The traditional great British pub is an integral part to a British culture. Not just a place to come for a pint of the good stuff, but a thriving, atmospheric social epicenter of a town’s landscape, a place where dwellers leave their problems at the door and discuss the ups and downs of life with their fellow brew neighbours.
With the help of Kingslodge Inn, a pub in Durham, we look at a timeline of the inception of the pub and the chain of events that lead them to where they are today.
When the Roman Army Invaded
Since the bronze age, Ale has been a popular alcohol preference by dwellers of the British Isles. This was until the Roman army’s unexpected invasion brought towns, roads and public houses, referred to as ‘tabernae’, with them. These single roomed shops revolutionized roman economy and the popularity of this retail establishment encouraged a wide increase in the exchange of goods for money.
Soon, the Roman’s used their business frame of mind and begun selling the nations favorite drink in their Tabernaes, which was later renamed a ‘Tavern’. These went hand-in-hand with the new road infrastructure, as thousands of travelers sought refreshment as a pitstop, but also found use in the stabling and fodder for the travellers horses.
Throughout the centuries of foreign invasions, Taverns were developed with a hardened exterior and cherished status to withstand these invasions. They had the ability to constantly adapt to a revolutionized clientele, with even one Anglo-Saxon king, Edgar, attempting to limit the number of these alehouses to one per village, as well as introducing a drinking measure known as ‘the peg’, in an attempt to limit the amount of alcohol any one person can consume, hence “to take him down a peg”.
The contribution of the Anglo-Saxon’s
The rise in entrepreneurialism occurred throughout towns and cities after the Anglo-Saxon’s came up with the bright idea of doubling up domestic houses with Alehouses. This was the first known instance of the “Inn”, which is a drinking establishment that also provides lodging from travelers, partly why many Inns are located in villages and near main roads, today.
Over time, selling tea and coffee in these Ale houses was introduced. However, the price to import these products from overseas were extortionate, meaning they soon became luxury rated products only the rich could afford. Following tea and coffee came brandy from France and Gin from Holland, the latter of which boomed and by the late 17th century, gin production was six times more than that of beer. The affordable pricing of gin naturally made it a popular choice for the poor, and, with this newfound luxury, they overindulged on many occasions which is now known as an event dubbed the “Gin Craze”, where extreme drunkenness spilled onto the streets of Great Britain, mainly London, causing an intoxicated anarchy amongst citizens. Five Acts were placed, designed to control the consumption of the Dutch spirit.
In the 17th and 18th century, money and class played a huge part in public houses. Just like a train has different carriages for classes, pubs had different rooms depending on your wealth, to continue the segregation of the classes even in relaxed atmospheres such as this.
Industrialization in the 19th and 20th Century
Despite mining being the major source of income for working class citizens before the industrialization era occurred in the UK, it wasn’t until the 19th century where it became an integral part for Northern, working-class men’s’ culture. The pub acted as a good meeting place for miners to congregate and let off steam after a strenuous, body-numbing shift underground. Often, they favored this over going straight home to their wives and children so that they weren’t stressed upon coming home. A safe haven to take off their work hats before unwinding in calmer, relaxed states.
In the eyes of the middle class, George Orwell summed up perfectly what 19th Century pubs would’ve looked like in his book The Moon under the Water, which he himself wrote in a Great British Pub. He stated they should have; architecture and fittings that are uncompromisingly Victorian (rustic ceiling beams you see today), games such as darts played in the public bar, areas quiet enough to talk, barmaids that know the customer’s name, tobacco and cigarettes to sell, a snack counter, lunch options 6 days a week in the room upstairs, a creamy draught stout and a garden large enough not to be cramped. Whether or not pubs nowadays have these pointers in mind when they open a pub or not, it’s clear that Orwell wouldn’t have little choice when deciding where to drink in 2019!
In contemporary societies, the range of pubs that have went down the same route as them has expanded. Sports pubs, roadhouses, country pubs and micropubs, have all sprung up in the past few decades to cater to more audiences and allow people with different tastes to enjoy their locals in similar company. What will the future hold for the British pub?