The Drinking Man’s History of West Haddon.

Why the “Drinking Man’s History”?

Ale has always been an important beverage in England. Brewing was one of the kitchen arts, like baking, which a housewife was expected to practice to provide for her family. The sterilising effect of brewing rendered water that was often suspect, safe to drink. The responsible mother would offer her children ‘small beer’ rather than the untreated contents of the well bucket. In later years the introduction tea, which required the use of boiled water, provided an alternative to alcohol.

Medieval ale didn’t keep well, so neighbours might take turns to produce a batch to avoid waste. Or a widow might make supplies of ale to support herself. Poorer households might not have the brewing equipment of their own and would be glad to buy.

Village ale-houses began as part-time affairs, selling beer for consumption at home or out in the fields. Not until the time of the first Queen Elizabeth did the villagers adopt the habits of the townsfolk, by gathering in the ale-house for a convivial evening of drinking, singing and games (though ale-house keepers who permitted gaming, i.e. gambling, could lose their licence). These gatherings would have been almost exclusively male. Women might have brewed and served the drink, but women who drank in public were considered fast and up to no good. Hence the title of our exhibition – the drinking man’s history of West Haddon.