event is more awfully important to
an English colony than the erection of its first brew house."
- Reverend Sidney Smith
can not attest to the Swedish or Dutch position on the matter
of fermented or distilled beverages, I can with some authority address
the English point of view. And when England gained control of the
settlement of New Amstel on the Delaware River in 1664, an area whose
possession had been contested by the Netherlands and Sweden since 1638,
they immediately went about the business of brewing beer, establishing
taverns and changing the name of the town to New Castle.
The brewing of ale in the colonies was much more than just a matter of
recreational consumption. Lacking the knowledge of basic sanitation
procedures left most local supplies of fresh water unfit to drink.
Though the cause and effect aspect of boiling that same water in order
to make beer was not understood, the resulting finished product was
enjoyed by every man, woman and child.
The tavern as an institution in America became codified under English
law. The Crown sought to enhance commerce in the colonies by the
establishment of licensed inns and public houses. The resulting travel
and trade generated by these town centers not only engendered local
prosperity; but they also helped to fill English coffers back home via
the assorted tax revenues on goods and services.
|THE COZY FIREPLACE
MODEL IN THE FRONT WINDOW
British sorely needed every bit of revenue that they could extract
from their colonies in order to finance their military squabbles on the
continent and on the high seas. These threats at home left the Crown
reluctant to leave a large free standing army in America. When it came
to dealing with the attacks from privateers on the coast, hostiles on
the frontier or the French from Canada, the colonists were expected to
provide for their own defense.
Royal governors formed militias; but it was difficult to get these
unpaid volunteer farmers and tradesman to abandon their families and
responsibilities in order go off and train on a regular basis. The
this crisis would once again be found in that most enduring of English
institutions, the tavern.
|AN AUTHENTIC HEARTH NEXT DOOR IN THE THREE
CROWNS STORE SOON TO BE PART OF JESSOP'S TAVERN
be given free ale if they agreed to show up at the
designated public house to conduct drills. Soon the ranks of the
militias swelled, and regular training could be ordered up at the drop
of a hat, or at least at the first drop of free beer. For the small
investment of a few barrels the colonies soon fielded extremely
proficient citizen soldiers.
These organized gatherings brought together men from different areas
and different walks of life. With a tankard in one hand and a musket in
the other, one could safely expect that there would eventually be some
discourse about life under British rule. Unwittingly the Crown had
planted the seeds of its own demise in her American
|NEW CASTLE'S PUBLIC LANDING
|A BULKHEAD WALKWAY AT THE LANDING
one were to approach New Castle from the public
landing on the
Delaware River, as would have been the case with most new arrivals
during the 17th and 18th centuries, it is likely that the first point
of interest beyond the charming row of Federal style brick homes would
be Jessopís Tavern. This handsome renovated 1724 colonial public house
perfectly sets the stage for the rest of onesí New Castle
|NEW CASTLE IS BOTH A LIVING,
CONTEMPORARY TOWN AND A MUSEUM OF COLONIAL CULTURE
recent session at Jessopís myself and the magazineís creative
director were schooled in some of the lesser known customs of colonial
life by the tavernís affable owner, Richard Day. One of the things that
we learned was the history of the term, 'ordinary.'
In the colonies any tavern or inn that served a complete meal at a
fixed price was referred to as an ordinary. After a couple of pints of
local handcrafted ales, a hardy meal and some great conversation with
the staff and patrons - I can attest to the fact that Jessopís is well
beyond the ordinary.
114 DELAWARE STREET
NEW CASTLE, DELAWARE 19720
JESSOP'S HAS NO WEBSITE
BUT TWO GOOD NEW
CASTLE LINKS ARE: