Why are pubs important?
Support your local and preserve the British heritage!
The pub, the commonly used shorthand for ‘Public House’. And like a house, it’s built to be a home. Effectively, the pub is a public living room; it’s welcoming, there are comfortable chairs, traditionally an open fire and a place to kick back, relax and forget about your daily woes.
Pubs are so profoundly established within the British culture that the word itself induces all the human senses by thought and feeling alone. How often has your mate mentioned the pub and your body creates a sensation of familiar comfort, your nose plucks up the scent of scampi fries, and you can already taste a fresh pint of real Ale. When your brain connects the signals, your soul begins to pine for the pub.
However, the pub is so much more than friendly booze or a salty snack; the pub is about community. It is an integral part of the British culture and embraces all walks of life. Where can you be your authentic self? Where can friendships flourish? Where can villages gather? The pub, that’s where.
So let’s delve into the history and psychology of the pub to appreciate its importance and place within our society.
Close your eyes and take yourself back to 43AD, roughly 2000 years ago. The Romans have invaded the UK, wearied from their travels and thirsty for a liquid, euphoric escape. Finding themselves in small British villages with offerings of only warm, bitter Ale to be indulged whilst sat on a haystack’s outside. This simply was not fit for a Roman army! And thus, one of the first pubs were built. However, not as an establishment as we know it today. In true Roman elegance, the Tabernae was created and introduced to British society. The Tabernae were shops that sold wine and served food, an original wine bar if you will.
Yet alas, our ye old Brits could not sway their taste buds towards the fine wine on offer; they were already in tune with drinking the highly nutritious Ale. Over time, these Roman Tabernae’s were corrupted by the locals, who adapted the menus to serve their beloved Ale. Along with a menu change, the Taberane would become to be known as a Tavern. Notably, being a name still used today! How often do you pop to the ‘Tav’ for a swift one?
Eventually, the Romans would depart our tiny (but brilliant) island under the fall of the Romano-British empire. The Anglo-Saxons soon swooped in to regenerate the tavern and establish alehouses (evoking the feeling of ‘home’ further). It was during this era that these establishments became the focal point of local communities. Folk would congregate to exchange local gossip, sell produce or promote their trade and of course, drink, drink to be merry!
And so, let’s time travel forward to the 17th century, a time of profound social change and the heart of the industrial revolution! We have landed in the highly anticipated Georgian era, where the phrase ‘Public House’ first emerged. International trade had begun to flourish, there was a greater depth of wealth, and industries were proliferating. The British Empire was erupting. Our island was evolving rapidly, and having an establishment to relax in was essential to the daily workings of life.
The Public House had become a much sought out institution that had diversified intensely. Society had developed a pallet that yearned for more than just Ale and Wine. A publican could now serve up every spirit and liquor that would have made it over the English channel to delight the Georgians (notably, Gin taking the UK by storm, but that’s a story for a different day). Patrons who frequent Public Houses could indulge in the culinary speciality of the day, which I imagine were varieties of stew. Glorious stew. There would be light entertainment, from traditional music to a friendly brawl and card game. I quote, in his 17th-century diary, Samuel Pepys described the pub as “the heart of England”. Samuel Pepy was a famous member of Parliament, so thus, Parliament has spoken. Let’s cheers on that!
Now we have been enlightened with a short historical journey, let us settle in and understand the pub’s psychological importance to the British culture.
Some excellent chaps from Oxford University conducted a survey on the “Functional Benefits of (Modest) Alcoholic Consumption”. Dunbar et al. (2017) ran a randomly stratified national survey of 2254 UK adults to propose that alcohol consumption has social benefits related to mental health and social bonding. With the combined data from the survey and behavioural studies, the results highlighted that those who drink socially have more friends to depend on for emotional support and feel connected and engaged with their local community. This study proves that conversation and, let’s face it, banter with friends over a beer inside a friendly establishment can be a fantastic way to prevent stress!
Furthermore, sociologist Ray Oldenburg notably identifies the concept of the “third place”. The idea is that the “third place” is a public space on neutral ground where people can congregate and socialise, in contrast to the “first place” (home) and the “second place” (work). Oldenburg explained that pubs, cafes, music venues, libraries, and so many other businesses were the heart of the community’s social spirit. Oldenburg insisted that the “third place” provided the foundation for a functioning democracy.
So let’s connect with the present moment and reflect on why British pubs are fundamentally the beating heart of our society. The pub is an integral part of our heritage, a space that promotes social equality and a safe place to interact with other individuals who can offer emotional support. Whether you want to involve yourself within the conversations or simply watch the antics unfold, it is a space for escapism and friendly distraction. Strangers can engage, let go of their inhibitions and enjoy being in the present. Before the pandemic, loneliness, unfortunately, was its own epidemic in the UK. However, reports have highlighted that pubs play a vital role in tackling this problem by bringing people together. It’s a neighbourhood meeting point; it’s familiar and dependable.
Not only do pubs provide a snug and entertaining space for their patrons, but they also provide jobs for thousands of people across the UK. If you are friendly, hard-working and can make an excellent gin and tonic, then you are hired! Working within a pub proves to be a wonderful space to help publicans and staff build their confidence with the general public.
Pubs have a remarkable impact on supply chains such as breweries and local producers by serving and promoting their products. These partnerships play a sustainable role in the local communities economy by keeping business growing! It is also a fantastic networking point for tradesmen’s and entrepreneurs who often pop in after work to share friendly chatter and ideas with other patrons. Genuine bonds are formed within the four walls of a pub.
To conclude my ode to the pub, I implore all patrons to carry on supporting their locals! A pub can offer so many reasons to be joyful and humble within the pressing expectations of society today. By backing your local, you are actively helping to provide a dedicated space for those who need connection the most and preserving a safe space for all social groups to feel free in!