Binge drinking Tudor style! Even in the 16th century there were worries about boozing

BIV

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Apr 22, 2002
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Binge drinking Tudor style! Even in the 16th century there were worries about boozing
BINGE drinking at epidemic levels, worries about the effects of super-strong brews, gambling addiction and the problems posed by smoking bans. They sound like modern day concerns. But the research for my new book on historic pubs, Ye Olde Good Inn Guide, reveals that they were also the headaches facing folk back in the age of Shakespeare.

In the 1500s the vast amount of alcohol being consumed and the trouble caused by drinkers were huge worries for the authorities.

Alehouses were dubbed “nurseries of naughtiness”. By 1577 there was one drinking establishment for every 200 people, whereas today it is around one for every 1,200.

In 1560 even Queen Elizabeth I was complaining of the strength of some of the new beers on the market. She objected to: “A kynde of very strong bere calling the same doble doble beer which they do commonly utter and sell at very grate and excessive pryce.”

Here we reveal how Tudor times were even more “merrie” than you might think…

20 FACTS ABOUT making merry IN olden times

1. Binge drinking was a problem then, as now. In 1552 alehouses had to get a licence for the first time as: “intolerable hurts and troubles to the common wealth of this realm doth daily grow and increase through such abuses and disorders as are had and used in common alehouses.” Even Thomas Wolsey, later the unfortunate Cardinal Wolsey, was once put in the stocks for being drunk.

2. Figures from Coventry in 1520 suggest that typical consumption per person was as much as 17 pints of ale a week. It was considered safer to drink ale than water and was even taken for breakfast. The Tudor health writer Andrew Boorde called ale a “natural drink” but branded water “not holesome”.

3. Names of the stronger brews included mad dog, dagger ale and dragon’s milk. In 1588, 14 people in St Albans, Hertfordshire, were brought before the local mayor for brewing beer that was too heady.

4. Smoking in alehouses was a new fashion in Elizabethan times. There were 7,000 tobacco shops in London alone. But it was frowned upon by the authorities in some towns as it was considered a fire risk.

5. The world pub is a modern invention. In 16th century you drank at an alehouse, catering for the masses, or a tavern where you would quaff wine. Inns were the equivalent of modern day hotels.

6. Crime was rife at the alehouse. One report from a Tudor hostelry in Netherbury, Dorset, talks of “manie stolen goods consumed”.

7. Few alehouses had glass windows and one practice, called angling, saw purses and other belongings being hooked away on a line by thieves.

8. Gambling was out of control. Despite attempts to curb it all sorts of games were played for money including dice, cards, marbles, shove-groat and skittles. Dice were often loaded to swindle the unwary.

9. Alehouse keepers sometimes kept a football, though the game was technically outlawed by Henry VIII in 1540. The Tudor game was played with “beastly fury and extreme violence”. One match played in Essex was said to have ended in “much bloodshed”.

10. Sex was also an issue at the alehouses.

The establishments were often used to conduct affairs or illicit marriages. In 1584 one landlord, Evan ap Rice, was brought up for “lodging strange men in his bed with him and his wife”. Many places doubled as brothels.

11. Other alehouse amusements included drinking contests, bearbaiting and cock-fighting.

12. Punishments for being drunk in the Tudor age could include having to wear a “drunkard’s cloak”, a hollowed out beer barrel, around the town.

13. Despite her aversion to strong drink Elizabeth I and her court enjoyed beer. In 1593 her court got through 600,000 gallons.

14. William Shakespeare loved to frequent taverns and inns and the inn yards doubled as theatres, where his plays were performed. A local of his in London’s Southwark, The George, is still there today.

15. The Bard’s own father John was an ale-conner in Stratford.

This was an official whose duty it was to test the quality of brews by donning leather breeches, pouring the ale on a bench and sitting in it. If the trousers stuck to the bench it was deemed to be off.

16. The quality of the ale varied massively. In 1521 the poet John Skelton observed that ale wife Elynour Rummynge, who ran The Running Horse in Leatherhead, Surrey (still there today), used hen’s dung to flavour her brews.

17. The Tudor army marched on its liver. In 1544 an English military commander in France wrote that his soldiers had “no beer these last 10 days” which was “strange for Englishmen to do with so little grudging”.

18. King Henry VIII gave powers to close alehouses if they interfered with his subjects’ archery practice.

19. Forget George Osborne’s penny off a pint in the recent budget.

In a Tudor hostelry a half penny could buy you a quart of ale, or two pints.

20. The threat posed by booze to the moral fabric of the Tudor nation was summed up by author Philip Stubbes in 1583: “Every county, city, town and village and other place hath an abundance of ale houses, taverns, inns which are so fraught with maltworms (drunkards) night and day that thee would wonder to see them. Thee shall have them sitting at the wine and good ale all day long… till never a one can speak a ready word.”

To order Ye Olde Good Inn Guide by James Moore (History Press), £9.99 send a cheque or PO payable to Express Bookshop to: Inn Guide Offer, PO Box 200, Falmouth TR11 4WJ or tel 0871 988.
http://www.express.co.uk/entertainm...16th-century-there-were-worries-about-boozing
 

Hudson

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I Butte Montana there used to be a bar for every 100 men in the city.
 

whiskeyguy

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And the people who worried about the health risks back then are still as dead as the people who participated in binge drinking.

Conclusion: Binge drinking is not unhealthy.
 

Hudson

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I think this is the same time period as the feast of Samhain where Trick or treating involved drunken people tearing apart peoples homes that didn't give a treat.