history of the pub

The Roman Influence - Straight Roads

The good folk of Britain have been drinking beer since the Bronze Age, but it was the arrival of the Romans to these shores that saw the building of Roman road networks, and then inns and resthouses for weary travellers. In Roman towns tabernae served food and wine (and probably the local ale too), they displayed vine leaves outside to advertise their trade.

Here the weary traveller could obtain refreshment, began to appear. By the time the Romans left, the beginnings of the modern pub had been established. However, when the Romans left, the tabernae disappeared.

The Ale House

Home brewing of ale was a difficult art, and required a certain amount of skill and art. As a result, those who were able to brew the best ale were able to sell their wares. Often the brew would be drunk at the ale master's own home. They became so commonplace that in 965 King Edgar decreed that there should be no more than one alehouse per village. The Royal Standard of England, a pub near Beaconsfield is a present day survivor that grew from a Saxon alehouse. The Saxon alewife would put a green bush up on a pole to let people know the brew was ready.

The Three Nuns, Mirfield - has connections with the history and legend of Robin Hood

Inns and Hostels - Pilgrims Rest

Expansion in trade, particularly in wool, saw a marked increase in the traffic of goods and people on the treacherous roads. This traffic was further increased after the horrific murder of Archbishop Thomas Becket on 29th December 1170, in Canterbury Cathedral. Christians from all over Britain and even overseas made the pilgrimage to his shrine. Soon the faithful would be making pilgrimages to other shrines all over England. A traveller in the early Middle Ages could obtain overnight accommodation in monasteries, but later a demand for hostelries grew with the popularity of pilgrimages and travel. A new type of establishment was needed to accomodate the traveller. Probably the most famous of all the inns was the Tabard, in Southwark, London. It was here in 1388 that Chaucer begins his Canterbury Tales. The Hostellers of London were granted guild status in 1446 and in 1514 the guild became the Worshipful Company of Innholders.

The Hare and Hounds, Mirfield, nr Huddersfield, historical coaching inn, historical pub

Traditional Ale

Traditional English ale was made solely from fermented malt. The practice of adding hops to produce beer was introduced from the Netherlands in the early 15th century. Alehouses would brew their own distinctive ale, but independent breweries began to appear in the late 17th century. By the end of the century almost all beer was brewed by commercial breweries.

Gin Shops

The 18th century saw a huge growth in the number of drinking establishments, primarily due to the introduction of gin. Gin was brought to England by the Dutch after the Glorious Revolution of 1688 and started to become very popular after the government created a market for grain that was unfit to be used in brewing by allowing unlicensed gin production, whilst imposing a heavy duty on all imported spirits.

As thousands of gin-shops sprang up all over England, brewers fought back by increasing the number of alehouses. By 1740 the production of gin had increased to six times that of beer and because of its cheapness it became popular with the poor. Of the 15,000 drinking establishments in London over half were gin-shops. Beer maintained a healthy reputation as it was often safer to drink ale than water, but the drunkenness and resultant lawlessness created by gin was seen to lead to ruination and degradation of the working classes. The distinction was illustrated by William Hogarth in his engravings Beer Street and Gin Lane. The Gin Act (1736) imposed high taxes on retailers but led to riots in the streets. The prohibitive duty was gradually reduced and finally abolished in 1742. The 1751 Gin Act however was more successful. It forced distillers to sell only to licensed retailers and brought gin-shops under the jurisdiction of local magistrates.

The Duke of York, Whitby, historical pub

Opening Hours and Licensing Laws

Restrictions were placed on the opening hours of licensed premises from 19th century, and due to war preparations, the Defence of The Realm Act 1914 restricted the opening hours to 12 noon-2.30pm and 6.30 - 9.30pm. In more recent times licensing laws have become more relaxed, and first it was usual for pubs to open from 11am to 11pm, and now licensed premises can apply to local authorities for opening hours of their choice, allowing 24 hour drinking with the implementation of the Licensing Act 2003.

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