Three Centuries of Alcohol in Britain

  • Josephine A. Spring
  • David H. Buss


Ale has been drunk in England since Celtic times1 and hopped beer since the fifteenth century, but it was not until 1643 that a beer duty was imposed to raise money for the Civil War. The earliest national records of consumption date from 1684, when the beerhouse was the centre of the working man’s life. Many workers were paid at public houses, which also served as labour exchanges; if a man was unemployed he could receive credit if he was a regular customer.2 Inns also served as centres of transport, courts and even small prisons, such as the White Lyon at Southwark.3 Entertainments such as cock fighting, bear baiting and prize fighting also took place in them. In the late seventeenth and early eighteenth centuries it was wiser to drink beer than the usually polluted drinking water. For example, Nottingham’s water supply was drawn from the River Leen which also served as the main sewer of the town; fortunately Nottingham had one alehouse for every 80 inhabitants.3


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Copyright information

© Macmillan Publishers Limited 1979

Authors and Affiliations

  • Josephine A. Spring
  • David H. Buss

There are no affiliations available

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