Beer history

Penzance’s 19th Century Beer Shops

From the Journal of the Statistical Society of London, Vol II (1839):

Not any families of this [labouring] class brew at home. The number of beer-shops at the same time in both places [Penzance and Madron] was 37. The number of public houses in Penzance has not varied during the last five years, with the exception of one new house opened about two years ago near some extensive rows of houses recently built. In Madron they have increased during the same period from 3 to 5. The number of beer-shops in the town and parish has been in each of the same five years, respectively, 28, 36, 41, 41 and 37… In Penzance there are only about half-a-dozen skittle-ground, called “kayle-alleys,” all of which are attached to public-houses or beer-shops; but out of the town, most of the beer-shops have them. It is stated by a person who frequents the public-houses in Penzance, that no periodical publications are taken in there exclusively for the labouring classes, and that the newspapers which are to be found in them are the provincial journals, and such of the London papers as are generally read by all classes of society.

Give or take a couple that have closed, we reckon (counting on fingers) that, these days, there are about fifty pubs in Penzance and Madron, so slightly more than in the 1830s, but then the population has tripled.

One reply on “Penzance’s 19th Century Beer Shops”

Fascinating. Considering those “beer shops” (by which I assume the writer means beerhouses) must all have sprung up in the eight years since the Beerhouse Act of 1830 (unless some former public houses switched to the cheaper and easier beerhouse licence, which I’ve never seen any evidence of), that implies the number of outlets selling beer in the district more than doubled in six years, before easing back slightly. What would be interesting to do is look at the 1841 census and see what trades were followed by people in houses that were also beerhouses: I’d bet in a large number of cases the wife kept the beerhouse while the husband worked as something else. (I’d also bet that in a fair number of beerhouses the husband’s trade was reflected in the name of the establishment, eg at the Three Horseshoes the husband was a farrier.)

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