Cycling home from work this week, I passed The Artillery Arms public house next to Bunhill Fields, the graveyard where the writers John Bunyan, Daniel Defoe and William Blake are buried. It was a sunny evening near the City of London and customers were standing by the railings, drinking pints of beer.

It was a characteristic British scene, as evocative in its way as the words of Blake’s poem “Jerusalem”, turned into a patriotic hymn by William Parry in 1916. Any vision of “England’s green and pleasant land” must include the taverns and alehouses that formed the heart of towns and villages, with a long history reaching back to Roman and Anglo-Saxon times.

Many have ended up in the financial graveyard over recent years. There were more pubs in the early 18th century than now, serving less than a tenth of the population. Pandemic lockdowns, followed by severe inflation in drink, food and energy costs, have killed others: more than 500 shut last year after financial support expired.

So it was a pleasant surprise to hear this week that some are taking their lead from “Jerusalem” and fighting back. Heineken, the brewer that owns 2,400 pubs in the UK through its Star Pubs & Bars arm, is reopening 62 that closed in recent years and investing £40mn on this and other refurbishments, such as improving gardens and expanding kitchens.

The Financial Times. To read the full article click here