The effect of industrialization on public houses

The most clear and obvious change to public houses as a result of industrialization was the change to their names. They used to be called ale houses or inns, but as the 19th century progressed the term public house was used more and more. Eventually the shortened termed pub was used, and this is now the most common term used.

Not free beer but a freehold with a wider selection available

Prior to the 19th century the ale houses invariably brewed their own beer but as industrialization took hold the larger brewers started to grow. As they expanded a lot of the public houses were owned by the major brewer and then run by a landlord. He would have then been expected to sell that companies beers. Another method of ownership was the leasehold. The owner would lease the pub off the beer company for a specified number of years. They were however, once again committed to selling the company’s produce. The last method was freehold where the owner bought the bar outright and could sell which ever produce he wished to.

In an ideal world every pub owner would have wanted to own a freehold, but the initial financial requirement meant that the vast majority cannot afford to do this. In the 19th century it was quite clear which bars belonged to which major beer producer. Another major change in the public houses was the variety of beer that was being sold. Prior to the start of industrialization, the beer was dominated by the dark stout porter, however during the 19th century there were a variety of new products coming on to the market. The lighter coloured bitter was now produced as the brewers in Burton, Derbyshire, experimented with their hops and malt, and combined it with the local water. This large concentration of natural gypsum mixed perfectly with the ingredients to produce the new colour.

Beer barrels being loaded onto a train

The new golden clear drink of lager started to appear in public houses. The brewing work was done by the Bavarians in Germany, and soon they had produced a light-coloured drink with a fresh taste. Lager would soon forge ahead in British pubs to become a best seller. The transport structure and routes improved markedly during the 19th century. The rail network grew enormously, and the trains meant that beer could be moved quickly and relatively cheaply around the country. This meant that a freehold pub in Bristol could sell beer that was being produced in Burton.

Another change was the emergence of working men’s clubs. These clubs were located in the working-class areas of Northern England, South Wales and East London. They were run by the people as none profit making enterprises, so the beer was cheap. The club was often the centre of the community and made space for social and sporting activities. Being run by a committee the rules had to be adhered to and they were not scared to ban individuals from the club who would flout the rules. Darts, pool snooker, bingo, cards or just watching the football on the television, were among the many activities that were on offer. Due to the wide variety of entertainment available young and single parent families could socialise as there would be no need to pay for a babysitter.

The public houses changed completely during the industrial revolution and the vast majority of the changes were for the better. The pub was now seen as the social centre of many communities around Britain.