There's even an official definition of what a 'pub' is.
Licensed premises must be open to and welcome the general public without requiring membership or residency, allow free entry¹, serve at least one draught beer², allow drinking without requiring food to be consumed, have at least one indoor area not laid out for meals, and permit drinks to be purchased in person at a bar³, without relying on table service.
¹ Except when entertainment is provided on limited occasions
² Includes cask or keg beer
³ Includes also a hatch or specific service point
And because there's a database with all 4098 pubs in, I can do some research.
» The A-Z of London pubs are the Abbeville in Clapham and Zubi in Holloway.
» Geographically the most extreme pubs are the Plough in Crews Hill (north), the Old White Horse in North Ockendon (east), the Fox in Old Coulsdon (south) and the Old Orchard in Harefield (west).
» Two pubs have solely numerical names - 19:20 in Finsbury and 182 in Wembley.
» The highest numbered pub is the 7000 Jars of Beer in Kingston.
» London's most common pub name is the Prince of Wales (there are 26).
» Across London there are 12 Black Horses, 12 White Horses, 16 Coach & Horses, 23 Crowns, 16 Rose & Crowns, 32 Duke of Somethings, 58 Prince Somebodys, 20 King's Arms, 15 King's Heads, 16 Queen's Heads, 19 Red Lions, 20 Royal Oaks and 1 Fat Walrus.
In particular, I thought I'd take a look at how many pubs there are in each London borough. The results were predictable, but also surprising.
Boroughs with the most pubs
• Westminster 457
• Camden 270
• Islington 243
• City of London 215
• Southwark 208
Of course Westminster comes top, of course it does. Not only is it one of the oldest parts of the city, it also contains the West End where Londoners, nay the world, come to play. Some distance behind are Camden and Islington, and blimey look how many pubs there are in the tiny City of London, again thanks to historical longevity and financial services being very thirsty work.
Boroughs with the fewest pubs
• Barking and Dagenham 29
• Redbridge 45
• Sutton 52
• Merton 55
• Newham 59
Barking and Dagenham has a shockingly low number of pubs, barely 10% of what Camden enjoys, and is well behind Redbridge in second-to-last place. Three of the bottom five are in outer East London, indeed every London borough formerly in Essex comes in the bottom ten. The other low zone is to the southwest.
The spread of London's pubs may be best shown with a map, so here's a map.
The purple and reds are boroughs with over 200 pubs, the four oranges near the centre are the 150-200s, and the two lightest shades of yellow cover all the boroughs with fewer than 100.
Ah, you may be saying, but some boroughs are bigger than others. I can adjust for this by calculating how many pubs there are per 10,000 residents.
Pubs per 10,000 residents 247: City of London 18: Westminster 10: Camden, Islington 7: Hammersmith and Fulham, Richmond, Southwark 6: Hackney, Kensington and Chelsea, Lambeth 5: Tower Hamlets, Wandsworth 4: Kingston, Hillingdon 3: Greenwich, Bexley, Hounslow, Brent, Bromley, Lewisham, Haringey, Ealing, Croydon, Havering, Merton, Harrow, Sutton 2: Waltham Forest, Enfield, Barnet, Newham 1: Redbridge, Barking and Dagenham
The City has a very small population, with one pub per 40 residents, should they ever all decide to go drinking at the same time. Richmond is the only Outer London borough to appear near the top of the list, and Lewisham the least-served in Inner London. The sweet spot appears to be 3 pubs per 10,000 residents - a typical suburban total. And again the lowest numbers are to the north and east of the capital, with Redbridge and Barking & Dagenham only providing one pub per 7000 residents.
The reasons for this spread are a complex mixture of centrality, history, economics and culture. It's not just how near the middle you're located, how old your communities are, how wealthy your population is, nor how many residents don't drink alcohol because of their religion, although these are all contributory factors.
Barking andDagenham suffers because much of it is sprawling interwar housing estate where the building of pubs was discouraged. Most of its 29 surviving pubs are around Barking town centre or in Chadwell Heath, with Dagenham and the remainder of the borough far less well served. There are also developmental factors. According to a council report, half the pubs lost in the borough over the last few decades have become residential properties and a quarter have become supermarkets.
I can see where my local pubs are on another brilliant aspect of this project, the Cultural Infrastructure Map. Here are all the pubs round Bow, for example.
The interactive map will also allow you to view skate parks, scheduled monuments, museums, dance studios, libraries, LGBT+ night time venues, community centres, legal street art walls and music recording studios, to name but a few. It's not recommended for use on mobile devices, sorry. But the combined map/database toolbox is a truly splendid resource, specifically aimed at those trying to knit together community facilities, but also fascinating for the rest of us to explore. Perhaps over a beer.