Row over 'Labour in Vain' 19th century pub sign showing white couple washing black boy

Staffordshire | News | Published:

A village pub looks set to change its name after becoming embroiled in a race row over its 'racist' sign - despite a campaign within the community to keep it.

The sign at the Labour in Vain in Yarnfield in Staffordshire shows a black boy being scrubbed in the bath by a white couple.

The image was declared politically incorrect by council equality chiefs who previously asked the operators of the traditional boozer to take it down.

But now bosses at a brewery that has taken over the 166-year-old watering hole are considering changing the name as well - over fears that could be considered racist too.

A row has since broken out with campaigners who believe the historic country pub should keep the title it was first given in the mid-19th century.

They have collected more than 300 signatures for a petition in protest over the name change.

Diane Lander, of Yarnfield Post Office, set up the petition.

The 47-year-old said: "There is strong opposition against it. It has been the Labour In Vain for 166 years."

The controversial sign was first removed in 1994 when two schoolgirls launched a national campaign to have it removed.


But in 2001, then-licensees Christine and John Glover found the original sign and hung it in the beer garden.

That led to a letter from Stafford and District Racial Equality Council (REC) asking for it to be removed from view, but the board has remained in place since.

Regular Jimmy Cawdell, 56, said: "If it goes ahead, which we're sure it will, it will be political correctness gone mad.

"We are too upset about offending people these days, even if it means sacrificing our pub heritage.


"Everybody is outraged. There is not one person who uses this pub that thinks the name or the sign is racist.

"It should stay as it is because the pub is an integral part of the village's history."

Brewery Enterprise Inns said it was looking to change the name once it reopens after a revamp.

It is thought it may be renamed the Yarnfield Arms, although no decision has been made.

Councillor Brian Eyre, of Yarnfield Parish Council, said: "I can understand why the people in the village want to retain the name as it is part of our heritage. However, in the 25 years I have lived here the pub has closed a couple of times and the tenants don't seem to survive very long.

"It has to be a positive that Enterprise wants to invest the pub and village because at the moment it's not particularly attractive."

A spokesman for Brewery Enterprise Inns said: "We are currently reviewing several options for this popular village pub with the aim of having it back open and trading at the heart of the Yarnfield community as soon as possible."

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