UK Pub History in London and the Home counties

The UK Pub History for London and the South are listed on my various pub history sites if they have any historical interest

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I have been researching pub history for about 15 years, and is updated every day. It brings together many peoples efforts in research of the historical public house. It will never be complete, but continues to expand.

Details on each relevant pub include street name changes, landlords and other people living at this property, and in many instances a link to other pubs that they may have been involved in. The listings include census detail, directory data, license transfers, births, marriages and deaths, probate records etc etc.

Two new additions to pub history is the site which is aimed at those researching  casualties and gallantry for World War One in 2018, the 100 years of the armistice. And also the which is similar, but follows regiments through a timeline of the Great War. There are many links between both sites

The pub history sites are regularly updated by Stephen, Ewan, Tris and Kevan, plus many like-minded individuals on a daily basis; and anyone is welcome to contribute (by email). If you visit the site, you will quickly understand that this is more than just a pub history site. The site is better described as an historical London street directory through time, with many images and historical listings endorsing the same.  The pub history site is always adding additional areas slowly, sometimes with just a stub page of data. You can email me with more detail, and become a contributor.

Do you have a victualler, publican or beer retailer in your family history? This site will, hopefully, answer your questions as to where their pub was.

The (deadpubs) pub history and historical street directory is a listing of open & closed Pubs which show the address changes through time, and obviously from a historical perspective. It concentrates on the many road name changes through the years because of slum clearance, road renaming and modern office building. It often does not use post codes, although this will change. I am also adding many of the modern pubs as I find them, although there is often very little historical detail for these.

London is very interesting as it bore the brunt of the WWII bombings, as did many other places, but also went through a major road renaming process between 1938 and 1944 - and at many other periods prior to this. Many of the roads with similar names were simply renamed to distinct road names. This is where the 1944 listing of Pubs is incredibly important. The early street numbering was often rather random, as was the later addition of postcodes. If you travel into modern London, you will often recognise the place names on the modern London railway stations, but with little perspective of what the area was like before London councils cleared swathes of 'slum' housing, or as is more often the case, cleared whole communities for the London Docklands corporation, for example. If you do visit Docklands, do spend some time at the rather excellent London Docklands museum (Entrance is free, and it is also rather brilliant).

Pubs, like churches move slowly over a period of time, I use this to my advantage; as I do other buildings like hospitals. The public houses are listed by church parish as they would have existed before 1900 - many of these are no longer in existence. In addition to this, I am adding modern pubs as they are opened, and also list the many thousands of pubs which are closing all of the time. The site is a little lacking in modern history, and does not always have post codes or a recognisable modern address.

Just to clarify one small point. The pub history site does not ONLY cover London. The site also has extensive coverage of Essex and Hertfordshire and many parts of the south east, from a historical point of view, as it does in specific towns such as Hastings, Portsmouth, Southampton, Birmingham, Nottingham, Lincoln etc etc. And also be aware that addresses are often historical, and up to 75 years out of date. Sorry, but this is a historical site, that's what I do! There are plenty other modern pub sites.

There are many other areas & towns listed on this pub history site, including places such as Birmingham, Nottingham & Lincoln etc. The site is growing every day to encompass new towns and its pub history. The site is slowly moving north to add the whole of the UKs pub history. Take a look at the top level links to see which areas are covered for pub history, it regularly changes.

See the pub history menu for all of the other areas which are covered, some are strong, others are awaiting more input. Please feel free to send me modern and historical images and detail. I work fulltime, but will add this as soon as I can. 

Allegedly, a host of public house pictures of the 1960's were found in a skip. These were then scanned, and now appear on the National Brewery Heritage Trust site. These are pictures of the pubs, the current landlords by surname, and random other detail. the site is brilliant - thank you; and there are a lot of pictures, so spare a lot of time to view this site.

Many of the more astute licensed victuallers were involved in the Licensed Victuallers Association. This association was set up  to protect families in times of hardship, and aided families in the association who needed help.

One important thing which needs mentioning. Many modern pubs have changed names. Many pub chains have bought up older buildings and altered them into a pub. These modern pubs often used to include the name 'Old' in the name to indicate they were brand new pubs! Confused yet? The history of these pubs will often state they were here since Elizabethan times, but they omit to mention it was a pig farm at the time, or whatever.

Here are my research suggestions to get you started:

The pub / public house / boozer is where most of us spent our youth, and more. They are now expensive places to drink, and the local supermarket has replaced many (if not all) of the Off Licences. There is also a new breed of pubs, with a range of nice ales at affordable prices (I am quoting the likes of Wetherspoons); and this new brand replaces the old established and often run-down pubs of the past. I am not selling either as a preference, this is a pure article on pub history as I see it from the last ten years of research into the matter - my thesis, for what it is worth.

Let us start in 2013 and a round up of the current pub trade. Many pubs are closing, and being replaced by restaurants and pizza houses.  Other pubs are closing and being converted back into housing, generally flats. The current economic climate is forcing many of the tied public houses to close, whilst newer pubs are continuing to open ( at a lesser rate). The reference 'tied houses' refers to the fact that a pub has to purchase its beer and spirits from the chain which runs the establishment. This is a more expensive option than being able to purchase from the market place, and has forced many pubs to be uneconomical, thus closure. I am not clear as to how Wetherspoons pubs operate, but their prices tend to undercut many of the established lager pubs, and is generally a better experience.

A major trend over the last twenty years or so, has been the renaming of pubs from a centuries old name, to a modern trendy name. The pub history site tends to reflect on the original names. Another trend appears to be the purchase by a brewery of an 'old' building, with little pub interest; and then transforming the same building into a historical pub. I am never clear about the economics of such a transformation, but the costs of this can run into a million pounds for just one pub, and therefore it must make economical sense.

I am now going to move back to the 1970 - 1990 period. At this time, there were a number of new pubs replacing the older, and generally larger pub. The pub names were still relevant, e.g. the White Hart, Kings Head etc. This was a time when the Watneys and Truman pubs were being sucked into the empire of the Grand Metropolitan chain. Watneys (Red Barrel, which was appalling beer) and Trumans (slightly better beer) were purchased by the Grand Metropolitan chain. Apparently, Grand Metropolitan closed down the good breweries and sold even more appalling beer to the detriment of the brands.

The wiki states that Grand metropolitan bought the Truman, Hanbury & Buxton chain in 1972, and next Watney Manns; plus a host of other drinks related businesses including J & B Whiskey.  The problem was in 1989, Lord Young decided to cut the brewers monopoly, by reducing their size to 2,000 but in essence to sell off half of all pubs over the number of 2,000 by the year of 1992. The wiki covers most of this detail, and I will not repeat it here, but this is a list of about 500 Grand Met pubs in 1991 just prior to selling off to Charringtons - these are in London and also the South East (Hertfordshire, Kent & Essex).

You can research a Pub, or any home, by researching using a surname in the BT telephone directories. These are available as part of the Ancestry basic search. If you need more detail, their other packages offer additional searches, e.g. the electoral rolls. I am not selling their services, but these are available, at a cost.

Stepping back in time again, we step back about 30 years to the 1940s and the World War, when great swathes of London and the South East were harangued by the war time bombing, and masses of London was demolished by the V1 and V2 rockets.  About the same time, streets were being renamed to remove the repetition of road names. I list each and every pub and beer house in 1944, and this is a very useful guide in researching back further. This pub history site largely covers pubs and beer houses in 1944 and the two hundred years earlier - including their street name changes along the way.

One point I always make is NOT to exclude the beer retailers. many of these were, and continued to be off licences. Other beer retailers are now the well known pubs that we have known forever (apparently). The youngsters of today have no idea of the rich history which exists in our earlier pubs and beer houses, as they know little different. Their idea of the history of a pub is what is was last renamed a few years ago.

  • It is also important to not to discount hotels as pubs. Many areas, not quite so much in London, list a considerable number of Hotels. These are not listed in the publicans, or beer retailer sections, as they are Hotels. You often need to search a particular area in this case. As ever, a good example of this is Wincanton, in Somerset (one of many).

An important point

My next article on research of a pub will start to explain the differences between the different areas of London and the South East, and why some areas had lots of pubs, and some had none.


And Last updated on: Sunday, 21-Jan-2018 23:55:29 GMT