Should London pubs have World Heritage Status?


Should London pubs have World Heritage Status?

Should London pubs have World Heritage Status?

There is nothing more quintessentially British than the London pub, or at least that is the opinion of a group of students, who are trying to get world heritage status for the capital's boozers. In order for UNESCO to recognise London pubs in such a manner, a 350-page document must be prepared and that is exactly what the group from
Kingston University have begun working on.

But should London pubs really be given such a status and what practical benefits would come along with it should it be granted? David Knight, a tutor at the university, told Caterer and Hotelkeeper magazine: "We're not focusing on the fixtures and fittings but rather on the role a pub plays in a community and what it means to the people who use it."

The great British pub is coming under a lot of scrutiny at present, especially as a large number are being squeezed to the point of closing during the economic downturn. Figures released by the
Campaign for Real Ale suggest that on average 12 pubs close each week in the UK, leaving large holes in the communities which they serve. By granting UNESCO world heritage status to the London pub, then it will help to show the importance of such establishments to the world. But surely it is not just London where pubs need to be protected as the problem is one which is stretching the length and breadth of the country.

With this in mind perhaps it will be interesting to see how the bid for the status for London pubs goes, as it could provide a blue print for similar bids across the country. Gaining the status would indeed raise the profile of pubs, but it would not act as a magic wand that immediately solved all of the problems. Pubs are closing due to issues such as the large amount of tax which is paid on alcohol, high rents and customers having less disposable income to spend during the recession. Until these issues are addressed then the trend for community pubs closing will not be stopped, whether pubs get special heritage status or not.

The bid could act as a ray of hope however, as it could add another string to the bow in the argument that something must be done and help to make the government sit up and recognise what is being lost to the country. Mr Knight said: "It's not just about a place for drinking - or even meeting friends - disappearing. It may be that a pub has a function room which plays a pivotal role in a community, hosting receptions after weddings or funerals."

While many people think about national treasures, such as Stonehenge, being recognised by UNESCO, should the London pub be added to the list it will actually join a number of other intangible cultural traditions already present on it. UNESCO has already offered heritage status to the craft of making Croatian gingerbread, Spanish flamenco dancing and Viennese coffee house culture. Bearing all of this in mind, the case for the humble local pub seems like a particularly strong one.

Back to Blog