Saturday, 30 May 2009

Adulteration - the penalties

I'm back on the topic of adulteration. Remember how widespread it appeared to be in the mid-19th century? Well here's what publicans were risking.

The 1830 Beer Act was very specific as to what would happen to anyone selling watered or adulterated beer.

". . . and if any person so licensed as aforesaid shall knowingly sell any beer, ale, or porter made otherwise than from malt and hops, or shall mix or cause to be mixed any drugs or other pernicious ingredients with any beer sold in his house or premises, or shall fraudulently dilute or in any way adulterate any such beer, such offender shall for the first offence forfeit any sum not less than ten pounds nor more than twenty pounds, as the justices before whom such offender shall be convicted of such offence shall adjudge ; and for the second such offence such offender shall be adjudged to be disqualified from selling beer, ale, or porter by retail for the term of two years, or to forfeit any sum of money not less than twenty pounds nor more than fifty pounds, at the discretion of the justices before whom such offender shall be adjudged guilty of such second offence ; and if any offender convicted of such offence as last aforesaid shall during such term of two years sell any beer, ale, or porter by retail, either in the house and premises mentioned in the licence of such offender, or in any other place, he shall forfeit any sum not less twenty-five pounds nor more than fifty pounds, and shall be subject to a like penalty at any and every house or place where he shall commit such offence ; and if any person shall at any time, during any term in which it shall not be lawful for beer to be sold by retail on the premises of any offender, sell any beer by retail on such premises, knowing that it was not lawful to be sold, such offender shall forfeit any sum not less than ten pounds nor more than twenty pounds, as the convicting justices shall adjudge."
"A collection of statutes connected with the general administration of the law", 1836, pages 910-911
To put the minimum 10 quid fine into context, remember that a pint of beer only cost 3d to 4d at the annual rent of a beerhouse was just 2 pounds. Ten pounds was a substantial sum. Anyone caught twice, risked losing his licence for two years. Yet despite these harsh punishments, adulteration was still rife. There must have been an awful lot of money in it.


Unknown said...

At 240d to the £ that makes the ratio of pub rent to price of a pint around 160:1

That means the average annual rent on a pub today should be around £400. Either that or the price of a pint should be in the order of £50.

I wonder what the average wage was in those days.....

Ron Pattinson said...

Thanks for that comparison. Though it's worth bearing in mind beer houses were pretty basic compared to a modern pub.

The situation in London later in the century was quite different. In the 1890's, East End pubs were changing hands for £35,000 and more when a pint of Mild cost just 2d.

Unknown said...

In that case, a pub should be worth around £10M in London today. Assuming a £2.50 price for a pint of mild, if you can get it.

In reciprocal appreciation, I enjoy your blog for the historical insights to the pub and industry - fascinating. Although I haven't got quite the same patience for numbers as you.

Stonch said...

A print of that engraving - original in the sense that it's taken from a copy of the magazine in which it was first published - is framed and up on the wall in my pub. In fact I blogged about it when I found it at an antiques market in Issy last year.