The first thing that comes to mind when we hear the word “Pub” is beer… barrels and barrels of beer!
However, pubs are more than just watering holes. “Pub” is in fact short for “Public House” – a place for people to feel at home and be with friends. Publics Houses originate from Britain – in the long list of things that Britain has brought forth, pubs are possibly right there at the top! Let’s explore the history of this critical component of British culture.
Gin is bad… beer is good
Special places, serving drinks to the masses, have been around for a long time. Back in the 1700s, such places popped up, initially in London, to serve gin to the public. Gin Houses or “Gin Palaces” spread from London across the country, and the new establishments were mostly illegal and unlicensed. As their popularity increased, so did the volume of gin consumed by the Brits, and this led to widespread debauchery! The Gin Act in 1751, restricting the sale and distribution of Britain’s favourite drink, was an attempt to inhibit the drinking classes (epitomised in this engraving, “Gin Lane” by William Hogarth).
In a second attempt to reduce public drunkenness, The Beer Act of 1830 introduced a lower tier establishment – forbidden to sell gin – but instead selling homemade beer. At the time, people thought beer was harmless, even healthy, so the Government felt that it was a more wholesome drink.
New dogs, old tricks
The Beer Act allowed people to make and sell their own beer, from their own home. Naturally these Beer Houses were also places where people could hang out and enjoy a conversation. That is to say, they were “Public Houses”, where all were welcome. Unsurprisingly, the British public loved the idea and, very quickly, Gin Houses were forgotten. Within a year, 400 Beer Houses had opened and within eight years there were 46,000 across the country.
By 1869 the Government felt it necessary to impose restrictions on the Beer Houses and the modern licensing system was introduced.
Public Houses have been through a lot of changes: the late 1700’s saw “beer engines” that pumped beer from a cask, and this led to serving bars. Initially, pubs stored their beer in a separate “tap room” and brought it out to customers, but from the 1830’s many houses installed a Bar where they served directly.
During World War I, people were encouraged to remain sober and frugal, as a result many pubs closed down. However during World War II, pubs experienced a revival. In such trying times, pubs became the ideal place for building unity and trust among the community.
These days pubs are worldwide, and you can enjoy a beer in every country you visit! You don’t need a translator or a translation agency to have a good time in an Asian or African pub! Cheers!