Going For A Drink: Local Pubs (Part Two)

Following on from the previous post, the second source for late 18th century pub history is the annual list of alehouse recognisances held in the Pembrokeshire Quarter Sessions records. From 1753 until 1828** each pub licensee had to have at least 1 surety willing to enter into a recognisance of £10 who would support the licensee in case of breach of licence. The list*** shows the parish (and sometimes more precise address details) where the pub was situated, the name of the licensee and the same details for the sureties. The name on the pub sign is rarely recorded.

The previous post concluded that, perhaps unsurprisingly, the more economically vibrant an area, the more pubs it was likely to have. This is clear from the alehouse recognisances for the then mining parishes of Loveston and Reynalton, just to the west of Begelly. Today these places have a rural air about them but around 1800 they were scenes of mining activity. During this period, the last reference I have to mining at Loveston was 1804 which corresponds with the last pub licence being granted for 1805. Similarly the last reference to Reynalton’s pits being operational was 1818, although struggling at the time, with the last licence granted for 1815.

Milford Arms pub

Milford Arms, Saundersfoot in 1794 - "Mr William Ormond's House" (Copyright: National Library of Wales). Click to enlarge.

For some, running a pub in the locality was clearly an opportunistic business. When pits were working with a sizeable workforce, pubs opened. When the pits closed, the pubs followed suit.

Much of the mining history of St Issells at this time is shrouded in mystery due to the poor survival rate of primary sources. Can the alehouse recognisances be used to provide pointers to the growth or otherwise of mining in the parish? The difficulty with this is that, in such a large parish as St Issells, the recognisances do not provide sufficiently precise location details to track where pubs were. However, by combining the recognisance data with other sources such as Land Tax and estate records, it is possible to make good guesses about locations.

The answer to the above question is that the presence of a pub in a particular spot can be used as indicative, though not conclusive, evidence of mining activity. In 1784, 5 pubs were licensed: 2 for Saundersfoot (probably the Wogans Arms and Milford Arms), 1 at Stepaside, 1 close to where Sardis church is today and possibly 1 at Tregallet farm in the north of the parish. The first 3 make sense with Stepaside in the heart of a mining area and the beaches at Saundersfoot being a meeting point for both carters and mariners. The other 2 make less sense and may indicate mining activity which is now lost from view.

Between 1800 and 1810 the number of licences granted each year was just 3, all of which were at Saundersfoot. This suggests that there was little mining activity in much of the parish, something supported by evidence in the parish baptism register for 1809 to 1811 in particular. Towards the end of our period however, the number of licences jumped to 7 in 1819; 1 on the turnpike road at what became the Fountain Head, 2 probably on the Ridgeway and 4 at Saundersfoot. Extant mineral leases for this period signed during the previous 5 years or so support this pattern.


** Lists of alehouse recognisances are held in the Pembrokeshire Quarter Sessions records from about 1780 until 1821 – for Narberth Hundred (which covers our area) the start date is 1784.

*** The following is a list of licensees’ surnames by parish for this period. If you want to check the full details (forename, more precise location details where available and period for which recognisances were taken out) for any of these then do let me know.

Begelly & East Williamston: Allen, Gunter, Jenkins, Lloyd, Morris, Protheroe and Roberts

Loveston: Hitchings and Thomas

Reynalton: Hodge, James and Llewhellin

St Issells: Absalom, Allen, Beynon, Brinn, Butterfield, Davies, Evans, Griffiths, Henton, James, Lawrence, Lewis, Lloyd, Ormond, Parcell, Prickett and Thomas


Pembrokeshire Record Office: Quarter Sessions files, 1784-1821.

National Library of Wales: Plan of Saundersfoot 1794 (cat ref Picton Castle Maps and Plans 18); reproduced with permission of Llyfrgell Genedlaethol Cymru/The National Library of Wales

4 thoughts on “Going For A Drink: Local Pubs (Part Two)

  1. William Ormond was certainly an innkeeper in 1803 in Saundersfoot. He was mentioned in a document (PQ/7/Epiphany/1803) as being guarantor for Moses Cale in a bastardy case of twins being born to Elizabeth Phillip. Ormond was probably Cale’s employer

  2. Drinking in the Saundersfoot area was the main pastime of the Colliers, and by those who did hard manual work; many miners who perhaps were more adept in the Brewing aspect turned to making their own ale, which to those who were successful offered a way out of the coalpit.
    To augment or to replace their wages one could open a Beerhouse this was different from the traditional Inn or Tavern or Spirit houses which were established over many years. Under the 1830 Beer Act any householder who paid rates could apply, with a one-off payment of two guineas, to sell beer or cider in his home (usually the front parlour) and even brew his own on his premises. The permission did not extend to the sale of spirits and fortified wines and any Beerhouse discovered selling those items was closed down and the owner heavily fined. A glance at the proceedings of the local Petty Sessions will give plenty of instances where ex miners either through disability or injury were operating unofficial drinking establishments and as a result were fined accordingly. In the 18th century Gin was seen as the problem drink of the masses and beer was encouraged as the lesser of two evils.
    Beer houses were not permitted to open on Sundays. The beer was usually served in jugs or dispensed directly from tapped wooden barrels lying on a table in the corner of the room. One well known local pub at Cresswell Quay maintains a similar tradition to this day.
    Often profits were so high the owners were able to buy the house next door to live in, turning every room in their former home into bars and lounges for customers and of course home brewing for family weddings etc was an accepted method of saving money and a part of rural life.

    • I have always found the 1830 Beer Act the most counter-intuitive statutory initative to manage the supply of alcohol. It drove a huge increase in the amount of beer drunk and the beer shops/houses themselves were not, the first 30 or so years after 1830, subject to the same level of magisterial control as normal pubs. My next 2 postings look at the effect of homebrewing and beershops locally – these will be the last posts on the topic of drink for the moment.

      I have certainly enjoyed several beers at Cresswell Quay.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s