The sociologist Charles Booth undertook a wide-ranging survey into life in London during the 1890's. He interviewed people from all walks of life, but what interests me are those he conducted with brewers and publicans.
Below is a transcipt from his original notebooks, which were used as the basis for his book "Inquiry into life and labour in London". They provide a fascinating glimpse into everyday life in London at the end of the 19th century.
"Interview with Mr. T. Cox, manager of 5 Public HousesNote the obsession with women drinking. It's a common theme in the late Victorian period.
Nov 10th 1897.
Interview with Mr. T. Cox, manager of 5 Public Houses at the Pembury Arms in Hackney, Amhurst Street. [The pub stil exists: The Pembury Tavern, 90 Amhurst Road, London E8 1JH, telephone: 020 - 89852205]
(Booth B348, p179-187)
he has 5 houses under him.
1/-. Pembury Arms, Amhurst Road
2/. the Unicorn at the junction of the Commercial Street and Shoreditch
3/. One in Tottenham
4/. One in Denmark Hill
5/. One in Homerton
Mr. Cox said that the old fashioned publican was a man of the past, with his white apron, long clay pipe and his habit of drinking with his customers. Now you have a different class of manager - a capitalist, a better class. He thinks that houses were never so well managed as now.
At the Pembury Arms there are 7 bars, two of which are reserved for men only. One is for jugs and bottles. Women are never allowed in the men´s compartments not even wives of customers.
His chief custom is from the residential class of the neighbourhood, clerks and city people who come home have their supper then take a turn out of doors and come in to meet their friends at the Pembury Arms. With some houses the main trade is done with passersby. "It depends on the type of district you are in."
It´s most important that your house should be conducted respectably. Therefore you must serve no drunken man. His potman fetches the police and he turns out anyone they see has had too much. He sends for the police in preference to letting his potman turn them out because of the remarks that would be made. "Look at him turning a man out and treating a man like that after he has made him drunk." The police are not always near. He has tried for years to get a point placed opposite his door but unsuccessfully the Commissioner always says he cannot spare any more men.
Every week he pays 1/- per week to the police as "call money". Nominally it is for calling the servant just before 1 o´clock. This house opens at 7. His house in Shoreditch at 5.30.
The potman is now called "Porter" in better class houses pots are seldom used now. Glasses are becoming more and more universal: the reason being that when you have women at the bar you can´t prevent them from having favourites and it used to be their habit to give nearly a pint to such as these at the price of half a pint. Men too when they asked for a half pint always liked to have it served to them in a pint pot and insisted on full measure, which they told by tipping up their pot thus [sketch of a pot held at an angle of 45 degrees with the top of the beer just touching the rim].
With a glass you serve half a pint just which both you and your customer can judge of before you hand it to him.
Those to whom the most harm is done in public houses are the servant girls sent to fetch beer - not the children. In his houses he has a separate compartment for jugs and bottled so as to prevent this source of annoyance. Children sip, he has often noticed it. he never gives sweets - considers it unfair trading but has lost the custom of many children by doing so. "A child will go 100 yards further for their parents beer if they will get a sweet by so doing." He did not think that the gift of a sweet stopped the habit of sipping.
Houses have gone up enormously and are still going up - thinks many of them cannot pay at the present prices. "They are getting more and more into the hands of brewers." they are worth more than they can give a return on now because of their prospective monopoly value. No new licenses are granted. Population increases and with it demand for beer.
He has noticed no increase in women´s drinking .
With regard to treatment by customers. Mr. Cox when he served behind the counter always refused to accept drinks. People were offended at first but rather glad of it later. They gave a preference to the house where they knew they would not have to stand a drink to the publican."
My favourite part, however is the reasonfor moving to glassware: so barmaids couldn't overserve unnoticed.