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Hungerford was an important coaching town both on the east-west Bath Road, and the north-south Oxford to Salisbury road. Many inns and alehouses have come and gone, although perhaps the oldest (The Bear) thrives well in the 21st century.
List of known inns:
Inns or pubs?
Inns were originally the hospices, or guest houses, of monasteries or priories (see The Bear). By the 18th century, often now in private hands, many had developed into coaching inns. They were a place for travellers to rest and change their mount while also providing overnight accommodation and food. They were expensive to run and standards varied considerably. Staff had to be on hand, stabling provided for fifty horses or more, rooms furnished and kept ready, fresh provisions constantly available. Many closed when the harder times came as road traffic declined in the mid 1800s after the railways came.
Pubs, originally called alehouses or beerhouses, were private homes where the 'ale wife' who was often a widow, brewed and served beer for consumption on or off the premises. The Beer House Act of 1830 permitted a house-holder or rate payer, on payment of two guineas to the Excise, to turn his private house into a public house. The term 'pub' became common currency soon after. The pub, unlike the inn, provided no rooms in which to stay. The first licensing legislation - introducing restrictions on opening hours - was passed in 1872.
However, the control of alehouses and inns by licensing actually goes back many centuries. In order to reduce the "intolerable Hurts and Troubles" that "daily grow and increase through such Abuses and Disorders as are had and used in common Alehouses and other Houses called Tiplinghouses", an Act was passed by Edward VI in 1552 stating that "None shall sell Ale or Beer without licence, and they shall be bound by Recognisance". Follow this link to view the Act Licensing Alehouses and Tiplinghouses, 1552.
In 1577, the Certificate of Inns, Taverns and Alehouses listed for Hungerford, 1 innkeeper, 7 alehousekeepers and 1 tavernkeeper.
An increasing number of Acts were passed affecting Inns and Alehouses, especially during the reign of James I, largely aimed at controlling "disorderly alehouses", and "repressing the odious sin of drunkenness". The first James I Act of 1610 was the first to allow one hour of "tippling" at lunchtime. Most hostelries at this time were still called "alehouses", but "inns" started to become a more commonly used name. Both were gradually taking their place as a common meeting-place for local people to exchange news and pass the time.
The following extracts give a flavour of some of the Acts:
1495 An Act against vagabonds & beggars [11 Henry VII c2]:
i. No apprentice, servant of husbandry, labourer ... to play tennis, dice, cards, bowls, nor any unlawful games ....
ii Justices may punish keepers of houses for dicing etc
iii Justices may reject and put away common ale selling ... where they think convenient, and to take sureties of the keepers for their good behaviour
1552 An Act for keepers of alehouses and tipling houses to be bound by recognizances [5/6 Edward V c25]:
i. Justices empowered to remove, discharge etc common selling of ale and beer in common alehouses .... as they think mete and convenient
ii None shall be admitted to keep a common alehouse .... but as shall be admitted in open Sessions or by two Justices ..
iii Justices were empowered to take bond and sureties from all those licenced to be alehousekeepers
iv Justices ordered to register the recognisance at the next Quarter Session
v Justices empowered to enquire at Quarter Sessions whereby any keeper has forfeited his recognisances
vi Keepers not to allow unlawful games in their houses, but to maintain good order and rule
vii Justices empowered to commit those keeping an alehouse without license to common jail .... for 3 days without bail, and before release to take recognisance that they will not keep a common alehouse. Must make record of the offence and recognisance at next Quarter Session.
1603 An Act to restrain the inordinate haunting and tipling in inns, alehouses and other victualling houses [1 James I c9]:
Whereas the ancient and true principal use of inns, alehouses and victualling houses was for the receipt, relief and lodging of wayfaring people ... and for such supply of the wants of such people as are not able to buy greater quantities to make provision of victuals, and not meant for the entertainment and harbouring of lewd and idle people to spend and consume their money and their time in lewd and drunken manner
i No innkeeper etc to permit .... any person inhabiting ... in any town etc where any such inn etc is, to remain ... drinking or tipling in the said inn etc other than he shall be invited by any traveller and shall accompany him only during his necessary abode there.,
ii and other than labouring and handicraft men in cities etc upon their usual work days for one hour at dinner time to take their diet in an alehouse
iii and other labouring men which for the following of their work .... in any city etc ...lodge in any inn etc
1607 An Act for restraining the utterance of beer and ale to alehousekeepers not licensed [4/5 James I c4]:
i No person to sell ... any beer or ale to any person, or into the house or cellar of any person, that then shall sell as a common alehouse keeper or tipler, the same not having a licence ... other than for the use of their own household
1607 An Act for repressing the odious and loathsome sin of drunkeness [4/5 James I c5]:
Whereas the loathsome and odious sin of drunkeness is late grown into common use within this Realm being the root and foundation of enormous sins ...
i all such persons convicted of being drunk ... to forfeit 5s within one week into the hands of the churchwardens of the parish ... if refuse . ... or neglect to pay .... to levy by distress ... or 6 hours in the stocks
1609 An Act for repressing drunkeness [7 James I c7]:
... if any person(s) wheresoever his or their habitation shall at any time hereafter be found upon view or his own confession or proof of one witness, to be tipling in any inn, alehouse or victualling house, such person(s) shall be henceforth be adjudged and construed to be within the said statutes as if he or they had .... in places where they do not dwell ... under 4 James I c5.
1609 An Act for the reformation of alehousekeepers [7 James I c10]:
1623 An Act concerning hostelers and innholders [21 James I c]:
i Hostelers shall make no horse bread - but bakers shall make it ...
ii Hostelers shall sell their horse bread, oats, hay etc and all kinds of victuals for men and beasts for reasonable gain.
1623 An Act for the better repressing of drunkards and restraining the inordinate haunting of inns etc .. [21 James I c7]:
i earlier laws made perpetual
ii alehouse keepers .... disallowed from keeping an alehouse for 3 years
iii constables charged on his oath to present offences
1625 An Act for the restraint of inns, alehouses and victualling houses; penaltiaa extended to innkeepers, alehouse keepers and victuallers [1 Charles I c4]:
.... be it enacted that every innkeeper etc that at any time .... shall permit or suffer any person(s) .... to tipple in the said inn etc contrary to the statutes ... to be punished ...
1627 An Act for the better suppression of unlicensed alehousekeepers [3 Charles I c4]:
Recites the 1552 Act and reasons why this Act had not brought about the reformation intended
i the 20s fine seldom levied
ii offenders were too poor to pay or to bear own charge of conveying them to jail, and do leave a charge of wife and children on the parish
iii in some regions the constable and other officials are much discouraged from presenting them, and the offenders do become obstinate and incorrigible.
Remedies: penalty of 20s to be paid to the churchwardens for the poor of the parish, or penalty levied by distress, if not paid within 3 days, distress appraised and goods sold, or offender to be whipped constables who neglect to do their duty to be punished.
1690 An Act...
Distilling trade thrown open to all (abolition of the monopt)ly of Worshipful Company of Distillers and other royal patentees). Private citizen required merely to put up notice in public place informing the public he/she intended to set up a still. After 10 days free to distill gin or other spirits without licence. This Act and others which raised the tax on beer aimed at encouraging distilling from English grown corn.
1729 Act for the restraining...
Excise duty of 5s on a gallon of gin and other compounded spirits introduced £20 licence required by retailers in order to sell spirits. Street selling of spirits prohibited
1733 (above Act repealed because ineffective. Gin sold under new names eg Parliamentary Brandy)
1736 An Act...
Preamble: 'The drinking of spiritous liquors or strong waters is becoming very common, especially among the people of lower or inferior rank, the constant and excessive use thereof tends greatly to the destruction of their health, rendering them unfit for labour and business, debauching their morale, and inciting then to perpetuate all manner of vices ....
Persons wishing to retail spirits in quantities of less than 2 gallons at a time are required to take licence ... cost of £50
Also ... must pay a duty on each gallon sold
Licences are to be restricted to licensees of victualling houses
Informers against those contravening the law to receive a moiety of the fine
1737 An Act [10 George 11 c17]
Retailers of British wines, mead etc (technically known as 'sweets') to be drunk on the premises, to be licensed victuallers
1743 (initial drop in consumption, but riots and false informations made the 1736 Act a failure and it was repealed)
1751 An Act for the more effectually restrainibg the retailing of distilled Spirituous Liquors [24 George II c 44]
Distillers prohibited from selling by retail
Retailers of spirits to be drunk on premises to be licensed victuallers
No debt under 20s for spirituous liquors contracted at one time to be recoverable by law
Retailers taking a pledge for liquors to be fined 40s - moiety of fine to be paid to informer, other moiety to the parish
Owner of pledge, or pawn, may recover the pledge ar value thereof as if never pledged
1744 An Act..
Licence for retailers of liquors (ale and beer) to be restricted to one house only
Licensees not to be grocers, chandlers, distillers ett
1752 An Act...
Separate licence required for premises with music or dancing
1753 An Act for regulating the manner of licensing alehouses ... for the more easy convicting persons selling ale and other liquors without licence [26 George II c31]
Upon granting licences by Justices to keep an alehouse, inn, victualling house and sell beer, ale and other liquors by retail every such person shall enter into a recognizance to His Majesty in the sum of with two sufficient sureties each of £5 or one of £10 under the usual conditions for maintenance of good order and rule ..
And for the better prevention of disorder in alehouses etc be it further enacted that no licence to keep the same shall be granted to any person not licensed the year preceding unless such person prorl•Ace at the General Meeting of the Justices in September a certificate under the hands of the parson, vicar or curate, or major part of the churchwardens and overseers, or else 3 or 4 reputable and substantial householders or inhabitants of the parish or place where such an alehouse is to be .. that such a person is of good fame and sober life and conversation
Licence to be granted at Special Sessir-n on 20th September or within 20 days after, for one year
The recognizances to be kept by the clerk of peace together with a register recording these
1787 Royal Proclamation sent to every magistrate
... swarms of petty pothouses ... haunts of idleness, seminaries of crime ...
Magistrates urged to rule against cockfighting on licensed premises tippling during divine services, harbouring of vagrants and breaking of gaming laws
Constables incited to be more diligent in their supervision of alehouses
Magistrates, churchwardens etc asked to take greater care when signing certificates of good conduct
1792 An Act to amend... [32 Geo III c59]
Retailers of all wines which are to be drunk.on the premises to be licensed victuallers
Justices to have same jurisdiction over wine sellers as over ale sellers.
1825 An Act to...
Cost of spirit licence for small alehouses drastically reduced, £5 5s to £2 2s
1828 An Act to regulate the granting of licences to keepers of... [9 Geo IV c61]
Full public house licence recognised as the only one which authorised a victualler to sell exiisable liquor by retail
A financial bond or recognizance for good behaviour no longer required
1828 An Act to enable certain hotel keepers to be licensed to keep hotels as common inns, alehouses... [9 Geo IV c46]
1830 Beerhouse Act - An Act to permit the general sale of beer and cider by retail in England [11 Geor IV & Wil. I c64]
... for the better supplying the public with beer in England, to give better facilities for the sale thereof than are at presented afforded by licences to keepers of inns, alehouses and victualling houses.
Any person, being a householder, who shall be desirous of selling beer etc to apply for and to obtain an Excise Licence for that purpose
Licence duty of £2 2s
Two people to act as sureties (excluding another licensee)
Register of licences to be kept by Excise Office, open to inspection by magistrates
Licensed persons shall put up descriptive board
Licence to be renewed annually
Penalties imposed for adulterating beer
Retail beer houses shall not be open before 4am nor after 10pm, nor on Sundays between 10am and 1pm, and 3pm to 5pm
What is a beerhouse - what is a retailer of beer?:
In 1830, the first Beerhouse Act (1 Will. 4, c. 64) was passed, which created what are well known as beerhouses.
Under that Act licences were granted to sell beer on or off the premises, and one of the qualifications was that the applicant should be a resident occupier, but in this Act of 1830 no definition was given of a "beer retailer".
In 1834 an amending Act (4 & 5 Will. 4. c. 85) was passed, and in sect. 19 of that Act it was set out:
- "Whereas doubts are entertained as to what is a selling of beer or cider or perry by retail," be it enacted, "that every sale of any beer, or of any cider or perry, in any less quantity than four gallons and a half, shall be deemed and taken to be a selling by retail."
Thus, under that section of the 1834 Act, any person who sold beer in a smaller quantity than four and a half gallons was a beer retailer.
1834 Beerhouse Amendment Act
Distinguished between on-sale and off-sale licences:
On licence £3 3s; off licence £1 1s
Certificate of good behaviour required for on licences, signed by 6 rate payers of parish etc
1848 Limitation of opening hours Act
Public houses not to be open between midnight on Saturday and 12.30pm on Sunday
1860 Refreshment Houses Act [23&24 Victoria c27]
Created new class of drinking place - the resturant with wine licence
and off-licence for wine to grocers' and other retail shops
1869 Wine and Beerhouse Act [32&33 Victoria c27]
Wineshops and beerhouses brought under magisterial control
New licensees had to obtain certificate from Justices before obtaining the excise licence
Refusal to renew a licence, however, limited in the case of then existing beershops eg to disorderly houses, unsuitable premises
1872 Licensing Act
A consolidating Act
Justices licences required for all beerhouses (including pre-1869 houses, inns, alehouses, public houses
Discretionary closing houses
Introduction of inspectors and inspections - appointed from, and responsible to, the local police
Introduction of statutary, fixed closing hours for all inns, beershops etc
1879 Habitual Drunkards Act
Required a number of retreats to be set up; the drunkard paying for treatment
Prohibited the sale of liquor on premises to children
1898 Drunkards Act
Criminal inebriates could be committed to reformatories
Follow this link for more records about early licensees.
Description of England, by William Harrison, 1577 - Of Our Inns and Thoroughfares:
Those towns which we call thoroughfares have great and sumptuous inns builded in them, for receiving of such travellers and strangers as pass to and fro. The manner of harbouring wherein, is not like that of some other countries, in which the host or goodman of the house doth challenge a lordly authority over his guests, but clean otherwise since every man may use his inn as his own house in England, and have for his money how great or little variety of vitals and what other services himself shall think expedient to call for. Our inns are also very well furnished with napery, bedding and tapissery, especially with napery, for besides the linen at the tables, which is commonly washed daily, is such and so mu4belongs unto the estate and calling of the guest. Each comer is sure to lie in clean sheets, wherein no man has been lodged since they came from the laundress, or out of the water wherein they were last washed.
If the traveller has a horse, his bed does cost him nothing, but if he go on foot he is sure to pay a penny for the same: but whether he be a horseman or footman if his chamber be once appointed he may carry the key with him as of his own house so long as he lodges there. If he lose ought whilst he abides in the inn the host is bound by a general custom to restore the damage, so that there is no greater security any where for travellers than in the greatest inns of England. Their horses in like sort are walked, dressed and looked unto by certain ostlers or hired servants, appointed at the charge of the goodman of the house, who in hope of extraordinary reward will deal very diligently after outward appearance in their function and calling.
Herein nevertheless are many of them blameworthy, in that they do not only deceive the beast oftentimes of his allowance by sundry means, except their owners look well unto them; but also make such pacts with the slipper merchants which hunt after prey (for what place is sure from evil and wicked persons) that many an honest man is spoiled of his goods as he travels to and fro, in which feat also the counsel of the tapeter or drawer of drink and chamberlains is not seldom behind or wanting.
Certain I believe not that chapman or traveller in England is robbed by the way without the knowledge of some of them, for when he comes into the inn, or alights from his horse, the ostler forthwith is very busy to take down his budget or capcase in the yard from his sidle bow, which he passes slightly in his hand to feel the weight thereof: or if miss of this pitch, when the guest has taken up his chamber, the chamberlain that looks to this making of the beds will be sure to remove it from the place where the owner has set it as it were
to set it more conveniently somewhere else, whereby he gets an inkling whether it be money or other short wares, & thereof gives warning to such odd guests as haunt the house and are of his confederation, to the utter undoing of many an honest yeoman as he journeys by the way.
The tapster in like sort for his part does mark his behaviour, and what plenty of money he draws when he pays shot, to the like end: so that it shall be a hard matter to escape all their subtle practices. Some think a gay matter to commit their budgets at their coming to the goodman of the house: but thereby they oft betray themselves. For albeit their money be safe for the time that it is in his hands (for you shall not hear that a man is robbed in his inn) yet after their departure the host can make no warrenty of the same, since his protection extends no further than the gate of his own house: and there cannot be a surer token unto such as pry and w4tch for those booties than see any guest deliver his capcase in such a manner.
In all our inns we have plenty of ale, beer and sundry kinds of wine, and such is the capacity of some of them that they are able to lodge two hundred or three hundred persons, and their horses at ease, & thereto with a very short warning make such provision for their diet, as to him that is unacquainted withall may seem incredible. Howbeit of all in England and
there are no worse inns than in London, and yet there are many far better than the best I have heard of in any foreign country, if all circumstances he duly considered. But to leave this and go in hand with my purpose. I will set down a table of the best thoroughfares and towns of greatest travel in England, in some of which there are twelve or sixteen such inns at the least, as I did before speak of. And it is a world to see how each owner of them contends with each other for goodness of entertainment of their guests, as about fineness &
change of linen, furniture of bedding, beauty of rooms, service at the table, costliness of plate, strength of drink, variety of wines, or well using of horses. Finally there is not so much ommitted among the gorgeousness of their signs at their doors wherein some do consume thirty or forty pounds, a mere vanity in my opinion, but so vain will they need to be, and that not only to give some outward token of the innkeepers' wealth, but also to procure good guests to the frequenting of their houses. in hope there to be well used.
NB The above extract was printed in old script: the spelling has been modernised
It was followed by tables of highways and towns, including:
The Way to Bristol:
- Bristol to Marshfield - 10 miles
- Marshfield to Chiippenham - 10 miles
- Chippenham to Marlborough - 15 miles
- Marlborough to Hungerford - 8 miles
- Hungerford to Newbury - 7 miles
- Newbury to Reading - 15 miles
- Reading to Maidenhead - 10 miles
- Maiderhead to Colnbrook - 7 miles
- Colnbrook to London - 15 miles
An insight into the debate on Sunday Closing:
The Parish Magazine of April 1878 records that "During the past month a house to house canvass has been made throughout the town of Hungerford, with a view to ascertain the opinion of the inhabitants as to the sale of liquor on the Lords' Day. Returns were received from 477 houses out of the 494: and it appeared that 384 householders were in favour of Sunday Closing of Public Houses, 15 were in favour of their being open as at present, 24 were neutral, and 40 refused to sign either way. This seems to be a remarkable testimony that those who are supposed to be most interested in the question are strongly in favour of Sunday Closing."
It was not until Thursday 24th May 1883 that the definitive meeting took place. There was unanimous support for Closing Public Houses on the Lord's Day.
The first documented instance of hop cultivation was in 736, in the Hallertau region of present-day Germany, although the first mention of the use of hops in brewing in that country was 1079. In Britain, hopped beer was first imported from Holland around 1400; but hops were condemned in 1519 as a "wicked and pernicious weed". In 1471, Norwich, banned use of the plant in the brewing of beer, and not till 1524 were hops first grown in southeast England. The use of hops transformed British beer from this time.
- Parish Magazine, Apr 1878, Jun 1883.