“There is nothing which has yet been contrived by man, by which so much happiness has been produced as by a good tavern or inn” Samuel Johnson
Thank you Romans... and monks!
Most of us know that the Romans built some lovely straight roads through England but did you know they also started our network of inns, offering lodging and refreshment to workers and travellers?
The King of Wessex created legal ale houses in the 7th century. Monks and early Christians offered hospitality in their missionaries for weary travellers.
In the Middle Ages, yeast was used in each household for bread and home brewing. When a new brew was ready which they were ready to share with friends, they stuck a pole out of the window with some foliage attached. And so the modern pub sign was born!
The Turnpike Acts of 1663 encouraged the paving of roads so people began to travel more. For some journeys, horses were changed every ten miles. More and more coaching inns were built at roadsides to serve travellers’ needs.
Until late Victorian times, beer was often drunk in preference to dirty water.
Strong beer was produced from the first mash and a much weaker “small beer” from the second and third mashes. This was drunk by poorer people, women and children!
What's in a name?
Early pub names were often religious eg The Cross or Crossed Keys (emblem of St Peter) or influenced by local landowners.
A red lion was the personal badge of the Duke of Lancaster (one of the most powerful men in the 14th century) and later also of King James I. Richard II decreed all London innkeepers should use his sign of the White Hart, so you'll still find many pubs of that name in the capital.
Names like the Royal Oak refer to the Oak in which King Charles hid and there are plenty of pubs named after famous battles and admirals. Other pub names refer to local features such as The Railway or The Cricketers. In the South Pennines, look out for pubs with names like The Fleece or the Shepherd's Rest.
What's your game?
Traditional games are still played in many pubs.
Darts date back to the Middle Ages, an indoor version of archery, which probably used the end of a barrel as a target.
Dominoes isn't as English as most of us think - it actually came from Italy in the 1800s.