Traditional pubs are under threat but Roy Hattersley, travelling the country, finds hopeby Roy Hattersley / May 24, 2012 / Leave a comment
Published in June 2012 issue of Prospect Magazine
In 1980 there were 69,000 pubs in Britain; by 2010, just 51,178
Long before he founded the Salvation Army, William Booth preached the gospel outside the Vine, a public house on the corner of Whitechapel Road, in east London. He also spoke in front of the Blind Beggar, another pub on what was then called the Mile End Waste. One day—when the passers-by were even more aloof than usual—he decided to go inside the Vine to take his message to its customers. He did not record the extent of his success, but for the rest of his life he remembered his first impression of Victorian London’s taprooms. They were, he explained, the only places in which the slum dwellers of the east end could find light, heat and comfort. For many people, therefore, the attraction of the 19th century urban public house was the simple fact that it was more congenial than home.
Increased prosperity, combined with competition from new forms of entertainment, has certainly contributed to the fall in the number of public houses. According to the British Beer & Pub Association (BBPA), in 1980 there were 69,000 pubs in Britain. By 2000, the number had declined to 60,800 and by 2010, 51,178. But the reduction cannot be attributed solely to a change in tastes and higher levels of disposable income. The BBPA blames the beer tax. It has increased by 42 per cent in four years and is now 12 times as high as the duty paid in Germany.