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A public house, informally known as a pub, is a drinking establishment which is part of British, Irish, Australian and New Zealand culture. There are approximately 53,500 public houses in the United Kingdom. This number has been declining every year, so that nearly half of the smaller villages no longer have a local pub. In many places, especially in villages, a pub can be the focal point of the community. The writings of Samuel Pepys describe the pub as the heart of England.
Public houses are socially and culturally different from places such as cafés, bars, bierkellers and brewpubs. Pubs are social places based on the sale and consumption of alcoholic beverages, and most public houses offer a range of beers, wines, spirits, alcopops and soft drinks. Many pubs are controlled by breweries, so beer is often better value than wines and spirits, while soft drinks can be almost as expensive. Beer served in a pub may be cask ale or keg beer. All pubs also have a range of non-alcoholic beverages available. Traditionally the windows of town pubs are of smoked or frosted glass so that the clientele is obscured from the street. In the last twenty years in the UK and other countries there has been a move away from frosted glass towards clear glass, a trend that fits in with brighter interior décors.
The owner, tenant or manager (licensee) of a public house is properly known as the "pub landlord". The term publican (in historical Roman usage a public contractor or tax farmer) has come into use since Victorian times to designate the pub landlord. Each pub generally has "locals" or regulars; people who drink there regularly. The pub that people visit most often is called their local. In many cases, this will be the pub nearest to their home, but some people choose their local for other reasons: proximity to work, a venue for their friends, the availability of a particular cask ale, non-smoking or formerly as a place to smoke freely, or maybe a darts team or pool table. Until the 1970s most of the larger public houses also featured an off-sales counter or attached shop for the sales of beers, wines and spirits for home consumption. In the 1970s the newly built supermarkets and high street chain stores or off-licences undercut the pub prices to such a degree that within ten years all but a handful of pubs had closed their off-sale counters. A society with a particular interest in beers, stouts and ales produced in the British and Irish Isles, as well as in the preservation of the integrity of the public house, is the Campaign for Real Ale (CAMRA).
The inhabitants of Great Britain have been drinking ale since the Bronze Age, but it was with the arrival of the Romans and the establishment of the Roman road network that the first inns called tabernae, in which the traveller could obtain refreshment, began to appear. After the departure of Roman authority and the fall of the Romano-British kingdoms, the Anglo-Saxons established alehouses that grew out of domestic dwellings. The Anglo-Saxon alewife would put a green bush up on a pole to let people know her brew was ready. These alehouses formed meeting houses for the locals to meet and gossip and arrange mutual help within their communities. Here lie the beginnings of the modern pub. They became so commonplace that in 965 King Edgar decreed that there should be no more than one alehouse per village.
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. The Hostellers of London were granted guild status in 1446 and in 1514 the guild became the Worshipful Company of Innholders.
Inns are generally establishments or buildings where travellers can seek lodging and, usually, food and drink. They are typically located in the country or along a highway. Found in Europe, they possibly first sprang up when the Romans built their system of Roman roads two millennia ago. Some inns in Europe are several centuries old. In addition to providing for the needs of travellers, inns traditionally acted as community gathering places.
In Europe, it is the provision of accommodation, if anything, that now separates inns from taverns, alehouses and pubs. The latter tend to supply alcohol (and, in the UK, usually soft drinks and sometimes food), but less commonly accommodation. Inns tend to be grander and more long-lived establishments; historically they provided not only food and lodging, but also stabling and fodder for the traveller's horse(s) and fresh horses for the mail coach. Famous London examples of inns include the George and The Tabard. There is however no longer a formal distinction between an inn and other kinds of establishment. Many pubs use the name "inn", either because they are long established and may have been formerly coaching inns, or to summon up a particular kind of image, or in many cases simply as a pun on the word "in" such as "The Welcome Inn" the name of many pubs in Scotland.
The original functions of an inn are now usually split among separate establishments, such as hotels, lodges, and motels, all of which might provide the traditional functions of an inn but which focus more on lodging customers than on other services; public houses, which are primarily alcohol-serving establishments; and restaurants and taverns, which serve food and drink. (Hotels often contain restaurants and also often serve complimentary breakfast and meals, thus providing all of the functions of traditional inns.) In North America, the lodging aspect of the word "inn" lives on in hotel brand names like Holiday Inn, and in some state laws that refer to lodging operators as innkeepers.
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 each 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.
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, leading to the so-called Gin Craze. Over half of the 15,000 drinking establishments in London were gin-shops.
The drunkenness and 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.
Beer Houses and the 1830 Beer Act
By the early 19th century and encouraged by a lowering of duties on gin, the gin houses or "Gin Palaces" had spread from London to most major cities and towns in Britain, with most of the new establishments illegal and unlicensed. These bawdy, loud and unruly drinking dens so often described by Charles Dickens in his Sketches by Boz (published 1835–6) increasingly came to be held as unbridled cesspits of immorality or crime and the source of much ill-health and alcoholism among the working classes.
Under a banner of "reducing public drunkenness" the Beer Act of 1830 introduced a new lower tier of premises permitted to sell alcohol, the Beer Houses. At the time beer was viewed as harmless, nutritious and even healthy. Young children were often given what was described as small beer, which was brewed to have a low alcohol content, to drink, as the local water was often unsafe. Even the evangelical church and temperance movements of the day viewed the drinking of beer very much as a secondary evil and a normal accompaniment to a meal. The freely available beer was thus intended to wean the drinkers off the evils of gin, or so the thinking went.
Under the 1830 Act any householder who paid rates could apply, with a one-off payment of two guineas (equal to £158.64 today), to sell beer or cider in his home (usually the front parlour) and even brew his own on his premises. The permission did not extend to the sale of spirits and fortified wines and any beer house discovered selling those items was closed down and the owner heavily fined. Beer houses were not permitted to open on Sundays. The beer was usually served in jugs or dispensed directly from tapped wooden barrels lying on a table in the corner of the room. Often profits were so high the owners were able to buy the house next door to live in, turning every room in their former home into bars and lounges for customers.
In the first year, four hundred beer houses opened and within eight years there were 46,000 opened across the country, far outnumbering the combined total of long-established taverns, public houses, inns and hotels. Because it was so easy to obtain permission and the profits could be huge compared to the low cost of gaining permission, the number of beer houses was continuing to rise and in some towns nearly every other house in a street could be a beer house. Finally in 1869 the growth had to be checked by magisterial control and new licensing laws were introduced. Only then was the ease by which permission could be obtained reduced and the licensing laws which operate today formulated.
Although the new licensing laws prevented any new beer houses from being created, those already in existence were allowed to continue and many did not fully die out until nearly the end of the 19th century. A very small number remained into the 21st century. A vast majority of the beer houses applied for the new licences and became full public houses. These usually small establishments can still be identified in many towns, seemingly oddly located in the middle of otherwise terraced housing part way up a street, unlike purpose-built pubs that are usually found on corners or road junctions. Many of today's respected real ale micro-brewers in the UK started as home based Beer House brewers under the 1830 Act.
The beer houses also tended to avoid the traditional public house names like The Crown, The Red Lion, The Royal Oak etc. and, if they did not simply name their place Smith's Beer House, they would apply topical pub names in an effort to reflect the mood of the times.
From the middle of the 19th century restrictions were placed on the opening hours of licensed premises in the UK. However licensing was gradually liberalised after the 1960s, until contested licensing applications became very rare, and the remaining administrative function was transferred to Local Authorities in 2005.
The Wine and Beerhouse Act 1869 reintroduced the stricter controls of the previous century. The sale of beers, wines or spirits required a licence for the premises from the local magistrates. Further provisions regulated gaming, drunkenness, prostitution and undesirable conduct on licensed premises, enforceable by prosecution or more effectively by the landlord under threat of forfeiting his licence. Licences were only granted, transferred or renewed at special Licensing Sessions courts, and were limited to respectable individuals. Often these were ex-servicemen or ex-policemen; retiring to run a pub was popular amongst military officers at the end of their service. Licence conditions varied widely, according to local practice. They would specify permitted hours, which might require Sunday closing, or conversely permit all-night opening near a market. Typically they might require opening throughout the permitted hours, and the provision of food or lavatories. Once obtained, licences were jealously protected by the licensees (always persons expected to be generally present, not a remote owner or company), and even "Occasional Licences" to serve drinks at temporary premises such as fêtes would usually be granted only to existing licensees. Objections might be made by the police, rival landlords or anyone else on the grounds of infractions such as serving drunks, disorderly or dirty premises, or ignoring permitted hours.
Detailed records were kept on licensing, giving the Public House, its address, owner, licensee and misdemeanours of the licensees for periods often going back for hundreds of years. Many of these records survive and can be viewed, for example, at the London Metropolitan Archives centre.
These culminated in the Defence of the Realm Act of August 1914, which, along with the introduction of rationing and the censorship of the press for wartime purposes, also restricted the opening hours of public houses to 12 noon–2:30 p.m. and 6:30 p.m.–9:30 p.m. Opening for the full licensed hours was compulsory, and closing time was equally firmly enforced by the police; a landlord might lose his licence for infractions. There was a special case established under the State Management Scheme where the brewery and licensed premises were bought and run by the state until 1973, most notably in the Carlisle District. During the 20th century elsewhere, both the licensing laws and enforcement were progressively relaxed, and there were differences between parishes; in the 1960s, at closing time in Kensington at 10:30 p.m., drinkers would rush over the parish boundary to be in good time for "Last Orders" in Knightsbridge before 11 p.m., a practice observed in many pubs adjoining licensing area boundaries. Some Scottish and Welsh parishes remained officially "dry" on Sundays (although often this merely required knocking at the back door of the pub). These restricted opening hours led to the tradition of lock-ins.
However, closing times were increasingly disregarded in the country pubs. In England and Wales by 2000 pubs could legally open from 11 a.m. (12 noon on Sundays) through to 11 p.m. (10:30 p.m. on Sundays). That year was also the first to allow continuous opening for 36 hours from 11 a.m. on New Year's Eve to 11 p.m. on New Year's Day. In addition, many cities had by-laws to allow some pubs to extend opening hours to midnight or 1 a.m., whilst nightclubs had long been granted late licences to serve alcohol into the morning. Pubs in the immediate vicinity of London's Smithfield market, Billingsgate fish market and Covent Garden fruit and flower market were permitted to stay open 24 hours a day since Victorian era times to provide a service to the shift working employees of the markets.
Scotland's and Northern Ireland's licensing laws have long been more flexible, allowing local authorities to set pub opening and closing times. In Scotland, this stemmed out of a late repeal of the wartime licensing laws, which stayed in force until 1976.
The Licensing Act 2003, which came into force on 24 November 2005, aimed to consolidate the many laws into a single act. This allowed pubs in England and Wales to apply to the local authority for the opening hours of their choice. Supporters at the time argued that it would end the concentration of violence around half past 11, when people had to leave the pub, making policing easier. In practice, alcohol-related hospital admissions rose following the change in the law, with alcohol involved in 207,800 admissions in 2006/7. Critics claimed that these laws would lead to "24-hour drinking". By the time the law came into effect, 60,326 establishments had applied for longer hours and 1,121 had applied for a licence to sell alcohol 24 hours a day. However, nine months after the act, many pubs had not changed their hours, although there was a tendency for some to be open longer at the weekend but rarely beyond 1:00 a.m..
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Just to tell on him Drago's family back in the 1700's ran a "House of Entertainment" in New England. The documentation found of this was that the fact the widow renewed the License the year after her husband's death.