David S Johnson
North Craven Heritage Trust, £9.99
Review Paul Jennings
The rather modest avowed aim of this book is to ‘present a series of snapshots of drinking establishments through the ages’, and author David Johnson has succeeded in this. As the title indicates, his book covers premises that have either been demolished or converted to other uses, rather than those, far fewer in number, which continue to trade. The book focuses, as Johnson makes clear, particularly on the Craven district, and is nicely illustrated with many old and contemporary photographs, together with clear maps showing the inns of Settle and Skipton. There is, however, no map of the whole area covered, which would have been helpful.
Diverse primary sources – including licensing records, wills and inventories, the census, trade directories, and old OS maps – present information about the various establishments, prefaced with a historical overview. This contains no serious flaws but there are, inevitably, some omissions, such as the important 1904 Licensing Act (which created a mechanism for closing public houses deemed to be redundant by paying compensation to the owner and licensee), which is not discussed although records of its implementation do survive.
Different chapters cover respectively alehouses, wayside and village inns, those in market towns, and finally pubs – the archetypal ‘local’. Organisation by size of settlement or location might have worked more successfully, though, because, as Johnson is aware, over their lifetime establishments moved from one category to another, as, for example, an erstwhile inn or alehouse eventually became the local pub.
With its varied pieces of information and illustrations this book should appeal both to residents of, and visitors to, the Yorkshire Dales. It may, however, offer less to those interested more broadly in the history or archaeology of the public house, other than simply as a useful record of establishments. The historical overview in particular might more usefully have charted the physical development of the various types of drinking place, both externally and internally, to provide a clearer context for the examples that follow.