A public-house sign. In England without doubt the arms of Fitzwarren, the head of which house, in the days of the Henrys, was invested with the power of licensing vintners and publicans, may have helped to popularise this sign, which indicated that the house was duly licensed; but the sign has been found on houses in exhumed Pompeii, and probably referred to some game, like our draughts, which might be indulged in on the premises. Possibly in some cases certain public-houses were at one time used for the payment of doles, etc., and a chequer-board was provided for the purpose. In such cases the sign indicated the house where the parish authorities met for that and other purposes.
Source: Dictionary of Phrase and Fable, E. Cobham Brewer, 1894
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