The pub has been the heart and soul of British life for centuries. Pubs are a part of the social fabric; a place to meet friends and neighbours where you can take part in various community activities as well as a source of local information and contacts.
In our new series, we will present to you some insights into the pub heritage in Britain and introduce you to some famous pubs and inns. The first post of our series will focus on the British Pub Heritage.
The first pubs on the British Isles were established along with the Roman road network development across the whole country. Back then, pubs were called Taverns that often provided accommodation facilities and had unique names.
Over time, the inns provided rooms for travellers, taverns provided food and drink, while alehouses simply dished out beery substances. When the Romans left the country, the pub industry was greatly supported by monasteries and abbeys that brewed their own beer to sell to the pilgrims.
Up until the eighteenth century, pubs mostly sold beers and ales. However, with the famous ‘Gin Craze’ that hit the country in the early eighteenth century, the situation changed as the new liquor was more affordable for the poorer people, who even bought rags soaked in gin to suck on.
Since licensing was introduced, the pubs have been under tight control and the Defence to the Realm Act put a curfew of 11pm on the sales of alcohol in 1914. Nowadays, there are approximately 50,000 pubs in the UK with over 15 million people enjoying a drink every week.
Another feature that makes pubs unique are their names. Normally, we accept pub names at face value, unless we come across something really unusual. However, even the most popular names such as “The Crown” or “The Red Lion” often have an interesting and complex history behind them.
In the Middle Ages, a majority of society was illiterate, which made it common to display a simplistic sign showing the name of the alehouse. Many of the signs were adapted from tradesman’s signs such as “Carpenter’s Arms”.
The naming of pubs was a long process. Ancient pubs have old historic names which today may seem hard to understand, they often refer to royalty, heroes and battles or mythical creatures. Also new pubs, built on the site of old ones often retained the name of the original. That’s why in order to fully understand the meaning of old pub names, you have to research their full history and origins.
In our next pub series post, we’ll introduce you to some of the oldest London pubs that have become most famous for some reason. Stay tuned!