The pub sign originated in Richard II’s 1393 Royal Act: ‘whosoever shall brew ale in the town with the intention of selling it must hang up a sign’. Signs were used instead of lettering, with many coming from the Bestiary – a compendium of ‘beasts’. It was believed that the Unicorn’s horn could detect poison, when dipped in a poisoned cup, and render the drink harmless. It is also possible that the Unicorn Inn was named in the early 17th century, during the reign of James I (who visited Ripon in 1617), when the mythical horned beast was added to the royal coat of arms.
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