INN and INNKEEPER. An inn is a house where travellers are fed and lodged for reward. A distinction has been drawn between tavern, inn and hotel, the tavern supplying food and drink, the hotel lodging, the inn both; but this is fanciful. “Hotel” now means “inn,” and “inn” is often applied to a mere public-house, whilst “tavern” is less used. “Inn,” still the legal and best, as it is the oldest, is a form of the word “in” or “within.” This sense is retained in the case of the English legal societies still known as Inns of Court (q.v.). In the Bible “inn” means “lodging-place for the night.” Hospitality has always been a sacred duty in the East. The pilgrim or the traveller claims it as a right. But some routes were crowded, as that from Bagdad to Babylon. On these, khans (in or near a town) and caravanserais (in waste places) were erected at the expense of the benevolent. They consisted of a square building surrounded by a high wall; on the roof there was a terrace and over the gateway a tower; inside, was a large court surrounded by compartments in which was some rude provision for the animals and baggage of the traveller as well as for himself. The latter purchased his own food where he chose, and had to “do for himself.” In some such place Jesus was born. Tavern is mentioned once in Scripture (Acts xxviii. 15) where it is said the brethren from Rome met Paul at “the Three Taverns.” This was a station on the Appian Way, referred to also in Cicero’s Letters (Ad Att. ii. 12). So, in modern London, stations are called “Elephant and Castle,” or “Bricklayers’ Arms,” from adjacent houses of entertainment. Among the Greeks inns and innkeepers were held in low repute. The houses were bad and those who kept them had a bad name. A self-respecting Greek entered them as seldom as possible; if he travelled he relied on the hospitality of friends. In Rome under the emperors something akin to the modern inn grew up. There is, however, scarcely any mention of such institutions in the capital as distinguished from mere wine-shops or eating-houses. Ambassadors were lodged in apartments at the expense of the state. But along the great roads that radiated from Rome there were inns. Horace’s account of his journey to Brundisium (Sat. i. 5), that brilliant picture of contemporary travel, tells us of their existence, and the very name of the Three Taverns shows that there was sufficient custom to support a knot of these institutions at one place. Under the Roman law, the innkeeper was answerable for the property of his guests unless the damage was due to damnum fatale or vis major, in modern language the act of God or the king’s enemies. He was also liable for damage done by his servant or his slave or other inhabitant of the house.
In the middle ages hospitality was still regarded as a duty, and provision for travellers was regularly made in the monasteries. People of rank were admitted to the house itself, others sought the guest-chamber, which sometimes stood (as at Battle Abbey) outside the precincts. It consisted of a hall, round which were sleeping-rooms, though the floor of the hall itself was often utilized. Again, hospitality was rarely denied at the castle or country house. The knight supped with his host at the daïs or upper part of the great hall, and retired with him into his own apartment. His followers, or the meaner strangers, sat lower down at meat, and after the tables had been removed stretched themselves to rest upon the floor. In desolate parts hospices were erected for the accommodation of pilgrims. Such existed in the Alps and on all the great roads to the Holy Land or to famous shrines, notably to that of Canterbury. The still impressive remains of the Travellers’ Hospital at Maidstone, founded by Archbishop Boniface in 1260, give an idea of the extent of such places. The mention of Canterbury recalls two inns celebrated by Chaucer. The pilgrims started from the “Tabard” at Southwark under the charge of Harry Baily the host, and they put up at the “Checquers of the Hope,” in Mercery Lane, Canterbury. It is easy to infer that, as time went on, the meagre hospitality of the monastery or the hospice was not sufficient for an increasing middle class, and that the want was met by the development of the mere ale-house into the inn. The “ale-house,” to give it the old English name, was always in evidence, and even in pre-Reformation days was a favourite subject for the satirist. In Langland’s Piers the Plowman and in Skelton’s Elynour Rummynge we have contemporary pictures of ale-houses of the 14th and 16th centuries, but the Tabard is quite a modern inn, with a table d’hôte supper, a sign, a landlord (“right a mery man”) and a reckoning!
It has been conjectured (Larwood and Hotten, History of Signboards, 1874) that the inn sign was taken or imitated from that displayed on the town houses or inns of noblemen and prelates. The innkeeper alone of tradesmen retains his individual sign. The inn shared with the tavern the long projecting pole garnished with branches. These poles had become of such inordinate length in London that in 1375 they were restricted to 7 ft. But the inn of those times was still a simple affair. In each room there were several beds, the price of which the prudent traveller inquired beforehand. Extortion was frequent, though it was forbidden by a statute of Edward III. The fare was simple; bread, meat and beer, with fish on Fridays. The tavern sentiment is strong in Elizabethan literature. The “Boar’s Head” in Eastcheap is inseparably connected with Sir John Falstaff and Dame Quickly. “Shall I not take mine ease in mine Inn?” (1 Henry IV., Act iii. sc. 3) is well-nigh the most famous word of the famous knight. A passage in Holinshed’s Chronicle (1587, i. 246) explains the inner meaning of this. He assures us that the inns of England are not as those of other lands. Abroad the guest is under the tyranny of the host, but in England your inn is as your own house; in your chamber you can do what you will, and the host is rather your servant than your master. The “Mermaid” in Bread Street is associated with the memory of many wits and poets—Raleigh, Shakespeare, Beaumont, Fletcher, Ben Jonson—who frequented it and praised it.
Shenstone’s lines as to “the warmest welcome at an inn” vent a common but rather cheap cynicism. Doctor Johnson was a great frequenter of inns and was outspoken in praise and blame. In the time immediately preceding railways the inn, which was also a post-house where the public coach as well as that of the private traveller changed horses, was a place of much importance. We have it presented over and over again in the pages of Dickens. The “Maypole” in Barnaby Rudge may be singled out for mention; it survives at Chigwell, Essex, as the “King’s Head.”
The effect of railways was to multiply hotels in great centres and gradually increase their size till we have the huge structures so plentiful to-day. The bicycle and later the motor car, through the enormous traffic they caused on the country roads, have restored the old wayside inns to more than their former prosperity.
In Scotland a statute (1424) of James I. ordained inns for man and beast, with food and drink at reasonable prices, in each borough, and a subsequent act prohibited lodging in private houses in places where there were inns, under a penalty of 40s. But for centuries the Scots inn was a poor affair. The Clachan of Aberfoyle in Rob Roy, kept by the widow MacAlpine, was probably typical. In St Ronan’s Well Scott gives the more pleasing picture of the Cleikum Inn, kept by the delightful Meg Dods, and mention should be made of St Mary’s Cottage, with its hostess Tibby Shiels, the scene of one of the Noctes Ambrosianae, with memories not merely of Scott but of Christopher North and the Ettrick Shepherd. Burns had much to do with inns and taverns. If Poosie Nancie’s, where the Jolly Beggars held wild revel, is long vanished, the Globe at Dumfries still exists, a fair sample of an inn of the period. As late as 1841 Dickens, writing to John Foster during his first visit to Scotland, describes the Highland inns as very poor affairs, “a mere knot of little outhouses” he says of one; and even in Queen Victoria’s Leaves from the Journal of Our Life in the Highlands the inn is described as invariably small and unassuming. Thus the development of hotels in Scotland did not begin much before the middle of the 19th century.
In America the first hotel mentioned in New York is “Kriger’s Tavern” about 1642, replaced in 1703 by the “King’s Arms.” When the town came to be English a proclamation was issued regulating the inns. Meals were not to cost more than 8d. or beer 2d. per quart.
Law Relating to Innkeepers.—Whether any special building is an inn is a question of fact. A temperance hotel is an inn, but a mere public-house is not. An innkeeper is bound to receive, lodge and feed travellers if he has accommodation, if they are able and willing to pay, and are not obviously objectionable. If he refuse he is liable at common law to indictment, or an action will lie against him at the suit of the would-be guest. Under the Army Act soldiers of all kinds may be billeted on the innkeeper, even beyond his power to provide in his own house; he must find accommodation for them elsewhere. An innkeeper must keep the goods and chattels of his guest in safety, unless they are destroyed by the act of God or the king’s enemies. Under this last the king’s rebellious subjects are not included. He is not liable for goods stolen or destroyed by the companion of the guest or through the guest’s own negligence. There are two theories as to the origin of this common law liability of the innkeeper: (1) it was a survival of the liability of the common trader, or (2) specially imposed from the nature of his calling. Old English law held him to some extent suspect. The traveller amongst strangers seemed forlorn and unprotected, and conspiracy with thieves was dreaded. In modern times the landlord’s responsibilities were cut down by the Innkeepers Liability Act 1863. He is not liable (save for horses and other live animals with their gear and carriages) to a greater extent than £30, unless the loss is caused by the default or neglect of himself or his servants, or the goods have been formally deposited with him. He must conspicuously exhibit a copy of the material parts of the act. The innkeeper may contract himself out of his common law obligation, and, apart from negligence, he is not liable for injury to the person or clothes of his guest. In return for these responsibilities the law gives him a lien over his guest’s goods till his bill be paid. This is a particular and not a general lien. It attaches only to the special goods brought by the guest to the inn, and housed by the innkeeper with him. When several guests go together, the lien extends to all their goods. The innkeeper is only bound to take ordinary care of goods thus held, but he cannot use them or charge for their house-room. By the custom of London and Exeter, “when a horse eats out the price of his head,” namely, when the cost of keep exceeds value, the host may have him as his own. By the Innkeepers Act 1878, if goods have been kept for six weeks they may be advertised and then sold after the interval of a month. Although an advertisement in a London paper is directed, this act (it would seem) applies to Scotland (J. A. Fleming, in Green’s Encyclopaedia of the Law of Scotland, vi. 363). In that country the law is generally the same as in England, though it has been held that the innkeeper is not responsible for loss by accidental fire. Nor is his refusal to receive a guest a criminal offence. In the United States the common law follows that of England, though laws of the various states have diminished the liability of the innkeeper in much the same fashion as in England. Innkeepers as retailers of intoxicating liquors are subject to the provisions of the Licensing Laws.
See Angus, Bible Handbook (new ed., 1904); Beckmann’s Inventions, tr. by Johnson (1846); Jusserand, Les Anglais au moyen âge (1884); Liebenau, Das Gasthof- und Wirtshauswesen der Schweiz in älterer Zeit (1891); Kempt, Convivial Caledonia (1893); F. W. Hackwood, Inns, Ales and Drinking Customs of Old England (1909); Jelf and Hurst, The Law of Innkeepers (1904). English and Roman law are compared in Pymar’s Law of Innkeepers (1892). For Scots law, see Bell’s Principles. An American treatise is S. H. Wandell, Law of Inns, Hotels and Boarding Houses (1888). (F. Wa.)