‘The Heart of England’: The History & Design of British Pubs

The 17th-century diarist Samuel Pepys described the pub as the heart of England. Indeed, their history can be traced back to Roman occupied taverns and Anglo-Saxon alehouses. In the 18th century, the alehouse evolved to the “public house”—a private establishment providing alcohol to be consumed on the premises—and by the mid-19th century, the number of public houses skyrocketed, becoming important leisure sites for the working classes.

The Victorian era saw the creation of flamboyant pub interiors, notable for their sumptuously decorated mirrors, tiled walls, and etched glass “snob screens.” Examples include the exquisite Crown Bar (c. 1826) in Belfast; and The Black Friar in London whose high style Arts & Crafts interior is clad in colored marble with ornamental friezes.

British historian Ian Cox will discuss this fascinating history of pubs in Britain. He will illustrate their changing architectural and interior style and show how new technologies and burgeoning social and economic changes led to the popularity of such lively establishments.

The Crown Bar Interior, Great Victoria Street, Belfast. ©National Trust Images John Hammond

The Crown Bar Interior, Great Victoria Street, Belfast. ©National Trust Images John Hammond

Ian Cox studied at the Universities of Keele, London and Glasgow. He developed his career as a decorative arts historian in the 1980s and was the Director of the Christie’s Decorative Arts Programme at the University of Glasgow and then Director of Studies for Christie’s Education in London.

Ian also ran a prestigious Decorative Arts Summer School for Christie’s in New York and was Co-Director of the Victorian Society of America London Summer School. Ian has published widely in the history of the decorative arts, particularly on furniture and ceramics.

In more recent times he has directed cultural holiday programmes for the ACE foundation in Cambridge and is a regular round the world lecturer for the Seabourn and Silverseas cruise lines. He has been a lecturer for The Royal Oak Foundation in the USA since 2006.


Tuesday, June 2 at 3:00 p.m. (eastern)

Online via Zoom Webinar

$15 members; $20 non-members

Free to Heritage Circle members


Between Wednesday, June 3rd and Sunday, June 7th

“Rent” the recorded lecture to watch at your leisure

$15 members; $20 non-members

Free to Heritage Circle members

The video will expire on Sunday, June 7th at 11:59pm and will not be available after that date and time.