Questions about tankards

According to wikipedia the Union Bar is home to the largest collection of pewter tankards in Europe, while there are indeed over 700 in the collection we've never been able to verify this particular claim. Some date back to the early 20th century and a few more are added each year.

Every tankard represents a volunteer position within the Union - whether that is the President or Captain of a Club or Society, an Academic Representative or a role within one of the Constituent Unions. Each summer the name of the student to hold the role in the academic year which has just finished is engraved on the tankard.

Each tankard may only be used by the people whose names are engraved upon it and the student currently holding the position. A tradition exists within the Union Bar whereby the person with their name engraved earliest on the tankard gets priority over someone whose name is engraved more recently. If the tankard is being used by someone whose name is engraved more recently it is considered polite for them to finish their drink and buy a drink for the person whose name is engraved further in the past.

We regularly receive questions relating to tankards, hopefully this page will address them all.

Does annual engraving cost money? Yes. The cost of annual engraving is about £10/name and is passed to the Club, Society or Constituent Union to which the tankard is associated.

Can new tankards be added to the collection? Tankards which represent a volunteer position in the Union can be added to the collection, but they must be of the standard design and purchased through the Union to ensure consistency. Each new tankard costs £100 which includes the engraving of the appropriate crest and role name. The role, Club or Society must have existed for at least five years for a tankard to be created. It is appropriate when a tankard is created to engrave the names of those who have held the role previously, so at least £150 should be budgetted for a new tankard. Each additional name costs £10. All costs of new tankards are passed to the associated Club, Society or Constituent Union. New tankards are created once a year over the summer break and are subject to there being enough available space on the shelves behind the bar. If your Club, Society or Constituent Union would like to request a new tankard then please email

How do I find my tankard? Ask the staff in the Union Bar for the list of tankards, look up the tankard in the book and tell the bar staff the code. It helps if you remember the code. The code gives a location on the correct shelf. The bar staff will fetch your tankard in exchange for some ID which they will keep until you return the tankard.

My tankard has gone missing. Tankards can't always be found in their correct place and have a habit of wandering around the shelves of the bar; generally they reappear in time. Imperial College Union accepts no responsibility for lost tankards. If a tankard is lost then a replacement will need to be paid for by the Club, Society or Constituent Union responsible for it, tankards will many names engraved on can cost over £500 to replace.

Can they be broken? Basically yes. Pewter is a relatively soft metal so bends easily, particularly when dropped. While it is difficult to break the pewter it is easy to bend the metal and crack the glass in the base of the tankard. If this happens give the tankard to the bar staff who'll add it to the pile for repair - replacement glass costs about £35, this will be charged to the associated Club, Society or Constituent Union. Repairs are carried out once a year over the summer break.

What to do if a tankard leaks. The seal between the pewter and glass deteriates over time, this causes the tankard to leak. If this happens give the tankard to the bar staff who'll add it to the pile for repair - new seals costs about £35, this will be charged to the associated Club, Society or Constituent Union. Repairs are carried out once a year over the summer break.

The list says my tankard is in storage. There is only limited space behind the Union Bar for tankards, so many are kept in storage. Every year tankards which haven't been used much are put into storgae to make space for new ones. If your tankard is in storage we can add it back behind the bar if you would like to use it, just ask the bar staff and they'll make sure it is there for your next visit. Unfortunately tankards take a couple of days to remove from storage, so we can't fetch them while you are waiting. 

There are lots of trophies and other items in the Union Bar. Can my club add something? If you have an item which means something to your Club or Society, it is appropriate for display and is not stolen, then you should ask the duty Bar Manager if it can be added to the collection. Please remember that space is limited.

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