Friday, 31 March 2017

Brewing in London in 1869

As you should be aware by now, London was where industrial brewing was born. The big Porter brewers of the 18th century brewed on a far greater scale than anyone before.

London continued to be a major brewing centre in the 19th century. Despite challenges from Burton, Dublin and Edinburgh, London remained the largest beer producer in the UK.

“Beer is one of the chief manufactures of London. Of the total quantity exported from the United Kingdom in 1860. more than four-fifths (383,610 barrels) left London ; but the value of London beer exported (£1,303,248) was within about a fourth of the total value sent from the United Kingdom. In 1869, of 521,272 barrels of beer exported, 316,741 went from London. In England and Wales (1859) out of 39,125 licenses to brew, London contained no more than 149 ; but these seven score and a half consumed one fifth (7,738,113 bushels) of all the malt used in brewing. In 1869, the number of brewers' licenses granted in the United Kingdom was but 34,533. The number of publicans' licenses granted by the excise in 1869 in the United Kingdom was 85,987, besides 52,590 licenses to beer retailers.”
"Brewers' Guardian, vol. 1, 1869", July 1871, page 205.

The UK’s two principal export markets – India and Australia – were both in the Far East and likely to be served by London. North American and Caribbean exports were more likely to pass through Liverpool, which was Britain’s major Atlantic port. Just because the beer passed through the port of London doesn’t mean it was brewed there. Burton Pale Ale destined for India, for example. Though much of the Stout and Porter that was exported did originate in London.

By the second half of the 19th century, publican and small-scale brewers were all but extinct in London, unable to compete on price or quality with the capital’s industrial operators. Hence the surprisingly small number of breweries in London.

Assuming two bushels of malt to a barrel of beer, I calculate that in 1859 around  3.9 million barrels were brewed in London, an average of around 26,000 barrels per brewery. In total, 19,152,564 barrels were brewed in the UK in 1859*, leaving around 15.3 million barrels brewed outside London. Dividing that by the 38,976 brewers outside London gives an average of just 392 barrels per brewery. Clearly brewing in London was on a much grander scale.

“According to the “London Post Office Directory," there are in London 5,690 publicans and 1,883 beer retailers to supply the population. which is exclusive of clubs, refreshment houses. &c.”
"Brewers' Guardian, vol. 1, 1869", July 1871, page 205.

That’s not exactly a huge number of pubs. London had a population of around 3.25 million in 1871, which means there was one pub for every 572 inhabitants.  Though I should really include “beer retailers” as well. I’m sure that means beer houses, i.e. pubs only licensed to sell beer, not spirits. That brings the total to 7,573 and an average of 430 inhabitants per pub. Still not great.

Let’s look at England and Wales. In 1871, they had a combined population of 22,783,541. Dividing that by the 138,577 pubs, gives an average of one pub per 139 inhabitants. About three times the number per head of population as in London. I’m surprised at just how big the difference is. I wonder why that was? Were London pubs larger than provincial ones? Or were the licensing authorities stricter in the capital?

The proportion of fully licensed pubs to beer houses was also different in London. About exactly a quarter of the pubs in the capital were beer houses. While in England and Wales as a whole it was 38%. Again, quite a difference. More surprising because, until 1869, these weren’t licensed by magistrates but directly by the Excise, making them easy to acquire and not subject to the vagaries of the local licensing regime.

* "Hops; their Cultivation, Commerce, and Used in Various Countries" by P.L., Simmonds, 1877, page 133.


Anonymous said...

Its only a guess, but I would imagine that the average size of London pubs was bigger than elsewhere. Or perhaps they all just rolled about in the gutter drinking gin.

GenX at 40 said...

(cough) *Hamburg, 1400s* (cough)

Anonymous said...

Similar to the other anonymous I would have guessed that because there wasn't much transport around that every Hamlet needed a pub or two within stumbling distance, despite how small.