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Playing Pub Darts Abroad?

Pubs, Alehouses, Taverns, Inns,

Hotels -- Origin and Development

Bar Pubs with dartboards might not have been known to Bronze Age British boozers but such exotic drinks as heather ale and mead were downed with merriment. The first known places of public consumption of alcohol in Britain came with the Romans. Building long straight roads and keeping rowdy locals in check created a powerful thirst and the tavern (tabernae) proved a popular refuge. Here the foot-weary legionary could eat, sup wine, and slurp ale whilst boasting of his conquests.

With the once mighty Romans retreating, tail between legs, a new era of leglessness began. Under the Saxon kings, alehouses flourished rather too well and became subject to royal controls. Ale was skillfully brewed from a fermentation of malted barley, water and yeast. When drinking water quality was poor, ale was a safe and nutritious beverage. The alehouse developed informally as a good local brewer attracted paying visitors.

As trade developed and pilgrimages became common a need for inns arose. These were run by monks and provided accommodation, drink and food. When a church was built the masons' lodgings often became a sort of inn that continued to serve alcohol long after topping out.

Class distinction in Elizabethan times led to the revival of the tavern selling wine for the more prosperous classes. These provided good food and cheerful company for the professional people who preferred to leave the alehouses to the undeserving poor.

The English civil war led to the rise of Puritans and big, scary Oliver Cromwell. This regime frowned a lot and taxed and restricted alehouses and taverns, but raised their standards. At the restoration of Charles II the public mood changed and people could laugh and enjoy themselves again.

The era of the coaching inn began to develop as the Turnpike Act of 1663 led to the gradual improvement in the rutted mud-track roads. Horses and passengers needed frequent stops for refreshment and fortification against the trials of the journey. This was a colorful era of ruddy-faced postillions, dashing highwaymen and bosomy damsels in distress who still haunt our Christmas cards. All this jollity lasted till the arrival of the railwaymen who developed their own style of hotel and refreshment rooms.

William III's conflict with France, from where the English imported their brandy and wine, led to official encouragement of gin production. This became a cheap and popular spirit leading to serious drunkenness and the expression "mother's ruin". The gin shop was a poor substitute for the more healthy beers and ales of the traditional alehouse, and did the population a lot of harm. These abodes of the devil reached their zenith in the gas-lit gin palace.

The modern pub has evolved from the alehouse and gin palace, whereas inns and taverns are the ancestors of the hotel. Over the centuries they have learned and copied from each other. England has a fine legacy of these establishments, some very old and all with distinctive character and history. Many have fine, natural-timber bars, polished brass fittings, sparkling glass, roaring log fires and friendly staff. The public house is now the place to meet friends for a chat and to play darts or pool.


In 965 King Edgar ruled one ale house per village.
A pint dates from Magna Carta 1215 as a standard ale measure.
The Red Lion is the commonest pub name (said to be from James VI of Scotland ordering the Scottish Lion to be displayed on taverns, but this is disputed).
In the seventeenth century England had 1300 pubs for 5m population.
The mason's house for Sir Christopher Wren's St. Brides Church became a famous London pub -- The Olde Bell.

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