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Licensed Victuallers Database

Licensed Victuallers Database - Licensing and glossary


Victuallers register

Public houses, or ‘alehouses’, have been subject to licensing for many centuries. The Alehouse Act of 1552 introduced the first national licensing system. Under this act, persons wishing to sell ale had to be licensed by a Justice of the Peace at the Quarter Sessions. victuallers entered into a bond, or ‘recognizance,’ pledging to maintain good behaviour. Records of the recognizances were kept by the Clerk of the Peace and Warwickshire has a broken series from 1661-1828. A catalogue of our licensing records can be found on Warwickshire’s Past Unlocked.

This system continued throughout the 16th – 18th centuries, with minor alterations. Under the 1753 Licensing Act, victuallers needed a certificate confirming their good character. This had to be signed by a parish notable, but no further amendments to the system were made until the Acts of 1828 and 1830. These alterations moved the jurisdiction from the Quarter Sessions to the Petty Sessions. No provision was made for the Clerk of the Peace to keep licensing records so they are less comprehensive after 1828.

Registers of Victuallers’ Recognizances

The record office has a series of recognizances dating from 1753-1828 (reference QS 36/1-17). These were returned to the Clerk of the Peace by each hundred. Licensees were registered annually in alphabetical order by hundred. The alehouse names or inn-signs are not recorded until 1801. This started in the Hemlingford Hundred and spread to the other hundreds and by 1808. The information from 1801-1828 has been entered into the victuallers database. The later volumes record some convictions for offences against the Licensing Acts.

For records relating to victuallers before 1801, you can visit the record office to view these documents. Although records after 1828 are less comprehensive, we still have many later registers. These can be found in our Warwickshire Petty Sessions collection. A catalogue can be found on Warwickshire’s Past Unlocked.


Please note that all terms are explained within the context of victuallers’ recognizances and are therefore not dictionary definitions.

  • Bondsman – A person who vouched for the good character of the victualler.
  • Hundred – An administrative division of a shire, the influence of which declined as parishes, manors and judicial bodies became more important. They were probably first established in the 10th century and had ceased to be of any practical importance by 1888.
  • Recognizance – A bond in which the victualler promised, before a Justice of the Peace, to observe the terms of the Licensing Acts and maintain good behaviour in his alehouse.
  • Victualler – A person who has a licence to sell alcoholic liquor, such as beer and wine.

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Warwickshire County Records Office

Opening hours: Wednesday to Friday 9am to 4pm, Saturday 9am to 12 noon.

Address: Warwickshire County Record Office Priory Park Cape Road Warwick CV34 4JS

Telephone: 01926 738959