Coach and Horses, The Boat, The Junction, The Puffing Billy); its pastimes (The Dog and Duck, The Good Woman); its famous people (The Lord Nelson, Dick Turpin, Wellington); and its local industry (The Jolly Fitter, The Davy Lamp, The Blacksmith); its legends, wildlife, agriculture and so on.

Mr Dunn mentioned the country's longest pub name, The 13th Mounted Cheshire Riflemen and the shortest, The A1, and concluded by displaying a lot of pictures of typical pub signs.

The next meeting will be on Friday at Wythall Baptist Church Hall, when Derek Harrington will be talking and showing slides about Bewdley - a Riverside Town.