Blog from February’s meeting

Phil Woods gave SASHA members and guests, a very interesting talk on the History of Pubs in Newbury. The majority of the pubs under discussion were situated inside the boundary of Newbury. Following are a few of the facts gleaned from his talk.
Phil has found mention of around 150 pub names but some have just one tantalising mention in old documents. Different departments were responsible for recording and licensing pubs over the centuries, sometimes J.Ps at other times Borough or Court authorities. Sometimes the pub licenses were transferred to different building and a familiar pub name reused and sometimes the pubs names changed but the building was the same. Unfortunately the local register of recognisances containing the names and landlords has been lost. The “Court of Leat” records of 1643, just weeks after the Battle of Newbury, shows 34 licensees being fined perhaps helping to raise funds for the Puritan authorities.
In medieval times a sign, like a bush, indicated where alcohol could be bought but then in 1522 legislation brought in weights measures and taxation. A Newbury list found for 1577 showed alehouses Inns and taverns and their landlord and landladies. Taverns sold wine and only one tavern was allowed per town. Common Lodging houses like the former ” Tiger” were licensed for 39 people to sleep in 6 rooms, they sold beer and they perhaps offered other services besides lodging. Pepys mentions in his diary having dinner at the Globe, now the site of Lloyd Bank. This inn was where many Council meeting were held. In 1761 the quarter sessions listed 42 pubs 8 more than the 1640’s, as the population rose by 20% the pubs rose by 34%.
The coaching era brought vast numbers of coaches horses and passengers along the Bath to London road resulting in an explosion of inns. The Chequers, Bacon Arm and Crosskeys are some of those that are still going concerns. All these inns allowed access for the coaches from the main road through wide archways to the unloading yards and they could exit onto Pelican Lane without turning around. The Pelican Inn was the most famous for the “size of its bill”, the George and Dragon was visited by Charles Dickens, William Cobbett and where the Speenland Poor Relief system was devised.
The Toomer 1823 Newbury census listing gives information of pubs and landlords. These inns were a source of lodging barracks for soldiers and their horses and landlords refusing this obligation could be fined. In 1830 the Beerhouse Act was passed to try and break the brewers monopoly by enabling any rate-payer to brew and sell beer on payment of a licence. This failed to work and in 1930 Simmons the brewers owned 90% of Newbury pubs.
As the railways rose and fell to be replaced by the motor car the resulting building works caused the demolition of old pubs like The Railway Hotel, Axe and Compass and the Sun. Over the years the numbers and types of pubs have changed effected by the breathalyser and the smoking ban but still the Wagon and Horses and the Catherine Wheel and others find a way to continue.