Saturday, 24 September 2016

Pubs and the Publican part 3

Not only did their clientele change but public houses evolved in other ways as well. Our idea of a traditional urban pub with ornate mirrors, etched glass and polished brass fittings is actually a later evolution of the traditional tavern tarted up with the glitz of a gin palace. In larger places the premises might be divided into a stand up bar for the drinkers of spirits like gin; a cozy parlour for the more respectable clientele such as tradesmen, clerks and reporters; and a tap room for artisans and engineers.

The trade itself also evolved from independent pubs run by the owners to public houses owned by the breweries and run by publicans who were actually tied tenants of the brewers. Brewing companies would own a string of pubs to which they supplied beer. That is why it was common to see brewer’s signs like Barclay Perkins or Whitbread prominently displayed above the sign for the name of the pub on the front of the premises. My grandparents were publican tenants of a brewery. But how they ended up running the Hearts of Oak pub in London’s East End and my grandmother’s long association with the serving side of pubs is a story that illustrates many of the changes that pubs experienced through the decades.


Jennings, Paul. The Local: A History of the English Pub. Tempus Publishing Limited, Stroud, Gloucestershire, 2007

Monckton, H.A. A History of the English Public House. The Bodley Head Ltd., London, 1969

Spiller, Brian. Victorian Public Houses. David and Charles Ltd., London, 1972.

Tuesday, 20 September 2016

Pubs and the Publican part 2

During the 1700 and 1800’s inns and public houses were not only drinking establishments but were places where the business of villages, towns and cities was conducted. Manorial courts, coroner’s courts, quarter and petty sessions were all held in these premises as there were no purpose built buildings to hold these sessions and landlords had large rooms for gatherings that they were willing to have used for the purpose, after all such administrative affairs were thirsty business. Inns, public houses and alehouses were, at this time, at the centre of much of the social life of the period.

But fashions change. Public houses had been a place for hobby clubs, friendly societies and unions to meet, these groups gradually came to meet elsewhere as the respectable classes deserted the premises. No matter. Towards the end of the 1800’s the working class found themselves with more purchasing power and more free time. They may have lost their hold on the more respectable members of society but public houses filled a social need for those on the lower rungs of the social ladder.


Garwood, Christine. Mid-Victorian Britain. Shire Publications Ltd., Oxford, 2011

Jennings, Paul. The Local: A History of the English Pub. Tempus Publishing Limited, Stroud, Gloucestershire, 2007

Mingay, G.E. The Transformation of Britain 1830-1939. Paladin Books, London, 1987.