Sunday, 24 July 2011

Bolton in 1854

Funny the way you stumble across things you aren't looking for. I came across this when scouring government papers for statistics. It's about Bolton's pub scene in the 1850's.

Before we start, an important observation. The man being interviewed, Mr. Cunliffe, was a temperance campaigner. Which is fair enough, as he doesn't sound like someone you'd like to share a pint with.

"2414. Sir G. Grey,] Are informations more frequent in Bolton against the keepers of public-houses than against the keepers of beerhouses ?—About the average. I have a return of the number of convictions of public-houses and beerhouses.

2415. Does it show how often the same person has been convicted ?—It does not show that; in that respect it is defective.

2416. You are not able to inform the Committee whether the cases of second and third convictions are frequent in Bolton ?—I think not; I think they rarely come in the same year; it is allowed to pass over, and they are allowed to begin anew the following year.

2417. The recommendation which you gave just now would apply to any conviction subsequent to the first conviction ?—Yes.

2418. Chairman.] You have no doubt that the offences are more frequent than the convictions would show ?—No doubt.

2419. Sir G. Grey.] What is the number of public-houses in Bolton?—One hundred and eighteen.

2420. How many beerhouses are there ?—Two hundred and eight.

2421. What number of convictions were there last year?—Convicted in penalty and costs, 11 public-houses and 30 beerhouses; convicted in costs only, five public-houses and 18 beerhouses.

2422. Chairman.] Was any licence taken away ?—No.

2423. Sir G. Grey.] Is there an efflcient police force in Bolton ?—Yes.

2424. What is the number of the police ?—About 30.

2425. Is that a sufficient force to exercise a vigilant superintendence over the public-houses and beerhouses ?—Yes.

2426. What is their motive for informing against these public-houses; are they directed to watch them, to go into them, and give evidence against them ?—They are directed to watch them; frequently the offences are so glaring and notorious that they cannot overlook them.

2427. What are the offences chiefly; Sunday trading?—Chiefly for selling at unlawful hours on Sunday.

2428. You do not doubt that that is done to a considerable extent?—No.

2429. Sir G. Grey.] What is the population of Bolton?—About 64,000.

2430. What is the number of persons who were convicted of drunkenness out of that population last year?—Eight hundred and fifty-eight.

2431. Chairman.] Do you know whether those cases of drunkenness are of people incapable of taking care of themselves ?—They are divided into two classes: the Return gives, "Persons drunk and incapable, males, 312, females, 81; persons drunk and disorderly, males, 376, females, 89." The two make a total of 858 ; but I apprehend there is a class of offences called " assaults," which is really often drunkenness.

2432. It is not classed as such ?—It is not classed as such. If a person gets drunk, and commits a violent assault, he is brought up for an assault, and the drunkenness is merged in the assault.

2433. You do not get an idea of what is the whole conviction for drunkenness from those returns?—By no means from the return of persons convicted of being drunk and incapable, and persons drunk and disorderly. There are hundreds who are really drunk and staggering along; but if they will pass at all peaceably on, they are suffered to go.

2434. You have come to some conclusion generally, have you not, with respect to the effect of this drunkenness upon the habits of the people as to their moral conduct and general demeanor?—Yes.

2435. Do you consider it is the root of all the demoralisation which exists ?— I think it is the great curse of the working classes especially, and the great incubus which keeps them in debasement and wretchedness.

2436. You think if. chiefly arises from the facility to get spirituous liquors w hich is presented to them ?—It largely arises from the easy way they can get drink, and the proximity to temptation.

2437. Do you believe, if the temptation were out of their way, they would be less gross, and their habits would generally improve ?—I have no doubt that drunkenness would decrease 50 per cent.

2438. Do you know many instances in which people have given up drinking; where you have seen their habits totally change?—Great numbers; a most decided change.

2439. Have you any doubt that at the present time numbers would get intoxicated, not in a public-house?—There are a few; there are some "hush-shops" in Bolton, but not nearly so many as in other towns.

2440. Should you apprehend a great increase of those houses, supposing the public-houses were closed on Sunday ?—I have no doubt there would be some increase.

2441. How would you reach those houses ?—I would do all the law could for reaching them, for selling a wrong article.

2442. You think the inspection is not sufficiently vigilant now ?—It is not sufficiently vigilant; a conviction is too difficult.

2443. Would your remedy be to appoint a person whose distinct duty it should be to watch those houses, and inform against them when they are erring ?— I have no distinct opinion upon that subject; it must rest with the police authorities, or with the corporation; but I think that the conviction should be of the easiest kind possible.

2444. If you were to close these public-houses on Sunday, would it not require some person whose duty it should be specially to discover whether persons were selling spirits in other houses ?—I have no doubt that the lessened duties of the police consequent upon the closing of the public-houses on Sunday would leave them more at liberty to do this.

2445. You have no doubt that the habits of a vast number of people in Bolton are those of drunkenness ?—None whatever; I divide drunkenness into voluntary and involuntary ; voluntary drunkenness I attach to those who are deliberate and settled drunkards, and who will have drink if they can get it.

2446. You do not suppose, do you, that by merely closing the public-houses on Sunday you would really reform those persons ?—No.

2447. "What would be the case with those persons if the public-houses were closed on Sunday; they would get drink ?—There would be some clandestine drinking ; the law would be evaded, as all laws more or less are.

2448. You do not consider it would be a complete cure?—No; it is not a complete cure that we expect, but a very great abatement; and that is the whole that we can expect the Government can do.

2449. Have you any further suggestions to make with respect to restricting the licences to those houses ?—I think with regard to the Beer Act, if I might be allowed to refer to it, that the Beer Act itselt has been an immense curse to the country, and ought to be gradually repealed.

2450. Do you think that the people drink more beer than spirits ?—In Lancashire they do; but the Beer Act has multiplied the temptations, and brought them nearer to the people.

2451. Do confirmed drunkards drink chiefly spirits, or beer?—They vary; you cannot classify them; some of them are inveterate spirit drinkers, and others drink nothing but beer.

2452. The greatest temptations are in those houses where they stand and drink, and go out again immediately ?—The greatest temptation is in those houses where the beer is cheapest.

2453. Chiefly the spirit vaults ?—No ; we consider that they sell cheap beer where they stand to drink at about 4 d. per quart, and as low as 3 d. per quart.

2454. That is very weak beer, is it not ?—I suppose it is strong for mischief, although it is weak for anything good.

2455. If they drink plenty of it, it would have the same effect as strong beer : —Perhaps the alcoholic power is not so much derived from the presence of malt as from the presence of other sugary matters which they put in, such as treacle and so on, which will produce alcohol by fermentation."

. . . . . . .

"2475- Sir G. Grey.] This paper, which contains a copy of the memorial which you have stated was signed by 2,000 ratepayers, praying that no additional licences might be granted, was printed at Ipswich ; how do you account for that ? — It was a copy of our memorial; we generally print the proceedings of the licensing-day ; we have opposed it the last eight years.

2476. Why is it printed at Ipswich and not at Bolton ?—Mr. Alexander, at Ipswich, prints temperance tracts, and seeing some good in that, he adopted it.

2477. Chairman.] Do the public-houses at Bolton belong to respectable people in the town ?— Generally.

2478. They would not go with you in closing them ?—I do not suppose they would venture their character upon opposition.

2479. -Are they brewers and distillers ?—Not generally.

2480. Sir G. Grey.] How many public-houses, if any, have been licensed by the magistrates since this memorial was presented in August 1848?—Only one to a railway station, for the last eight years ; there have been no licences granted since that memorial was adopted.

2481. Are the magistrates acting in accordance with the prayer of that petition ?—For the last eight years they have done so.

2482. Chairman.] Do you know what the increase of beerhouses has been since that time ?—They have fluctuated from 180 up to 210 and 213 ; they change hands very much."

. . . . . . . . .

2506. Chairman.] Have you any statement of the number of persons found in public-houses in Bolton, on the Sunday evening?—Yes, in 12 public-houses there were 231 persons present, and in 12 beerhouses 195 persons present; that was on the 4th of June 1854, between the hours of 8 and 9 o'clock p.m. (The statement was delivered in).

2507. I understood you to be of opinion that the Beer Act should not be repealed immediately, but only by some gradual process ?—By a gradual process.

2508. Have you ever presented to this House a petition to that effect ?— Numbers have been presented with that view, this is a copy of one of the petitions. (The same was delivered in.)

2509. Mr. Gregson.] You have stated that at Bolton the beer was all consumed by tippling at public-houses, and not by families at their meals ?—Principally so.

"The Sessional Papers of the House of Lords in the session 1854; Reports from Select Committees ogf the Hous of Commons, and Evidence; Public Houses" "Minutes of Evidence Taken by the Select Committee on Public Houses, etc." pages 132 - 136.

What a bastard, eh? Quite happy to deprive the working classes of their only bit of fun. The theme of saving the working class from themselves isn't new in Britain. It's the common thread linking this text from the 1850's, 1930's Bolton and the modern British media, with their obsession about chavs and binge drinking.

The whole point of this discussion is that the local magistrates had no control over beer house licences. Beer house licences were issued directly by the Excise and were granted pretty much automatically, as long as a few basic conditions were fulfilled. Fully-licensed public houses, on the other hand, were at the mercy of the magistrates. In some towns, temperance campaigners got themselves onto licensing committees and refused to grant any new licences. This may have been the case in Bolton.

Mr. Cunliffe told us that in 1854 there were118 fully-licensed pubs and 208 beerhouses. By 1869 it was 123 pubs (the prayers of Mr. Cunliffe and his chums must have stopped working) and 329 beerhouses.

The situation changed in 1869, when the law was changed to allow magistrates to refuse beer house licences. The number of beerhouses immediately went into decline. In Bolton, that meant the immediate closure of 69 beerhouses. They were gradually whittled away over the succeeding decades and by 1935 there were only 169 left. Fully-licensed pubs fared much better, and there were still 102 in 1935.

Limited drinking hours on Sunday clearly weren't popular. Serving outside hours on Sunday was the commonest offence of publicans. I can understand why. You work like crzay all week, then the one day you have off the pubs are shut most of the time. Enough to drive anyone to crime.

What an odd expression, "tippling at public-houses". It makes drinking in a pub sound like some seedy activity. Which I guess was the idea.


Rod said...

I love the picture of the pub with a great big sign saying "Free From Brewers" Great to know that you're not going to have to stand next to some uncouth brewer at the bar, stinking of yeast and spent grain, drivelling on about attenuation and such like.

Sarah Goodnow said...

What is the difference between a pub and a beer house?

Ron Pattinson said...

Sarah, beerhouses were the creation of the 1830 Beer Act.

Public houses were fully licensed and sold all types of alcoholic drink. They were licensed by local magistrates, wjo had the power to grant or deny licenses much as they liked.

Beer houses were licensed directly by the Excise. As long as you fulfilled a couple of basic criteria, you got a license automatically. The local authorities had no control over their licenses. Though beerhouses did have to close earlier than public houses.

The rules on beerhouses were tightened up later in the century, but beer-only licenses continued up until the 1980's. I drank in a few beer houses in my youth.

Fully licensed houses were much more profitable because the profit margin on spirits was higher than on beer. A beerhouse that had its license upgraded immediately trebled in value.