The History of Public Houses
Whether you call them pubs, taverns, inns or alehouses they are renowned all over the world. The great British pub is not just a place to drink beer, wine, cider or even something a little bit stronger, it is a unique social centre and the focus of community life in villages, towns and cities throughout the length and breadth of the country.
However, the great British pub actually started life as a great Italian wine bar, and dates back almost 2,000 years.
It was an invading Roman army that brought Roman roads, Roman towns and Roman pubs known as tabernae to these shores in 43 AD. Such tabernae, or huts that sold wine, were quickly built alongside Roman roads and in towns to help quench the thirst of the legionaries.
Ale however was the native British brew, and it appears that these tabernae quickly adapted to provide the locals with their favourite tipple, and the word tabernae became adapted to tavern.
With the gradual spread of the road network and horse-drawn coaches our roadside taverns were transformed into coaching inns. Such establishments even now preserving the archways leading to former stables and courtyards behind. In market towns it was not uncommon for prosperous inns to add function rooms, and private rooms where business could be discussed away from the bustling town marketplace outside. And so it was that hostelries created a social role for themselves.
Following the accession of William of Orange in 1688 gin became the popular drink in England. Gin provided an alternative to French brandy at a time of both political and religious conflict between Britain and France. Between 1689 and 1697, the Government passed a range of legislation aimed at restricting brandy imports and encouraging gin production.
Any ratepayer could now sell beer without a full licence. There was an explosion of beerhouses and over 20,000 Beer Houses suddenly appeared up and down the country. Within six years there were 46,000 beer shops or beer houses in the country. The opening hours could be from 4am to 10pm and many were shops and private dwellings selling beer in one room of their shop or house. Gradually the drinking spaces in people's homes were separated: seating being available in the taproom, but standing space only offered in the bar-room while the more genteel might look for an establishment with a parlour.