Saturday, 2 March 2013

A publican's takings

A husband and wife arguing over money. Not exactly something new (like most beer "innovation").

Amusing as it might be to those on the outside, the squabble isn't why I've chosen to regale you with the article below. Pedantically prosaic as I am, it's the details of a publican's finances that reached out from the page and poked its finger into my eye.  A chance to see how much a pub sold and how much the landlord made in profit.

As you'll see from the figures thrown around, a publican could make a good living. £1 a week was a more than decent wage in 1900.

At Chelmsford Police Court, on Dec. 14, before the Mayor (F. A. Wells, Esq.) and other Magistrates, Timothy Clement Shipp, landlord of the Cricketers' Inn, Mill Green, Ingatestone, applied for reduction of the order made on Nov. 2, for him to pay £1 per week to his wife, from whom he was separated.

Mr. F. P. Sutthery, appeared for the applicant, and Mr J. Doherty, barrister-at-law, instructed by Messrs. Wm. Tanner and Co., was for the wife.

Mr. Sutthery stated that on Nov. 2 the Bench ordered the applicant to pay Mrs. Shipp, his wife, £1 a week and £5..5 costs. The costs were paid, but in order to pay them the applicant had to borrow. A warrant was lately served because be failed to make his weekly contributions to his wife. He could not satisfy the claim, but his brother-in-law lent him a cheque to prevent his arrest. When holding a licensed house at Canning Town applicant allowed his wife, on a mutual separation, £1 a week, but the takings at Mill Green were not equal to those at Canning Town. The takings at Canning Town were £128 a month, whereas at Mill Green they were only £21. In fact, his present takings were not enough to make a profit of £1 a week. He had given his brother-in-law a bill of sale over his furniture, and he was practically in au insolvent position.

The applicant bore out what Mr. Sutthery had stated. He said he only sold about two and a half barrels (36 gallons each) a week. When he went into the house at Mill Green be borrowed £10 from his mother and £35 from his brother-in-law. Since then he had had another £10 from his brother-in-law to pay for the costs of the action. Last week, when the warrant was served, be had no money at all, and when he paid the brewers his sister lent him 10s. to make the sum up. If he sold off to-morrow be would be unable to pay his debts. He was now working at practically a dead loss.

In reply to Mr. Komble, J. P., the applicant stated that one of the children had died since the order was made. Cross-examined, applicant admitted that he made no objection to the amount when the order was made, although he said he could not pay it. He did not know what his profits were. He had not drunk whisky ; he had had to drink beer.

Mr. Doherty. Were you not afraid it was poisoned ?— I hope not ; it has not poisoned me. (Laughter.)

In further examination, applicant said he had a horse and three traps, but be lost money on them. He was quite prepared to work for his wife, but he could not pay £1 a week. In addition to his trade as a publican he had cut a lot of brakes (ferns) on the common. He had not sold these yet. He had also kept pigs, on which be lost money, and he had sold some chickens for 2s. a head when they ought to have made 2s. 6d.

Mr. Doherty said the reason why the applicant had not paid was a question of spite, envy, and hatred.

Mr. Sutthery said Mr. Doherty had no right to say that.

Mr. Doherty. He made up his mind from the commencement not to pay.

Applicant. I was told not to pay.

In reply to further questions as to his profits applicant stated that be gave 30s. a barrel for mild beer and 48s. for old. The mild ale be retailed at 4d. a pot, or 1s. 4d a gallon ; and the old at 1s. 8d. a gallon, or 1s. 6d. "outdoors "

Mr. Doherty. That is 30s. a week profit on beer alone. Applicant could give no idea of what the profits were on beer and wines. He sold very little of the latter.

Mrs. Shipp gave evidence. She said the takings in side the house at Ingatestone averaged about £10 per week. When she left the house the debts on the books amounted to about £10. She estimated the profits at £2 a week irrespective of trap letting, &c.

Applicant, re-called, said that if this order were reduced he would pay more when he was able to. The Bench, after a private consultation, said they could not see their way to vary the order; and allowed £1. 8. 6 costs."
Essex Standard - Saturday 22 December 1900, page 7.
What do you reckon - was Mr. Shipp the world's worst businessman or a spiteful bastard. I'm inclined to believe the latter. He does seem to have had a remarkable change in fortunes after separating from his wife. But I'm not here to discuss matrimonial strife, but pub economics.

There's something that doesn't look right about those beer prices. Why does the Old Ale sell for 5d a pot (2 pints), just 1d more than Mild, when a barrel of it cost more than 50% more? That's just crazy. He made much less money per barrel for the Old Ale, despite it being more expensive. As this table demonstrates:

quart retail barrel retail barrel wholesale profit per barrel profit for 2.5 barrels profit for 2.5 barrels (shillings) profit for 1.5 barrels mild, 1 barrel old profit for 1.5 barrels mild, 1 barrel old (shillings)
mild 4d 576d 360d 216d 540d 45s 324d 27s
old 5d 720d 576d 144d 360d 30s 216d 18s
old 6d 864d 576d 288d 720d

To try to understand the pricing, I've included a more reasonable-looking retail price of 6d. Maybe that was more than drinkers were willing to pay. The currency itself dictated the size of the steps between differently-priced beer. The smallest unit of currency was a farthing, the smallest quantity sold in a pub was a half pint. The smallest step in price between the price of a quart of two classes of beer was therefore 1d - a quarter of which was the smallest unit of currency.

That 30s profit would only be correct if he sold only Old Ale, a very unlikely scenario. A more likely mix of 1.5 barrels of Mild and 1 barrel of Old Ale would have brought in a profit of 45s. I don't believe Mr. Shipp was quite as broke as he made out.

Notice that only two types of beer are mentioned? Neither Pale Ale nor Porter in sight.

1 comment:

Martyn Cornell said...

Doesn't sound right to me either: the usual retail price for Old was 8d a quart pot, and a half-and-half of Old and Mild was thus called an "Old Six", since its retail cost would be 6d a pot.