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Pub History and Heritage

Samuel Pepys once described the inn as the ‘the heart of England’ and these ancient establishments have been an integral part of British culture since Roman times. Delve back into history and you can find the origin of the rural inn and its urban counterpart.

Haunt of highwayman, weary pilgrims and modern-day travellers, the inn remains a part of the British psyche.

The word ‘pub’ derives from ‘public house’, first used in the 18th century and in common usage by Victorian times, when strict licensing laws were introduced to monitor the sale and consumption of alcohol. Tied houses – those attached to a particular brewery – were more widespread by this time and the publican managed the premises. Prior to this there were alehouses serving drink, taverns offering food as well as drink, and inns that provided accommodation and refreshment, particularly for travellers on the main coach routes between cities and towns.

One of the great pleasures to come out of this fascinating pub heritage is the historic buildings we frequent today. Grandiose coaching inns with rooms for travellers and stabling for horses were prolific by the Georgian pRoyal Oak, Marloweriod. Lots of these, most evident in charming market towns, still trade as inns and boast notable period features – beamed rooms, flagstone floors and huge open fireplaces. Rural inns, the focus of the local community, were often extended cottages set in gorgeous surroundings and resplendent with mellow stone, thatched roofs and low-beamed ceilings. While the ‘golden age’ of pub building in the Victorian and Edwardian eras saw elaborate interiors and ornate furnishings.

Unfortunately, as more and more rural pubs struggle as a viable commercial business, these architectural gems may well become harder to find. But there are still some great examples for visitors to enjoy. Many of these old buildings are harbouring a fascinating story behind their ancient facade or a long history of famous connections.

For a journey into the past check out the Kings Head near Chipping Norton (Oxon) or Crown @ Granborough near Buckingham (Bucks).

Find a Great Country Pub


The Wiremill

LocationLingfield, Surrey

It is well worth a detour down the secluded lane to this 15th-century mill set beside its own lake and nestled amongst mature oak and birch.

The Wiremill, Tandridge, Surrey

Great Pubs with History & Heritage

The Wiremill

LocationLingfield, Surrey

Duke of Marlborough

LocationWoodstock, Oxfordshire

The Banningham Crown

LocationNorwich, Norfolk

The Lion

LocationColchester, Essex

The Crown

LocationPlayhatch, Berkshire

Walpole Arms

LocationNorwich, Norfolk

Cherry Tree Inn

LocationHenley On Thames, Oxon

Drusilla's Inn

LocationWimborne, Dorset

Black Horse

LocationShefford, Bedfordshire

Peacock Country Inn

LocationThame, Oxfordshire