A pub short for public house is an establishment licensed to serve alcoholic drinks for consumption on the premises.
Renowned the world over, the great British pub is not just a place to drink beer, wine, cider or even something a little bit stronger. It is also a unique social centre, very often the focus of community life in villages, towns and cities throughout the length and breadth of the country.
English common law early imposed social responsibilities for the well-being of travelers upon the inns and taverns, declaring them to be public houses which must receive all travelers in reasonable condition who were willing to pay the price for food, drink, and lodging.
Ale was a native British drink before the arrival of the Roman Empire in the 1st century, but it was with the construction of the Roman road network that the first pubs, called tabernae, began to appear. The word eventually became corrupted into tavern.
After the departure of Roman authority in the 5th century and the fall of the Romano-British kingdoms, the Anglo-Saxons established alehouses that may have grown out of domestic dwellings, first attested in the 10th century. These alehouses quickly evolved into meeting houses for folk to socially congregate, gossip and arrange mutual help within their communities. The Wantage law code of Æthelred the Unready proscribes fines for breaching the peace at meetings held in alehouses.
In 1393, King Richard II of England compelled landlords to erect signs outside their premises. The legislation stated “Whosoever shall brew ale in the town with intention of selling it must hang out a sign, otherwise he shall forfeit his ale.”
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. A survey in 1577 of drinking establishment in England and Wales for taxation purposes recorded 14,202 alehouses, 1,631 inns, and 329 taverns, representing one pub for every 187 people.
By the end of the 18th century a new room in the pub was established: the saloon. Beer establishments had always provided entertainment of some sort—singing, gaming or sport. The mos common was a card room or a billiard room. The saloon was a room where, for an admission fee or a higher price of drinks, singing, dancing, drama, or comedy was performed and drinks would be served at the table. From this came the popular music hall form of entertainment — a show consisting of a variety of acts.
Many pubs were drinking establishments, and little emphasis was placed on the serving of food, other than sandwiches and “bar snacks”, such as pork scratchings, pickled eggs, salted crisps and peanuts which helped to increase beer sales.
It was not until the 19th century that pubs as we know them today first began to appear. Before this time alehouses were largely indistinguishable from private houses and the poor standard of rural roads meant that, away from the larger towns, the only beer available was often that which had been brewed by the publican himself.
With the arrival of the Industrial Revolution, many areas of the United Kingdom were transformed by a surge in industrial activity and rapid population growth. There was huge demand for beer and for venues
where the public could engage in social interaction, but there was also intense competition for customers.
The latter half of the 19th century saw increased competition within the brewing industry and, in an attempt to secure markets for their own products, breweries began rapidly buying local pubs and directly
employing publicans to run them.
Some pubs have a long tradition of serving food, dating back to their historic usage as inns and hotels where travellers would stay.
Sean’s Bar is a pub in Athlone, Ireland, notable for its success in perpetuating claims of its being established around AD 900, which would make it the oldest bar in Ireland and possibly all of Europe. In actuality, architects and historians suggest that the lower two floors of the building were constructed between 1600 and 1725.
A gastropub is a hybrid pub and restaurant, notable for serving good quality beer, wine and food.
A “country pub” is simply a rural drinking establishment, though the term has acquired a romantic image typically of thatched roofs and whitewashed stone walls.
A “beer engine” is a device for pumping beer, originally manually operated and typically used to dispense beer from a cask or container in a pub’s basement or cellar. The first beer pump known in England is believed to have been invented by John Lofting (b. Netherlands 1659-d. Great Marlow Buckinghamshire 1742) an inventor, manufacturer and merchant of London.