Again with the English Reports. In the 1700s, there is a subject heading for "Inns and Inn-Keepers". The law of what made an inn an inn was quite particular, in its way as distinct a topic as criminal law or contracts. An English inn in the 1600s and 1700s was not a place for locals. It was for travelers only and played a special role in law. In 1729, a statute was passed related to the licensing of all sorts of aspects of the drinks trade and other matters. New rules for licensing inns were included in 2 Geo. 2, c. 28 which set out a broader mandate for certain social changes - as the title showed:
An Act to revive the Laws therein mentioned, relating to the Importation of Foreign Brandy, and other Waters and Spirits; for Importation of Cochineal; to continue several Acts for preventing Frauds in the Customs; for Encouragement of the Silk Manufactories of this Kingdom; for making Copper Ore of the British Plantations an enumerated Commodity; for making perpetual an Act therein mentioned, for suppressing of Piracy; for enabling Persons prosecuted upon the Capias, in relation to the Running of Goods, to defend in Forma Pauperis; for more effectually debarring of Unlawful Games; for licensing Retailers of Brandv and other Distilled Liquors, and for better Regulation of Licences for common Inns and Alehouses.
A long list. One source indicates that it was the first law on the spirits trade but that the effort to impose that regulation simply “fails miserably”! By comparison, inns succeeded. Here are a few legal gems about what made an innkeeper an innkeeper around that time:
• "if an inn-keeper sells ale to any but travelling guests, it's as to others but an ale-house": Dominus Rex and Felton, &c  EngR 1007; (1685) 3 Keb 610; 84 ER 907.
• "A master my maintain an action against an innkeeper, on the custom of the realm, for money lost while his servant was his guest": Richard Beedle against Morris, Innkeeper of Dunchurch  EngR 828; (1791) Cro Jac 224; 79 ER 194.
• "No person is for to erect an inn, without a licence from the King... Statutes for ale-houses, include all, (excepting only booths in fairs) not to keep an inn, and an ale-house: but to be suppressed, to keep an inn, only for the relief of travellers...": Tabbe, Plaintiff against Matthew Defendant  EngR 2432; (1792) 1 Bulst 109; 80 ER 806.
• "An innkeeper is by the common law liable to answer for all goods lodged in his inn by his guest": Bennett against Mellor  EngR 1464; (1793) 5 TR 273; 101 ER 154.
• "If a guest come to an inn, and the innkeeper refuse him because he is already full of guests, and the party says, he will shift for himself among his guests, and his goods are there lost, the innkeeper is not chargeable": Ex Parte J Fox  EngR 1471; (1793) 5 TR 276; 101 ER 155.
• "Inn-keepers are compellable by the constable to lodge strangers; they may detain the persons of the guests who eat, or the horse which eats, till payment; they are compellable to keep the assize; and to prevent tipling; and the statutes against tipling extend to inn-keepers: an inn is but a great ale-house. They do not deal upon contracts as others do; they only make bills, in which they cannot set unreasonable rates; if they do, they are indictable for extortion, which other sellers are not": Newton against Trigg  EngR 1187; (1794) 1 Show KB 268; 89 ER 566
• "It is not an ale-house, nor victualling-house; for they sell to all publicly...": Parkhurst v. Foster  EngR 2753; (1795) 1 Salk 387; 91 ER 337.
• "...innkeepers were bound to receive and entertain guests, and therefore might detain the goods of the guests till payment...": York v. Grindstone  EngR 4009; (1795) 1 Salk 388; 91 ER 337.
We can see a few characteristics of an inn during this period: (i) it was a function of law, (ii) the license was something of a trade off in that hospitality cannot only be not refused to a traveler but can be compelled and (iii) locals were not welcome. The innkeeper is not a public official but is very much performing a public service. And accountable for doing it well. Providers of safety as well as ale in the Georgian night. About the same time as the last of these cases, the concept is imported into the colony of Upper Canada, the conservative utopia, as a multi-purpose government service centre. Evenly spaced rural buildings where court or dances could be held, where your mail or a drink could be found.
The paintings are by George Morland, a right dipso who lived from 1763–1804. He painted popular images like inn and ale-house scenes in the 1790s and early years of the next century at an insane pace. The one at the top is named "Outside an Inn, Winter" and is from 1795. It sits at The Tate along with the other four shown in thumbnails. What I like about them is how they describe something other than the coaching inn that Pete Brown wrote about in his book Shakespeare's Inn, the quieter, perhaps rougher rural inn. A bit idealistic or romantic but perhaps more the world of Robert Burns than the lads who played in Italy.