The Romans were the first to introduce Pubs 2000 years ago known as Tabernae’s but when the Romans left so did the Tabernae’s. It was not until 700AD that Ale houses reopened and were most popular for the poorer class. In the 1200’s Ale houses (later known as pubs) were becoming more popular and were commonly used for travellers as a place to drink and stay.
In the 1550’s Ale houses became more popular with the affluent classes because wine was now commonly sold and was the main drink for the wealthy. In 1652 the first coffee houses were opened but they were not a threat to the ever increasing popularity of the Ale houses. By 1660 Alehouses were so popular that most English lived within a short walk of a pub.
Unfortunately this period did not last long as England was hit by two disasters that would forever change the landscape of Ale houses in London. Firstly in 1664 the Great plague also known as the Black Death appeared which killed about 25% of London’s population and caused havoc throughout England and the Rest of Europe. Secondly The Great Fire of London in 1666 destroyed most of the city. Most buildings at this time were made of wood and the fire destroyed an estimated 80% of all wooden based buildings. The aftermath of these two catastrophes meant Ale House numbers were massively reduced.
However rather than feeling sorry for themselves Londoners saw the positive in these disasters and what followed was a huge resurgence in the construction of concrete based buildings and within a decade London had repaired most of the destruction.
By 1830 beer was seen as medicinal and not bad for the health especially as alcohol at this time was healthier than water. This combined with the fact that these establishments were far cleaner than most peoples’ homes meant Ale Houses becoming incredibly popular and the only place to drink and have a good time. An increase in anti-social behaviour meant the government felt things were getting out of hand and so introduced pub licensing laws to limit opening and closing times. However the prosperity of the Industrial Revolution meant Pubs continued to grow in popularity and by 1870 they peaked at 1 pub for every 116 people.
With so many Pubs open it was important they found new ways to separate themselves from their competitors and they did this by offering the most stylish decors, incredibly beautiful window panels and the latest modern furniture. However this golden period didn’t last long as the two World Wars destroyed many pubs and depression set in limiting people abilities to visit a pub. Popularity decreased and Pub numbers fell dramatically.
This situation has continued to the current time with Pubs also facing tough competition from fast food restaurants, café bars and various forms of Nightlife such as Clubs, Cinema’s, Bars and Theatre. There are now 4000 pubs in London which is about 1 pub for every 2000 people – a huge reduction from what it used to be in late 1870’s. Although Pubs popularity has declined they are still a very important part of London life and at least one can be found in all major towns.
EC’s Learn and Explore course attempts to inform our students of London’s wonderfully diverse and unique lifestyle and why London is now seen as one of the best cities in the World for Entertainment, Arts and Culture.
Our Pub Culture class explains the importance of Pub life to Londoners and then takes our students to some of the most historical and traditional Pubs London has to offer.
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