Beerhouse Act 1830 

Records of those who applied for an annual victualler’s licence, issued to an individual who intended to serve food and alcoholic beverages in a public house. From 1522, a person wanting to sell alcoholic drinks had to apply for a licence from the Quarter or Petty Sessions and it is from the records of these courts that the majority of publican records originate. Most records and documents held at County Record Offices are arranged by the name of the pub and not the name of the publican. Trade and street directories as well as electoral registers can help track down the name and location of a pub and the name of the landlord, but note that some publicans pursued other professions or trades at the same time. It is also worth noting that a public house or the publican may have featured in a newspaper story or in auctioneer records and census returns.

From 1617 licences were required for those running inns and in 1828 a new Alehouses Act followed by the Beerhouse Act of 1830 overhauled the system creating looser regulations for those applying for a licence which resulted in a significant rise in the numbers of licensed premises selling alcohol. As a result, drinking in pubs became increasingly popular in the 19th century.

Landlords had to declare that they would not operate a disorderly pub and enter into certain obligations before the court could issue a license. This form of legal pledge or obligation is known as a Recognizance or Bond. The relevant information may appear under the heading of ‘Register of recognizances of licensed victuallers’. Landlords that failed to adhere to these requirements would appear before the Quarter or Petty Sessions on charges of ‘keeping a disorderly house’.

Originally beerhouses and alehouses only sold ale or beer whilst taverns sold additional beverages such as wine and spirits. Inns and especially coaching inns were bigger establishments offering larger more comfortable rooms and accommodation.

If the pub had land attached to the premises, even a small piece of land, a description of this land should appear in tithe and enclosure maps. The records generated by the Valuation Office could assist the research into a publican ancestor as could ordnance survey maps, rate books and fire insurance maps.

From the 17th century breweries often bought pubs and tied them into only selling their beer. Eventually around 90 per cent of pubs were tied to one brewery. The brewery might hold records relating to the pub and its publicans or owners. If the brewery owner is not known, look for photos which might show the name. Also look for the archived minutes and lists of members of the Licensed Victuallers League.

Brewer’s apprenticeship records can be found at the Guildhall Library and The National Archives, see Apprenticeship Agreements for more details.

Also see
Apprenticeship Agreements, Trade
Apprenticeship Indentures, Parish
Directories, Trade, Professional, Telephone & Street – See more at: