The History Behind Micropubs
The history behind micropubs in the UK is intrinsically linked to the traditions of a ‘public house’. This unique history is discussed in the blog article ‘Is Pub History Real History‘ but the point of this piece is to look at a pub which specifically links this connection.
The story comes from BristolLive and is entitled “The tiny South West pub serving just one beer and run by 98-year-old from her front room” by Anita Merritt and Conor Gogarty, 09.05.2019. This excellent article chronicles some of the story of a lady called Mary Wright. The pub is named ‘The Luppitt Inn’ and is cited by the authors as one of the last informal alehouses in the country.
This informality is the text of this history behind micropubs and provides the link to tradition which the commercial innovation of micropubs represents. The official definition of a micropub according to the Micropub Association is “A micropub is a small freehouse which listens to its customers, mainly serves cask ales, promotes conversation, shuns all forms of electronic entertainment and dabbles in traditional pub snacks”.
In Mary’s story as told in BristolLive, we find a basic set of rooms, an elderly lady willing to chat to her customers and a rejection of the formalities of a commercial pub to the extent that there is not even a real bar! This is a genuine public house in the very meaning in which the term was established hundreds of years ago.
As Mary says, “I’ve always joined in with things and customers still come and see me where I’m sat so we still have our chats. Pubs can bring communities together.” This essential part of the pub as a community hub is the real treasure of our public house history. We may go into many different types of pub but when you come across The Luppitt Inn you know immediately that you have found a special place where that old sense of community thrives.
In our growing story of micropubs, it is the thriving of community which sits behind their operation. That is the history behind micropubs in the UK.
Top Picture credit: Anita Merritt and Conor Gogarty
The history behind micropubs
As the above image shows, Victorian pubs, certainly in the first half of the nineteenth century, had little more about them than The Luppitt Inn. Our concerns about technology, loud music and gaming machines were simply not a presence in these old pubs. Beer, some food, tables and conversation were the mainstays of the pub experience.
What this illustrates to us is how fluid the licensed trade has been in the face of changing times. In came the mail coaches and the local nature of pubs was lost to strangers. In came the railways and the local pub was lost to the railway hotel. In came the cars and the local pub was lost to the motorways. In came the property developers and the local pub was lost to apartments. At each of these moments of change there have been loud protests about the loss of our pubs. In all of these cultural changes the vitality of the pub trade has always adapted.
The micropub movement is one adaption to the changing times and in its offer of community values it revitalises our public house tradition. Yes, we must all resist the destruction of our old pubs but we must also celebrate the establishment of a market response. On a personal level, I avoid pubs with loud music blarring away, I shy off from flashing lights and designer bars. Give me something solid, give me a space to talk and hear conversation, give me something which has a feel of community about it. That’s where I want to drink my beer.
Victorian Image from The Mysteries of London (1858)