Thursday, 9 May 2013

Stealing glasses

It's funny how wartime could turn a minor irritation into a major problem.

Like stealing glasses from a pub. A shortage of glass meant that bottles and glasses were in extremely short supply. If customers kept stealing glasses a pub could possibly end up with nothing to serve beer in. What could be sadder than that?

And wartime also made people behave in ways they would never have done in peacetime. Like Mrs. Mayes in this story;

Mrs. Winifred Ellen Mayes, Bird Lane, Tiptree, pleaded guilty to stealing two lager glasses, value 5s., from the King's Arms Inn, Tiptree.— Mr. F Collinge, prosecuting for the Licensed Victuallers' Association, stated that Mrs. Cox. the landlady of the King's Arms, was doing her best to conduct the house the absence of her husband, who was in the R.A.F. Defendant and some friends called at the inn Boxing Day and had drinks. After they had gone Mrs. Cox missed two lager glasses. She followed defendant and her friends, and saw Mrs. Mayes go into a gateway. Mrs. Cox went there and found the two missing glasses. Mr. Collinge added that the habit of stealing glasses from licensed houses had become very prevalent, and was a particularly mean kind of theft because in the present conditions glasses were well-nigh irreplaceable. - Supt. Phillibrown said the police had received a large number of complaints from licensed victuallers of losses of glasses. - It was stated that defendant, who was born in 1899, had held a good character. - Defendant, in written statement, said, she was undergoing hospital treatment. On the morning in question she had taken aspirin, and had some drink. She had been invited to a party that night, and had been asked to take as many glasses as she could. She intended to return the two glasses.—The Chairman said such future offences would be sharply dealt with. Defendant was fined £2."
Essex Newsman - Saturday 10 January 1942, page 4.

She doesn't sound like the sort of woman who would normally steal. Presumably that's why she got off so lightly, with just a two quid fine.

That it was the Licensed Victuallers' Association prosecuting tells us something, too. Namely that the trade considered it a serious problem. I imagine they were keen on getting s few convictions for glass theft to discourage others.

The valuation of the Lager glasses surprised me: 5 shillings. Which meant the glasses were worth more than the beer inside them. At the beginning of 1942 a pint of Mild only cost 8d. Which means you could get almost four pints of it for the price of one Lager glass. Which probably explains why Mrs. Mayes knicked Lager glasses - they were much fancier than standard beer glasses.


Matt said...

I can honestly say I've never nicked a glass from a pub, although I do have a few "borrowed" by relatives and housemates.

I always feel slightly guilty taking beer mats although that seems to be much more acceptable somehow, presumably because of how easily replaceable they are.

Anonymous said...

A two pound fine back in 1942 was a substantial sum for two glasses! It would have been a week's housekeeping for an average family , a labourer's wage before WW2 was a shilling an hour.

Gary Gillman said...

It sounds like a fair penalty given the woman's background, i.e., not huge but enough surely to deter her and others. If they were similar to the glasses pictured in the atmospheric Barclay's ad, they must have been very nice. (I think glasses were better then than today).

That tag line about appealing to "every thirst" is interesting, perhaps a subtle class appeal was intended.


Rob said...

I dont know about in Britain, but glassware theft is still a major problem in the US.

It is one of the reasons the shaker "pint" is so popular, they are cheap to buy in bulk.

Ron Pattinson said...

The glasses in the ad do look cool. And pretty sturdy. But Martyn Cornell showed me a Barclay Perkins Lager glass he owns, and it's so thin you could almost break it by breathing on it.

Ron Pattinson said...

Marquis, how I'd put the fine into context, is in how many pints of Mild it represented. That was either 8d or 10d in 1942. So either 48 or 60 pints of Mild. Or a wekk's worth, as I used to call it.

Jeremy Drew said...

The pub should have used No-nics!

Martyn Cornell said...

Indeed: the BP glasses started as a set of four. The guy in the shop broke one just getting them down from the shelf to sell them to me.

Gary Gillman said...

Every time I see that word no-nic I smile. When I first saw the term in print, probably used by a U.K. beer writer, it was spelled "nonic". From the sound and spelling, I assumed this was some ancient vessel or Latinate measure, perhaps inherited from the time of Roman legions in England. For years I was convinced of this until a CAMRA official at a Pig's Ear festival in London told me dryly it stood for no-nicks, that the glasses were designed with a shape to reduce chipping and breakage when stored).

Another hallowed and entirely self-created myth crumbled just like that.