John Bull History



The original John Bull character dates from eighteenth-century England, originating as a character in John Arbuthnot's "The History of John Bull" (1712). In the early 1760s when satire and caricature was becoming popular in publications and as an art form. Londoners were renting caricatures from print houses for dinner parties and reading political gossip in coffeehouses. An anonymous print appeared of John Bull which was true to Arbuthnot's description of him; by 1762 James Gillray and other caricature engravers had incorporated John Bull into their work, and he appeared as a cartoon by Sir John Tenniel in Punch, the British humour magazine.
In the cartoons he was represented by a plain honest farmer figure with a union jack waistcoat and accompanied by a bulldog. His size and gluttony represented plentiful prosperity for all Englishmen in an age where rosy cheeks and plump faces were a sign of good health. Imagery of John Bull, beef, bulldogs and butchers became a popular representation of Englishness - the "Bullish" plain, stubborn, Protestant English perceived battling against luxury and corruption in Catholic Europe. His image was used in propaganda symbolising Britain's war victories - for example during the British war with Napoleonic France, "John Bull Taking a Luncheon" showed a huge and gluttonous John Bull consuming French ships served up by Nelson and lords of the Admiralty.

John Bull became an emblem of freedom, of manly English virtue, assertiveness, stubbornness, pride, and a fighting independence. The John Bull character was portrayed as a drinking man, hard-headed, down-to-earth, averse to intellectualism, fond of dogs, horses, ale, and country sports. As Uncle Sam is the iconic representation of the United States, so is John Bull the personification of the character of the British nation: the embodiment of honesty, generosity and zest for life which the common people had.

The Pub is at the heart of Britain's rich social heritage, with an informality of environment and honest appeal which attract people from all backgrounds for varying reasons over the course of a day. The leisure pursuits enjoyed in a pub can range from bowling greens to darts, pool and dominoes, some have live music, some with restaurants.

John Bull pubs bring a taste of the "proper English Pub" and is popular with visiting English tourists, shoppers and business people - local and international visitors alike. All will experience a friendly, authentic, Victorian styled traditional "English Pub" with turn-of-the-century decor and a "home from home" atmosphere.

Our Pubs

Looking for a John Bull pub near you? We've listed the best of the bunch around Europe.

Franchise Opportunities

Our aim and our passion is to offer our customers the best quality, value and hospitality. Our business combines the professional attributes of a large exporter with the enterprise and flexibility of a small business.

Our Beers

Discover more about the various differing beers that retail under the John Bull label.