Pub Culture and Friendly Societies

In the late 19th century, Blaenavon had almost 60 pubs. Many were located in King Street and Broad Street. Among the largest were the White Horse, the Red Lion, the Market Tavern and the Castle. Some pubs were associated with heavy drinking, gambling and violence but others were centres of ‘respectable’ activities. Pubs hosted lectures, eisteddfodau, musical entertainment and amateur dramatics! They were also home to political gatherings and trade union meetings, where the workers met to discuss their rights.

The town’s friendly societies also met in pubs. These clubs provided benefits and support to their members if they fell on hard times. By the 1870s, over 2,000 Blaenavon people were members of a friendly society lodge. Each friendly society would hold its annual anniversary march in the town centre. Members would parade through the town in costume with their banners, usually headed by a band. They would then have a religious service in a chapel followed a dinner in a public house, where speeches and music would be enjoyed.

All ye who love a social drop
Come in and sit you down
For here you’ll find as good a tap
As any in the Town,
And as ye are on pleasure bent,
And love good wholesome cheer
Come in and see our friend Vincent
And taste his home brewed beer

A poem advertising the Prince of Wales Inn on a fair day in 1860