the history of yeovil's pubs





glossary (pubs)

Words associated with drinking, brewing, etc.



Alcohol by volume (abbreviated as ABV or alc/vol) is a standard measure of how much alcohol (ethanol) is contained in an alcoholic beverage (expressed as a percentage of total volume). The ABV standard is used worldwide. See also 'Proof'.


Traditionally brewed from malt without using hops, indeed ale was the only choice available until hops were introduced from Flanders around 1400AD. Until this time the terms 'ale' and 'beer' had been used interchangeably but hops created an important distinction between the two. Today, ale is beer brewed with hops and a top-fermenting yeast. Usually stronger and slightly more bitter than beer. Colour can vary from light to dark amber.


An ale-conner (sometimes aleconner) was an officer appointed yearly at the court leet to ensure the goodness and wholesomeness of ale and beer and to ensure it was sold at a fair price. His duties included the proclamation of the permitted price for selling ale and beer, and also sampling the product for strength prior to being sold.

Ale Draper

Seller of Ale.

Ale Founder

see Ale-Conner


Sometimes called a Tippling House, was the forerunner of the public house. One of the main types of establishment where ale or beer were brewed and sold on the premises.


An alescop was a musical reciter in an alehouse.


A stake set up before an alehouse, often decorated with greenery, as an early form of inn sign.

Ale Taster

see Ale-Conner.

Ale Tunner

Filled the ale casks (tuns) in breweries.


In Medieval England it was usually the responsibility of the woman of the household to brew the family's beer, just as it was her responsibility to bake the bread, prepare the meals, and so on. The term was later applied to any woman who brewed ale for sale, or kept an alehouse.

Aquavita Seller

Seller of alcohol.


Female bar staff were often the wives and daughters of publicans, although by the end of the nineteenth century barmaids were being hired in the larger and more popular establishments. Victorian sensibilities ensured that barmaids only worked in the more expensive saloon or lounge bars, where a better class of customer was served. Pay was low and hours long, although it was the custom for accommodation and meals to be included.


A cylindrical wooden container with slightly bulging sides made of staves hooped together, and with flat, parallel ends. A barrel is also a measure of liquid capacity, a UK beer barrel being 36 imperial gallons.


A drinking gathering at which money was raised for someone who had fallen on hard times.


Beer is the world's most widely consumed alcoholic beverage; it is the third-most popular drink overall, after water and tea. It is thought by some to be the oldest fermented beverage.  Beer is produced by the saccharification of starch and fermentation of the resulting sugar. The starch and saccharification enzymes are often derived from malted cereal grains, most commonly malted barley and malted wheat. Since around 1400AD, most beer is flavoured with hops, which add bitterness and act as a natural preservative. See also Ale.

Beer Seller

Sold beer and cider in beerhouses under the 1830 Beerhouse Act.


A new, lower tier of drinking establishment that was permitted to sell alcohol, created by the Beerhouse Act 1830.


Tavern keeper.


Innkeeper or pub landlord.



Boot Boy

A hotel servant who cleaned boots, ran messages etc. Usually a young lad.

Boot Catcher

Servant at an inn who pulled off travellers' boots.


see Boot Boy.


A person who made leather containers for holding liquids such as wine. From the turn of the 17th century it would more likely refer to a worker in a bottling factory for beer, etc.


One who brewed ale.


One who brews ale and/or beer.

Brew Farm

A fee for a license to sell ale.


Brewing is the production of beer through steeping a starch source (commonly cereal grains) in water and then fermenting with yeast. Brewing has taken place since around the 6th millennium BC, and archaeological evidence suggests that this technique was used in ancient Egypt.


A Brewer.

Bride Ale

On her wedding day the bride's parents provided ale for which guests made a contribution.

Broad Cooper

Go-between for breweries and innkeepers.


Chambermaid, for example in an inn.


The butt (from the medieval French and Italian botte), or pipe, is an old English unit of wine cask holding two hogsheads or 105 Imperial gallons. Tradition has it that George, Duke of Clarence, the brother of Edward IV of England, was drowned in a butt of malmsey on 18 February 1478.

Butter Ale / Beer

A popular Tudor drink, the following recipe is from 1588 "Take three pintes of Beere, put five yolkes of Egges to it, straine them together, and set it in a pewter pot to the fyre, and put to it halfe a pound of Sugar, one penniworth of Nutmegs beaten, one penniworth of Cloves beaten, and a halfepenniworth of Ginger beaten, and when it is all in, take another pewter pot and brewe them together, and set it to the fire againe, and when it is readie to boyle, take it from the fire, and put a dish of sweet butter into it, and brewe them together out of one pot into another." (from 'The Good Huswifes Handmaide for the Kitchin").


Fed and watered horses at coaching inns.


Messanger or errand boy.


The cellarman was employed to look after the barrels of beer. They tended to be employed in only larger or busier establishments. Elsewhere the publican or barstaff usually managed the cellars.


Cider, or cyder, is a fermented alcoholic beverage made from apple juice. Cider varies in alcohol content from 2% ABV to 8.5% or more in traditional English ciders. Yeovil is in the traditional heart of Somerset cider country and cider is a much-favoured local drink. The United Kingdom has the highest per capita consumption of cider (and many inhabitants of Yeovil do their bit admirably), as well as the largest cider-producing companies in the world.

Coaching Inns

Coaching inns stabled teams of horses for stagecoaches and mail coaches and replaced tired teams with fresh teams.

Cock Ale

Cock ale, popular in 17th and 18th-century England, was an ale whose recipe consisted of normal ale brewed inside a container, to which was later added a bag stuffed with a parboiled, skinned and gutted cock, and various fruits and spices.

Custom Potte

A fee paid to the Lord of the Manor at brewing time.


The process of separating the components in a liquid by heating it to the point of vaporisation then cooling it so that it condenses into a purified form.


A low, flat-bed wagon without sides, that was used for delivery of all kinds of goods but particularly used for transporting barrelled beer by brewery delivery men.


A drayman was historically the driver of a dray, see above, that was used for delivery of all kinds of goods but the term is especially used for brewery delivery men.


A firkin is an old English unit of volume. The name is derived from the Middle Dutch word vierdekijn, which means fourth, i.e. a quarter of a full-size barrel. For beer and ale a firkin is equal to nine imperial gallons, seventy-two pints, or a quarter of a barrel. Casks in this size (themselves called firkins) are the most common container for cask ale. A firkin is equal to half a kilderkin.

Gager / Gauger

Collector of alcohol taxes. Measured capacity of barrels to calculate the duty.




A gin shop.


A gleeman was a musician, especially in an alehouse.


A once-popular custom was the 'groaning-ale'. When it was known that a woman was pregnant, the local ale-wife would brew a batch of particularly strong ale, timed to mature for the time of groaning, or childbirth. When labour began the beer would be cracked open and the midwife and labouring mother would drink heartily to help them both through the ordeal.


An elaborate Medieval goblet, or drinking vessel, with a cover. Also used to describe a set of tavern-keepers standard measures.


A hogshead is a large cask for holding liquids, primarily alcoholic beverages such as wine, ale, or cider. More specifically, it refers to a specified volume of 54 Imperial gallons for ale and 52.5 Imperial gallons for wine.

Hosteller / Hostelier



see Ostler.

Host House

An inn.

Huckster / Huxter

Street seller of ale, often a woman.

Hush Shop

An unlicensed house in which ale or spirits were illegally sold.

Hush Shopkeeper

Unlicensed beer brewer and seller.


Traditionally an inn was a tavern that was licensed to offer travellers lodging as well as usually providing drink and food.


An illegal distillery.


Supplied horses, carriages and drivers for hire - surprisingly common in the 18th and 19th centuries when many inns and public houses often had extensive stabling facilities.


A West Country term for an illegal alehouse.


The kilderkin is an old English unit of volume equal to half a barrel or two firkins. It was used as a standard size for brewery casks. The word kilderkin comes from Dutch for a small cask. The kilderkin has historically been in the general range of 16 to 18 gallons.

Licensed Victualler

Licensed victualler always means one who has a license to sell beer and spirits - as opposed to a victualler who is one who supplies victuals, that is, groceries.


The licensee is the person who holds the license to run the establishment be it an alehouse, beerhouse, inn, tavern, etc. Sometimes known as the publican, the landlord, licensed victualler, etc.


A maltster converts barley into malt which is then used for making beer.


A variant of potman (qv) - a term sometimes used for a barman or other helper in an inn or public house.

Necessary Woman

Servant who emptied and cleaned chamber pots, especially in an inn.

Off Sales

Many larger pubs featured an off-sales counter, or separate shop, for the sales of beers, wines, etc. for consumption at home. Largely disappeared during the 1970's with the rise of supermarkets.


A set meal taken at a communal table, usually offered on Market Days.

Ordinary Keeper

Innkeeper with fixed prices.


Originally a Hostler/Ostler was the host of an inn or (h)ostelry. Ostlers were men and boys who looked after the horses in coaching inns. This was important work as dozens of coaches might pass through an inn every day. Also applied to the man employed to look after visitor's horses at non-coaching inns.


See Butt.



Porter (1)

Door or gate keeper, carried baggage in larger inns and hotels.

Porter (2)

A heavy, dark-brown, strongly flavoured beer. The dark colour and strong flavour comes from roasted malt. usually higher in alcohol content than normal beers.


Any beverage, especially those containing alcohol.

Potman (1)

Potmen were originally employed to keep pewter drinking mugs clean and shiny in larger establishments. As glassware replaced pewter during the nineteenth century, they were increasingly used to collect glasses from tables in the bar and to act as a general servant to the pub. They were less well paid than the barstaff.

Potman (2)

A street-seller of porter and stout.


Alcohol proof is a measure of how much alcohol (ethanol) is contained in an alcoholic beverage. The term was originally used in the United Kingdom and was defined as 7/4 times the alcohol by volume (ABV). The UK now uses the ABV standard instead of alcohol proof. In the United States, alcoholic proof is defined as twice the percentage of ABV. See also 'ABV'


See licensee.


The puncheon is an old English unit of wine casks, holding 70 gallons. It was also known as the wine firkin and also as the tertian (from the Latin word for third), because three make a tun.


A distiller of alcohol.


The rundlet is an archaic unit-like size of wine cask once used in Britain. It used to be defined as 18 wine gallons (qv), one of several gallons then in use before the adoption of the imperial system in 1824, afterwards it was 15 imperial gallons, which became the universal English base unit of volume in the British realm.


A drinking gathering to which guests were expected to bring their own drink or else contribute to the expenses of the occasion. The early equivalent of the 'bring a bottle' party.

Scullery Maid

Female servant who was given the menial tasks in an inn.


Male servant who was given the menial tasks in an inn.


An unlicensed drinking establishment.

Small Ale

See Small Beer.

Small Beer

When the first, strong brew was made, the grain would be recycled and mashed again to produce a weaker beer known as small beer (or small ale or table beer}. This was lower in alcohol and more common for everyday use rather than for festivities. For centuries small beer would be drunk by women and children and was served with every meal, including breakfast. Because alcohol is toxic to most water-borne pathogens, and because the process of brewing any beer from malt involves boiling the water, which also kills germs, drinking small beer instead of water was one way to escape infection.


see Ostler.

Step Boy

Employed at coaching inns to help passengers get on and off coaches.


A strong, dark beer. More redolent of hops than beer and is made with dark-roasted barley which gives it a deep, dark colour.


see Porter (1)


Tavern or innkeeper - from the Latin.

Table Beer

See Small Beer.


Employed in breweries to put the taps in ale casks.




Traditionally a tavern was a place where people could gather to drink alcoholic beverages and be served food. The tavern was usually a more middle-class establishment that served wine, as opposed to an alehouse which served ale or beer.


Tavern or innkeeper.


See Puncheon.


The tierce is an old English unit of wine cask. From 1824 on it was defined by English law to be 35 imperial gallons, before that (and still in the USA) it was 42 wine gallons - the difference being less than a tenth of a percent.


Alehouse keeper (it was also the name for an outside toilet - a hole in the ground).

Tippling House

An alehouse.


Brewer's Drayman's Assistant.


A large cask for holding ale, beer or wine. Also a measure of liquid capacity, usually equivalent to 252 wine gallons.

Tweenie / Tweeny

A maid employed in larger inns and hotels 'between the stairs' assisting cooks and housemaids.


see Licensed Victualler.


Grape grower / wine maker.


Wine Merchant.


Made from the fermented juice of grapes. Under 14 to 20% alcohol.

Wine Firkin

See Puncheon.

Wine Gallon

A wine gallon is a unit of capacity that was used routinely in England as far back as the 14th century, and by statute under Queen Anne since 1707. Britain abandoned the wine gallon in 1826 when it adopted imperial units for measurement. The 1707 wine gallon is the basis of the United States' gallon, as well as other measures. The 1707 British statute defined the wine gallon as 231 cubic inches and was used to measure the volume of wine. A 14th century barrel of wine contained 31.5 gallons, which equals one-eighth of the tun of 252 gallons.