Tuesday, 19 February 2013

Change for a sovereign

Getting short-changed in a pub. It must have been going on since, er, pubs first existed.

Have a read through the case. I'll meet you the other side for a discussion of the best bits.

Remarkable Claim in London Court.

In the City of London Court on Tuesday, before Mr. Registrar Wild, a claim was made by Mr. Walter Wallis, scientific instrument maker of 24 Moselle-street, Tottenham, against Worthington and Company, brewers, Burton-on-Trent, for 19s 10d, the balance of the change of a sovereign.

The plaintiff said that on the night of 18th August he entered the defendants' White Bear public-house, King William-street, London, and tendered a sovereign in payment of two glasses of mild ale for himself and a friend. He drew the barmaid's attention to the fact that he tendered a sovereign. After serving the ale the barmaid went into another part of the house, and it not until ten minutes afterward that he could tell her he had nor received his change. She looked surprised, and said she had received the sovereign, but did not know what she had done with it. In the presence of the manager, the barmaid repudiated the statement she had formerly made and said she had not receivedit a sovereign. A constable was fetched, and then it was stated that he (plaintiff) had paid in bronze for the ale which was untrue. The tills were searched in the presence of the constable, but no trace could be found of his sovereign. 

Plaintiff's friend, Mr W. G. Myers corroborated.

For the defence, the barmaid said she remembered serving the plaintiff with the two glasses of ale, and his complaining that he had not received his change. The plaintiff could only have given her 2d. She told. the plaintiff to see the manager. She was afterwards searched  by the manager's wife. She admitted having gone to the change till after the plaintiff made his complaint, but that was only to make sure she had made no mistake. She was certain she had not rceived a sovereign from the plaintiff.

Mr. Stephens, the manager of the White Bear, said the barmaid had been with him for six months. He had found her thoroughly honest, and had excellent refeernces with her.

The Registrar was certain no jury would convict the barmaid of having stolen the sovereign. Everything was done for the plaintiff, after making his complaint, that could be done. plaintiff had failed to prove his case, and there must be judgment for the defendants."
Derby Daily Telegraph - Wednesday 27 September 1911, page 2.

My first point is who Mr. wallis sued - not the barmaid or the manager but Worthington, the owner of the pub. It's similar to what happens in the US, where it's usual to go after the defendent with the most money rather than the greatest culpability. All very interesting, but what it tells me is that Worthington owned pubs in London and used managers rather than tenants.

Paying for two halves of Mild with a sovereign is pretty crazy. A sovereign was enough to buy 120 pints of Mild. The equivalent today would be buying a pint of Mild with a £400 pound note. If such a note existed.

What do I reckon? The barmaid had it away with the sovereign, I reckon. But she wasn't daft enough to keep it on her. My guess is that she hid it somewhere before the constable turned up.

I've just realsied something. Though the plaintiff, the manager and even the managers firend are named in the article, the barmaid isn't. Despite her being the one accuse of theft. Odd that. I wonder why that is?

The White Bear no longer exists. Though I realsie that I've walked many times down King Willian street - it's the approach road to the north end of London Bridge.


Cooking Lager said...

I think the context comes when you explain the relative value of a sovereign. An entertaining story of a punter being ripped off, which of course happens in any given era. Human dishonesty or incompetence has existed since Adam was a lad.

Today you have difficulty spending anything larger than a 20 pound note(6 not 120 pints worth) 50’s are not in wide circulation and met with suspicion. Compare and contrast to Europe where a Geld automat will dispense 100 Euro notes and you will have no difficulty spending them.

Still, if the BofE continue to debase the currency we might be back to precious metals and barter soonish.

Matt said...

In Keep the Aspidistra Flying by George Orwell, there's a scene where the main character is desperate for a pint of beer but can't bring himself to enter a pub as he'd have to pay for it with a threepence coin, the opposite I suppose of flashing a sovereign.

Ron Pattinson said...

Cooking, virtually nowhere in Holland will accept a 100 euro note. The cash machines won't give you anything bigger than a 50 euro note.

It's different in Germany, where 100 euro notes are pretty common.