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  Inns, Beerhouses and Off-Licences


‘There is nothing which has yet been contrived by man, by which so much happiness is produced as a good tavern or inn’, these were the words of  ‘ Doctor Samuel Johnson, 1776. The inn has been at the heart of a community since Roman times, and over the centuries, has featured prominently in English literature from Chaucer to Dickens. 

Tickhill currently has five active "taverns or inns" whose histories are described individually via links in the following article.

Medieval origins

In medieval times there were three types of establishments offering refreshments and shelter for local people or travellers and their horses. The alehouse was an ordinary house, which served home-brewed beer or ale and offered very basic accommodation, often in an adjoining barn; the inn, however, was generally purpose-built, providing both accommodation and refreshments for its patrons. Many were built by religious establishments for visitors and pilgrims, or craftsmen, such as masons, carpenters and glaziers, who were involved in the sudden growth in construction of these imposing buildings; some were originally built as hostels for the Knights Templar. Taverns were grander places, which sold wine and were to be found mainly in towns. All were considered to be social centres at the heart of the community. 

It is difficult to say whether any of Tickhill’s inns had their origins in medieval times. The Carpenter’s Arms is close to St Mary’s Church, and one could speculate that it might have taken its name from the fact that it would probably have housed carpenters, who were working on the church from the late 12th century until the early 15th.    


During the 18th century, society had been plagued by the evils of gin drinking; in 1830, the government of the Duke of Wellington sought to curb this with the introduction of the Beerhouse Act. This was intended to encourage people to drink beer, which was considered less harmful, and introduced a new type of drinking establishment known as the beerhouse. Any person, who paid rates and was of good character, could purchase a licence for two guineas to sell beer or cider from their own home; the licence did not extend to the sale of spirits or wine. As a result front parlours in many homes throughout the country were transformed into beerhouses, and Tickhill was no exception. Many took advantage of the Act and the Travellers Rest, the Royal Oak and the White Horse on Sunderland Street, together with numerous other  ‘unnamed’ establishments opened in the village.

For further information about beerhouses and the Travellers' Rest and the Royal Oak (now, The Oak) see the  ‘Tickhill Beerhouses’  text on this website. 

Off Licences

The 1869 Wine and Beerhouse Act made it mandatory for anyone who sold alcohol to hold a licence, and this extended to the off-licence, an establishment that sold alcohol for consumption off the premises. The term ‘off-licence keeper’ was not used in the census returns or local trade directories: ‘beer retailer’ appears to have been the official description. The licensing registers of 1886-1891 make reference to four ‘off’ licences being granted in Tickhill, however only Stacy Jaques of Northgate traded solely as a ‘beer retailer’; Thomas Lane of Sunderland Street, together with Thomas Skinn and Walter Jarvis, both of Market Place, were first and foremost grocers.   

The impact of transport

For centuries the inn had been the focal point for the community, providing a venue for the local magistrates court, public meetings and auction sales of land and property; late 18th century editions of the Doncaster Gazette make reference events such as these taking place at both the Red Lion and the Scarbrough Arms.  From the mid-18th to the early 19th century, inns became grander, some had courtyards, and many new ones were built to cope with an increase in the coaching trade. In the first half of the 19th century, services to London, Glasgow, Nottingham, Sheffield, Stamford and Lincoln all called at the Red Lion. During the 19th century carrier services operated from the Millstone and the Three Crowns to Doncaster, Gainsborough, Nottingham, Sheffield, Rotherham and Worksop. However, by the mid-19th century, the increasing popularity of the railway became a threat to road transport and this impacted greatly on the inn trade. The 20th century saw the advent of motorised transport, which was to re-vitalise what was by now known as the ‘public house’ and many, such as the Millstone and the Travellers’ Rest in Tickhill, were rebuilt or modernised. 

The Inn Sign

Inn signs were introduced by the Romans; the practice continued and centuries later, in Saxon England, one house in the community became the place to get ale and a sign, known as an ale stake – a pole set up outside  - identified it as such: an example can be seen on the Bayeux Tapestry. In medieval times, inns needed to identify themselves to the population, which was largely illiterate, a written name was useless so a visual sign was used.

In 1393, King Richard ll passed an Act, which made it compulsory for all breweries and places selling ale to display a sign outside for the ale taster to identify. Since then English inns have displayed a sign which reflected life at the time. 

Ale tasters

From early medieval times many towns and villages throughout the country had appointed ale tasters. A reference in the Tickhill Court Rolls of 1700 records the appointment of six ale tasters by the Honour Court; Richard Warde and Daniel Onion were responsible for the inns and beerhouses on Northgate, William Smith and David Foster for Westgate, and David Roades and Thomas Cotton for Sunderland Street. Their duties were to inspect and maintain the quality and quantity of ale sold in these establishments. 

Tickhill Inns

It is not known exactly how old Tickhill’s inns are; the earliest located references in official records and newspapers show that both the Red Lion and the Black Swan (later renamed the Scarbrough Arms) were trading in the 1760s. Again earliest located references suggest others, such as the Millstone, the Carpenter’s Arms, the Three Crowns and the White Horse on Northgate were established pre-1840; with the exception of the latter, all are still trading in Tickhill today (2009). 

Detailed information on the six aforementioned inns can be found by clicking on the links below:-

The Red Lion

The Scarbrough Arms

The Millstone

The Carpenter’s Arms

The Three Crowns

The White Horse

There were also several other drinking establishments, which had a shorter existence, and about which very little is known.

The Angel

The Angel appears to have stood in Market Place in the early 19th century, trade directories show Fred Saxton to have been the licensee in 1822 and George Pailthorp in 1828, after which there are no further references. 

Tarrare Inn

The 1848 Tithe Award and Map show the Tarrare Inn stood in Market Place, three doors away from the Red Lion. The inn was named after Lord Scarbrough’s horse, Tarrare, which won the St Leger Stakes at Doncaster in 1826; it had been bred at Tickhill Stud Farm and trained on the Sandbeck estate. The first reference to the Tarrare Inn appears in Pigot’s 1834 Directory, just six years after the last reference to the above-mentioned ‘Angel’; although no evidence has been established to support the fact, one could again speculate that the Angel had changed its name to Tarrare, to commemorate the celebrated St Leger win.  

The Tarrare seems to have been in business for no more than 40 years; the last located reference appears in Charles William Hatfield’s Historical Notices of Doncaster, Vol.3. which refers to a renewal of the licence in 1868. Licensees from 1834 to 1868 included Edward Flower, John Credland, Thomas Wadsworth and lastly, Thomas Willgoose. 

The Labour in Vain

The Labour in Vain was located on Northgate in the early 19th century; local trade directories show Thomas Whitaker to be the licensee in 1822, George Ellis in 1828 and Francis Gleadall in 1834. No further references to an inn named the Labour in Vain appear after this date, however, by 1837, the first reference appears to the White Horse on Northgate with Francis Gleadall as licensee – could this be a new inn, or like the Tarrare, had the Labour in Vain been renamed?  


Baines, Edward, A history, directory and gazetteer of the County of York. Vol.1. West Riding.1822.

Beastall, Tom, Tickhill: portrait of an English country town. Waterdale Press. 1995.

Doncaster Chronicle: various references

Doncaster Gazette: various references

Doncaster Gazette Directories: 1891-1938/9

Dunkling, Leslie & Wright, Gordon, A dictionary of pub names. Routledge & Kegan Paul. 1987.

Hatfield, Charles William. Historical Notices of Doncaster, Vol.3. 1870.

Kelly’s Directories of the West Riding of Yorkshire 1867-1936

Magilton, John, The Doncaster District: an archaeological survey. Museum & Arts Service Publication. 1977.

Ordnance Survey Maps: 1854, 1894, 1901 (Godfrey ed.), 1929 and 1931.

Pepper, Barrie, A haunt of rare souls: the old inns and pubs of Yorkshire. Smith Settle. 1990.

Pigot & Co. Commercial Directories for Yorkshire, 1828 –1841.

Slater’s Directories of the Northern Counties 1848 &1858

Tickhill census 1841-1901.

Tickhill Tithe Award & Map 1848

Tuffrey, Peter, Doncaster district old inns and taverns. Bond Publications. 1986.

White, William, A history, gazetteer and directory of the West Riding of Yorkshire. Vol.1. 1837.




(The photographs which relate to this topic are in the Gallery section of the website under "Society Activities > Commercial > Pubs, Inns, Off-licences")

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