Victuallers (inn or tavern keepers) were required to be licensed by Justices of the Peace at Quarter Sessions dating back to 1552. To be licensed, owners of alehouses, taverns, or inns had to take out recognizances (a pledge of a bond in court) to ensure that their place of business was not a public nuisance and was being run in an orderly fashion. Beginning in 1753, the Clerk of the Peace was required to maintain a register of recognizances, and for Surrey, records from 1785 have survived.
While early records may list only the date, parish, and name of the victualler, later records may include the name of the establishment (“sign of the house”) and location and the name and residence of someone who pledged surety, often another victualler.
The laws regulating victuallers were loosened and tightened during the years this collection covers. For example, in 1830 a license was no longer necessary to sell beer, ale, or cider, and between 1828 and 1869 recognizances for good behavior weren’t required. Thus, most of the records in this collection predate 1828.
The Wine and Beerhouse Act of 1869 restored the need for licenses, but this collection only includes records beyond this date for the years 1892 and 1903. The records are described as “detailed returns of fully-licensed houses and beer houses in the several petty sessional divisions showing whether such houses are free or tied, the accommodation provided, the distance from the nearest licensed houses, and the character of the persons frequenting the establishment.”