An Innkeeper’s First March (OR, “What’s in a Name?”)

They say that March comes in like a LION and out like a LAMB, and what better way to segue to our very first March on Cape Cod and beautiful Barnstable Village, and the secret behind the Lamb and Lion Inn’s name!

The never-before-told true story started when we first looked at the property thirteen years ago. When we (myself Tom, and my partner Ali) first looked at purchasing the inn, the first thing on my agenda was to change the name. Now, I will tell you exactly how the conversation went, as long as you don’t start throwing stones. They’ll be no name calling and no judging, please. We don’t cast aspersions toward the wholly or the wicked–we love everyone–and that’s not just being PC… 

Guests from around the world bring us…you guessed it…

“This place is awesome, Ali, but what’s with the name?”

“What do you mean? I think it’s cute.”

“Cute? Who wants to stay at a place called the Lamb and Lion Inn? It’s biblical..something about the lion shall lay with the lamb. I don’t want biblical.”

“So, what’s wrong with biblical? You could use a bit of religion in your life.”

“No doubt, but here’s the thing. If people think we’re overly religious they may not want to come! What if they’re not married and ‘living in sin’!? What if they’re GAY!? They’ll think we’re going to judge them–maybe try to damn them! My mother has that power, ya know–maybe she passed it onto me! I don’t want to damn–and we certainly don’t judge!” (Here’s a PC moment: We are quite clear this is not the way all religious people think, it’s just how my little brain works).

“Either does your mother, big boy. I think you’re getting carried away, besides, the owner told me it was named the Lamb and Lion because yes, it DOES stand for peace. They thought it represented the peace of old Cape Cod. Would you have preferred it be called The Dove Inn?”

“Good point. OK, I’ll live with it for a while. We’ll wait and see if we scare people off.”

Our award-winning sign, built by Paul White of East Sandwich, MA.


That day, pretty convinced we had found our new home and business, we drove down to the nearby Barnstable Tavern to see what kind of reputation the inn had with the locals. We sat at the bar (first time in the joint) and chatted with the bartender, Bill. Bill was an older gentleman, very sweet and mild mannered (he’s since passed away, we’re sad to say). After ordering some lunch and a couple of Bloody Marys we decided to test the waters. “Say, Bill” Ali started, “If you had family in the area and you wanted to put them up someplace close by, where would you send them?” Bill thoughtfully tugged at his chin and motioning through the window and up the road, stated “There’s only one place I’d send ’em! It’s a wonderful Inn up the road. It’s called, uh…um…er….I think it’s called the Ox and Horse…or the Pig and Chicken. I don’t know…but it’s named after a coupla animals.”

With that, we knew we had the right place. We just needed to work on the marketing a tad.


From Russia with Love…The daughter of a visiting Russian couple drew this poolside


Soon after that day, we closed on the property. I was still not thrilled with the name, but I had agreed to live with it, so Ali and I put all our energies into cleaning, cutting, patching, crying, painting, bleaching, screaming, wiping, heaving, bickering, gutting, and all the other verbs that come with purchasing and moving into a new place. It was late March and summer was coming on fast.

Once we had a couple of rooms cleaned up, Ali’s visiting niece Julie, then about eight years old, asked if she could hang the vacancy sign up. “Sure”, we thought. “Why not?” We weren’t 100% ready, but it was in the middle of March, so what were the chances we’d get a walk-in.

Two hours later there’s a knock at the door. Our first guest…Go figure.


“How did you find us? I asked the single gentleman.

“I’ve been driving around enjoying this peaceful side of Cape Cod”, the man told me as he filled out a reservation form. “The name on your sign struck me. My parents moved around a lot, and as a result I spent many years in London as a boy. It was the best time in my life. The name Lamb and Lion reminded me of that old neighborhood. I use to walk home after school past many old pubs named similarly. I remember the Coach and Horses, for one. Your sign made me feel like I was home.


How can you change a name after that, I ask you? No way. Since that first March we’ve met thousands of new friends. Friends brought to us by the salt air, the sea foam, the whales, the screech of distant seagulls, the lavish waterfront lunches–all things that speak of vacation. But once in a while we gain a guest because of our name. “It sounds so peaceful”…”It stood out”…”I love what it represents”…”It reminded my of my favorite night in Scotland”… (and yes) “I loved the religious connotation”.

This past January we had the honor of hosting George Harrison’s sister Louise Harrison, and a Beatles tribute band she helped form in her brother’s honor, The Liverpool Legends. They were on Cape Cod for a show at the Barnstable High School auditorium which promoted keeping music programs alive in the schools. Being the world’s biggest Beatles fan, I was thrilled. But the best part of all happened as the show started. In front of a sold out auditorium, Louise Harrison had this to say…

“I am staying at a remarkably beautiful place. Beautiful in many ways–The Lamb and Lion Inn. The image of the lamb tucked into the lion is meant to stand for ‘peacefulness’. It was one of The Beatles’ greatest messages, and what this inn is all about.”

And to think Ali wanted to change the name…