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Pub history

Alcohol has been drunk and served throughout the British Isles in one form or another since the Bronze Age. However, the origins of what we may now recognise as the pub began to appear during the Roman colonisation of Britain, as places where travellers could obtain rest and refreshment sprang up along the new road networks.
These Roman taverns remained even after the withdrawal of the Romans from Britain. During the Middle Ages the pub sign came into existence – the earliest versions being green bushes set upon poles to indicate the sale of beer, stemming from the earlier Roman tradition of vines being displayed to advertise wine. By the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries, more abstract names were common, as evidenced by Chaucer’s description of the Tabard Inn in Southwark. The ‘Hostellers of London’ were granted guild status in 1446, showing that these medieval inns and hostelries were important in continuing the practice of offering rest and refreshment to travellers.


During the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries these establishments primarily sold beer and ale, until the first half of the eighteenth century when the so-called ‘Gin Craze’ took hold, especially amongst the poorer classes as the production of gin had increased to six times that of beer. The 1751 Gin Act forced gin makers to sell only to licensed premises and put drinking establishments under the control of local magistrates.


During the 19th Century the Wine and Beerhouse Act was introduced to restrict the hours Public Houses could sell alcohol. This was further compounded by the Defence of the Realm Act 1914 which set the 11pm limit on the sale of alcohol throughout the twentieth century. The Licensing Act 2003 repealed the previous licensing laws for England and Wales, taking responsibility away from magistrates and placing it in the hands of local licensing boards.