The 20th century and the growth of the public house

The popularity of the Public House in the 20th century has seen many highs and lows as a result of the changing social and political world of the United Kingdom. At the start of the 20th century there were 100,000 pubs in England and Wales, but they bore little remembrance to the establishments that we find today. They were the remains of the rapid rise of pubs in the late 19th century. Rapid industrialization had brought greater numbers into towns and cities, and the lower-class workers needed entertaining at the end of a long day’s work. The new larger breweries were happy to supply new pubs to cater for this demand and these establishments were fairly basic and “spartan” in the facilities they offered. The pubs were there for the working man and it was hardly surprising that great drunkenness was seen during this period.

The Black Horse pub

The Government were aware of the social problems that this was causing and did attempt to try and control the number of pubs. Initial effort were thwarted as opposition from the brewing lobby stopped any direct attempts to close the pubs. However, the use of taxes, such as the “Peoples Tax” of 1910, resulted in a rise in the cost of drink and this, along with new social activities, resulted in beer and liquor consumption dropping in half between 1900 and 1920.

The era between the wars saw the pub trade try and change the image of the public house. They no longer wanted the pub to be seen as just a male domain and a venue for people to get drunk. They were now aiming their trade at whole families. In order to do this, thousands of pubs were rebuilt between 1918 and 1938. The new buildings were “sumptuous” pubs built with Tudor style fronts. Facilities included beer gardens, non-smoking rooms restaurants and games rooms.

With so many other social activities becoming available to the population the pub trade knew if they were to maintain a successful business they need to make the public house a more attractive to visit for the whole family. Many of these rebuilt pubs are now listed buildings. One such pub which has been raised to grade II status is the Black Horse in Birmingham, which was described by the travel writer HV Morton “the King of these palaces of refreshment”. It was built by the Birmingham brewery Davenport’s and its Tudor style gave the customers a real sense of escapism. There were no pubs larger than the Black Horse and it was a real show case for Birmingham Arts and Crafts.

The Clarendon pub

There were many other pubs built in the same style during this period and it was a golden era for the British pub trade. It was of course interrupted by the Second World War where the pub helped to foster community spirit in the urban areas. Many pubs were destroyed during the war and rebuilding was started with the post war estates, and with these came a new design in pubs. The pubs were designed to fit in with the new estates with many having flat roofs and rather drab interiors.

The Clarendon pub in Manchester is a good example of a post war pub. Designed to fit in with the new estate that had been built alongside it, the pub concentrates on being an efficient building. No waste in space it would have been provided with ample facilities and basic furnishings. The remaining years of the 20th century has seen the pub trade trying to compete with other social activities for trade. The continuing diversification of the pub into providing food and other activities has continued. Even though the pubs aren’t as numerous as they once were they still play a vital role in Britain’s social and cultural life.

The remaining years of the 20th century has seen the pub trade trying to compete with other social activities for trade. The continuing diversification of the pub into providing food and other activities has continued. Even though the pubs aren’t as numerous as they once were they still play a vital role in Britain’s social and cultural life.