Publicans, Inn Keepers & Brewers in Great Britain
"There is nothing which has been yet contrived by man, by which so much happiness is produced as by a good tavern or inn.” Samuel Johnson
The Great British pub, first established during the Roman occupation and still going strong today, with over 50,000 boozers open for business.
Records of those who applied for an annual victualler’s licence, issued to an individual who intended to serve food and alcoholic beverages in a public house. From 1522, a person wanting to sell alcoholic drinks had to apply for a licence from the Quarter or Petty Sessions and it is from the records of these courts that the majority of publican records originate. Most records and documents held at County Record Offices are arranged by the name of the pub and not the name of the publican. Trade and street directories as well as electoral registers can help track down the name and location of a pub and the name of the landlord, but note that some publicans pursued other professions or trades at the same time. It is also worth noting that a public house or the publican may have featured in a newspaper story or in auctioneer records and census returns.
From 1617 licences were required for those running inns and in 1828 a new Alehouses Act followed by the Beerhouse Act of 1830 overhauled the system creating looser regulations for those applying for a licence which resulted in a significant rise in the numbers of licensed premises selling alcohol. As a result, drinking in pubs became increasingly popular in the 19th century.
Landlords had to declare that they would not operate a disorderly pub and enter into certain obligations before the court could issue a license. This form of legal pledge or obligation is known as a Recognizance or Bond. The relevant information may appear under the heading of 'Register of recognizances of licensed victuallers'. Landlords that failed to adhere to these requirements would appear before the Quarter or Petty Sessions on charges of 'keeping a disorderly house'.
Originally beerhouses and alehouses only sold ale or beer whilst taverns sold additional beverages such as wine and spirits. Inns and especially coaching inns were bigger establishments offering larger more comfortable rooms and accommodation.
If the pub had land attached to the premises, even a small piece of land, a description of this land should appear in tithe and enclosure maps. The records generated by the Valuation Office could assist the research into a publican ancestor as could ordnance survey maps, rate books and fire insurance maps.
From the 17th century breweries often bought pubs and tied them into only selling their beer. Eventually around 90 per cent of pubs were tied to one brewery. The brewery might hold records relating to the pub and its publicans or owners. If the brewery owner is not known, look for photos which might show the name. Also look for the archived minutes and lists of members of the Licensed Victuallers League.
- www.nationalbrewerycentre.co.uk (The National Brewery Centre, formerly the Bass Museum)
- www.brookes.ac.uk/library/speccoll/brewing.html (The National Brewing Library)
- www.pubhistorysociety.co.uk (Pub History Society)
- www.pubs.com/main_site/heritage_content.php?id=pub_history (Pub Heritage Pub history)
- www.breweryhistory.com (The Brewery History Society)
- www.sfowler.force9.co.uk/page_12.htm (Pub History. Links for researching pubs by Simon Fowler)
- www.historyhouse.co.uk/articles/beerhouse.html (History House: What was a beerhouse?)
- www.buildinghistory.org/buildings/inns.shtml (Researching the history of pubs, inns and hotels)
- www.buckscc.gov.uk/assets/content/bcc/docs/culture_learning/archives/pub_guide.pdf (Centre for Buckinghamshire Studies Research guide: Public houses and publicans)
- www.genuki.org.uk/big/eng/BDF/Misc/BusinessAndCommerceRecords/VictuallerLicences.html (Bedfordshire - Victuallers' Licences, whereabouts of records)
- www.genuki.org.uk/big/eng/CAM/Misc/BusinessAndCommerceRecords/CAMVictuallerLicences.html (Cambridgeshire - Victuallers' Licences, whereabouts of records)
- www.cityoflondon.gov.uk/NR/rdonlyres/C03B7200-993B-42B5-8AA6-F5D666D928B9/0/licensed_victuallers.PDF (London Metropolitan Archives Information Leaflet No 3: Licensed Victuallers Records)
- www.innsignsociety.com (Inn Sign Society: Information about inn signs and pub names)
- www.heritagepubs.org.uk (Campaign For Real Ale Pub Heritage - Historic Pub Interiors)
- www.sfowler.force9.co.uk/page_1.htm (Further reading brewers and barmaids)
- www.sfowler.force9.co.uk/page_27.htm (Tracing ancestors who worked in pubs)
- Licensed Victuallers Records (Information leaflet from the London Metropolitan Archives)
- http://beerinnprint.co.uk (Pubs history, guides and books)
- www.deadpubs.co.uk (The Historical street & Pub History directory: A listing of historical London public houses, Taverns, Inns, Beer Houses and Hotels. The site also provides the name of the landlord extracted from trade and commercial directories)
- http://archiveshub.ac.uk/features/pubsandinns.shtml (Archives Hub Feature: Pubs and Inns)
- www.parishchest.com (Online store selling publican records from a variety of suppliers)
- www.midlandspubs.co.uk (History of brewing and pubs in the Midlands and for some parts of the rest of England)
- www.gloucestershirepubs.co.uk (Pubs and breweries in Gloucestershire)
- www.breweriana.org.uk (Association For British Brewery Collectables)
- www.ebay.co.uk/sch/Breweriana-/562/i.html (eBay Collectables: Breweriana)
- http://boards.ancestry.co.uk/topics.occupations (Ancestry Message Boards: Occupations)
Online Catalogues (Listing of online catalogues for the partial whereabouts of records including Access to Archives [A2A] and the National Register of Archives [NRA] for the partial whereabouts of brewery business records)
- www.ancestry.co.uk (Dorset Records: Alehouse Licence Records, 1754-1821)
- www.ancestry.co.uk (Birmingham, Pub Blacklist, 1903-1906)
- www.guinness-storehouse.com/en/GenealogySearch.aspx (The Guinness Archive: Surviving personnel records of past employees from the 1880s to when a pension payment ceased in the late 1990s)
- www.warwickshire.gov.uk/Web/corporate/pages.nsf/Links/332C4B74227DAE37802573E1003C2A15 (Warwickshire County Record Office: Victuallers Database. The database contains details of the licensed victuallers in Warwickshire from 1801-1828)
- http://londonpublichouse.com (Listing of pubs and publicans extracted from directories and census returns covering London and the South)
- www.hunimex.com/warwick/index.html (Pickard's Pink Pages for Warwickshire: Warwickshire Inns, 1874)
- www.sheffield.gov.uk/libraries/archives-and-local-studies/catalogues.html (Sheffield Archives and Local Studies: Sheffield pubs and beerhouse keepers, c. 1870 to 1936)
- www.genhound.co.uk (List of Hertfordshire tavern keepers, 1636; List of London/Middlesex tavern keepers, 1636)
- www.sfhs.org.uk/online-databases/shropshire-inns-1828 (Shropshire Inns of 1828)
- http://homepage.ntlworld.com/hitch/gendocs/pubs.html (A-Z of Victorian London Taverns, Inns and Public Houses)
The publican, sometimes known as the landlord, licensee, licensed victualler, ‘the gaffer’, ‘gov’nor’ or ‘mine host’. It is he (sometimes she) who holds the license to run the pub and it is his job to ensure the financial success of the premises. Many licensees are tenants of a brewery, that is they run the pub on an agreement with the brewery which owns it, and pay the brewery an agreed amount every year in rent. Over the past thirty years or so salaried managers, put in by the company, have begun to run an increasing number of pubs. Barmaids – female bar staff were often the wives and daughters of publicans, although by the end of the nineteenth century barmaids were being hired in the larger and more popular establishments. Victorian sensibilities ensured that barmaids only worked in the more expensive saloon or lounge bars, where a better class of customer was served. Pay was low and hours long, although it was the custom for accommodation and meals to be included. Barmen – tended to be young. They were better paid than barmaids, although hours were as long. Most only remained as barmen for a few years, before seeking other work. Cellarmen – are employed to look after the barrels of beer. They tend to be employed in the larger or busier establishments. Elsewhere the publican or barstaff usually managed the cellars. Ostlers – were men and boys who looked after the horses in coaching inns. This was important work as dozens of coaches might pass through an inn everyday. Potmen or potboys – potmen were originally employed to keep pewter drinking mugs clean and shiny. As glassware replaced pewter during the nineteenth century, these people were increasingly used to collect glass from tables in the bar and to act as a general servant to the pub. They were less well paid than the barstaff.
The records Licenses From 1552 onwards, anyone who wanted to sell ale had to apply for a licence at the Quarter Sessions or the Petty Sessions. In addition alehouse keepers had to declare that they would not keep a ‘disorderly house’ and prohibit games of bowls, dice, football and tennis. These declarations were called recognizances or bonds. Although the requirements have changed over the years, landlords still have to get a licence, renewed yearly, and which can be revoked if the magistrates, meeting in the annual brewster session, feel that the individual has been running a disorderly pub. In 1617 the requirement for licences was extended to inns. In addition between 1570 and 1792 licences could be obtained directly from the Crown (from 1757 the Stamp Office) rather than from local magistrates, although few records now survive of these licences. The system was overhauled in 1828 with a new Alehouses Act that provided a framework for granting licences to sell beer, wine and spirits and for regulating inns. Records of these licences can generally be found in Quarter and Petty Session records at local record offices. Quarter sessions were originally meetings of magistrates (JPs) who met together four times a year to dispense justice and discuss the administrative needs of the county, hence the term. Petty sessions were summary meetings of two or more magistrates to deal with less important matters. You should look out for registers of recognizances and licences granted to licensed victuallers. Few records however survive from the seventeenth century, but an act of 1753 enforced the keeping of such registers, so most counties have some material from the late-eighteenth century. Again the system fell into abeyance, particularly after 1828, but detailed registers have been kept since 1871. The most detailed registers give the name of the licensee, the parish in which he lived, the inn sign (i.e. name of the pub), and the names of occupations of two guarantors who vouched for the applicant’s probity. However, you are more likely to find just the name of names of individuals and possibly the parish they came from, with no indication of which pub he ran. Within the records there may also be correspondence, copies of bonds and notes that might contain other information. The most useful introduction to these records is Jeremy Gibson and Judith Hunter, Victuallers’ Licences (Federation of Family History Societies, 1997). Records of breweries From the late eighteenth century breweries increasingly bought pubs which would then only sell their beer. These pubs were known as tied houses, those which remained free of any tie were free houses. By the 1980s, about 90% of public houses were tied to one brewery or another. The recent turbulent changes in the brewing industry can make it difficult to track down which brewery originally owned the pub. If you don’t know have this information, it is worth trying to track down an old photograph of it which may include signs indicating who owned it. Local studies libraries (see below).often have large, and well indexed, collections of local photos. If the pub is still trading the locals may be able to help. Once you have tracked down the right brewery, their records may tell you from whom the pub was bought or when the land it was built on was acquired. Estate records are usually held in alphabetical order by premises, and may include title deeds, mortgages, maps and plans, pub lists and books containing lease and conveyance details, In addition there may also be records of beer sold (known as barrelage in the trade) by the pub, although here too the records are arranged by property rather than by the publican Some breweries keep their own records, but many have been deposited at local record offices. Because of the great changes taking place in the brewing industry at present it is not always clear where the records of the larger brewers are. The Brewery History Society (see below) is keeping an eye on the situation to ensure the brewery archives are maintained by their new owners or transferred to the appropriate archival repository. The National Register of Archives (also see below) should be able to advise you where these records are at present. Another useful source is Lesley Richmond and Alison Turton, The Brewing Industry: a Guide to the Historical Records (Manchester University Press, 1990).