In late 1915 construcion was begun of a giant munitions plant, the National Factory, just outside Gretna. Thousands of labourers flooded into the Carlisle and Gretna district to work on the factory's construction. Well-paid and with little in the form of entertainment available, they flooded Carlisle's pubs.
The number of convictions for drunkenness rocketed:
|Convictions for drunkenness|
|"The Control of the Driink Trade" by Longmans, Greem & Co., London, 1919, page 202.|
It sounds like the Wild West:
The Rev. G. Bramwell Evens, who was resident in Carlisle throughout the period, thus describes the position in the city: "October, 1915-June, 1916 witnessed the coming of a new population. Into this quiet city of 50,000 inhabitants . . . there poured 10,000 to 12,000 of the navvy class whose hard-drinking propensity is proverbial. In addition to these, 2000 to 4000 more took up their abode in the Gretna hutments and neighbouring hamlets, making Carlisle, especially on Saturday nights, their drinking rendezvous. . . . The housing problem at once became acute. Small houses were simply stacked with men. Every available room was commandeered for sleeping purposes. Hundreds were compelled to board out. At night these men were practically turned out into the street until bed-time. Their landladies did not want them inside the house; their money was wanted but not their company. . . . The cafes and places of entertainment were crowded, and after these there only remained the public-house as a place of refuge.The measures taken to combat drunkenness were drastic. We'll hear about them next time.
"Here, then, were thousands of men wandering aimlessly about, with no home ties, with plenty of money and with public-houses at every few yards inviting them to conviviality and seeming comfort. It is not to be wondered at that scenes of the most nauseating and degrading character became a common occurrence. Men fought like beasts; fierce fights raged round the doors of the public-houses. The diminished police force was unable to cope with the situation. Almost every alley was littered with prostrate drunken men. The main thoroughfare of Carlisle was Bedlam."
The Truth about Direct Control in Carlisle, p. 4 (P. S. King).