X hits on this document

Word document

Wrong Side of the River: London's disreputable - page 9 / 25





9 / 25

the figure was closer to one in every six in the poorer extra- mural wards, and there is evidence that the increase in tippling

in these areas outpaced the aggregate population increase. In March 1631 the Surrey JPs recorded 228 alehouses in

Southwark and Kent Street alone, of which the licenses of 43 had already been withdrawn. Between 1631 and 1642 in the

Great Liberty manor the number of alehouse-keepers who were fined 12d . for giving false measure varied between 100 in

1631 and 145 in 1633. Over the same period, the number of similarly offending innkeepers who were amerced the higher

sum of 3s . 4d . varied between eight in 1631 and 1637 and four in 1632 and every year between 1639 and 1642. If one

reflects that all these figures relate solely to offenders presented at the Courts Leet for one particular manor and include

neither the undetected nor the blameless, Thomas Dekker's 1608 statement that "without the barrs [i.e. in the suburbs] every

fourth howse is an alehouse" may be less of an exaggeration than it appears at first sight, at least insofar as the South Bank

was concerned.43

Naturally, the taverning industry was nothing new in the sixteenth

Page 49

century. In the late 1500s, however, a storm of criticism erupted against alehouses. Government ministers, magistrates, but

most especially Puritan preachers were vociferous in their condemnation. "Alehouses," cried Christopher Hudson in 1631,

"are nests of Satan where the owls of impiety lurk and where all evil is hatched, and the bellows of intemperance and

incontinence blow up." "Here," William Vaughan added, "breed conspiracies, combinations, common conjurations,

detractions, defamations."44 For these commentators, the alehouse was a threat to public order, a hotbed of promiscuity,

and a corrupter of conventional family life. The complaints made by Kitely in Jonson's Every Man In His Humour , when

he thinks that Wellbred is turning his house into a tavern, are revealing:

He makes my house here common, as a mart, A theatre, a public receptacle For giddy humour, and diseased riot; And here,

as in a tavern, or a stews, He, and his wild associates, spend their hours, In repetition of lacivious jests, Swear, leap,

drink, dance, and revel night by night, Control my servants: and indeed what not?45

Much of the onslaught against alehouses focused on what seemed to be the unprecedented proliferation of establishments.

Peter Clark has suggested that Puritan emphasis on the disreputability of alehouses has tended to overshadow the more

respectable inns and taverns, and draws a clear social distinction between the clientele of the former, who were recruited

from the bottom half of the social order, and the more gentlemanly patrons of the latter. This distinction seems to be borne

out by the observation of character-writer John Earle that a tavern was "a pair of stairs above an Alehouse, where men are

drunk with more credit and apology."46 As Robert Ashton points out, however, the distinction

Page 50

Document info
Document views84
Page views84
Page last viewedFri Jan 20 10:31:19 UTC 2017