Friday, 11 September 2020

Tied houses in the 1890s

Boak & Bailey conveniently got the full version of the 1895 Brewers' Guardian available in Google books. Very useful for my book after next.

A quick flick through its pages resulted in me finding an interesting report on a House of Commons debate about tied houses. Which weren't very popular with some politicians

The debate kicked off with a tied house opponent:

"Some twenty or thirty years ago there were comparatively few tied houses in the country, but statistics now showed that at least 70 per cent, of the licensed houses were held in that way, and the rapid growth of the system was, no doubt, the result of keen competition between brewers. A return published in 1890 showed that in Liverpool some five or six brewery companies held between them no fewer than 504 publichouses, while the tied houses in St. Helens numbered 126, and in Portsmouth 212. In Birmingham one firm alone owned as many as 155, whilst one firm in Bristol headed the list with 287. Quite as bad a state of things prevailed in the country licensing districts. And not only were publicans tied in regard to the sale of beer and spirits, but in many cases the restrictions were applied to mineral waters, matches, and even the sawdust which was used in the spittoons. In some cases the publicans were only monthly tenants of the brewers, and as the licences were granted for a year he claimed that that tenure constituted an evasion of the licensing laws. The system bore very hardly upon the publicans, and in some of the agreements he had seen it was distinctly specified that the brewer or his agent should have the right to inspect the cellars of the house at any hour of the day or night. They were obliged, too, to sell whatever liquor was supplied, whether it was good, bad, or indifferent. In some cases he had to pay from 15 to 20 per cent. more for his liquor than the owner of a free house, with the result that he was compelled to force his trade by illegitimate means very often, so as to get a bare livelihood out of the house. Licences for the sale of drink were granted for the general well-being of the community; but it certainly was contrary to the interest of the public that in a very large number of licensed houses the only beer that could be obtained was the beer which some single firm of brewers choose to sell. In most cases it was bad beer made from the substitutes for malt and hops; and he therefore appealed for support for his motion to the hon. gentleman opposite, who strongly upheld the other night the use of pure beer and of the English barley-grower."
The Brewers' Guardian 1895, pages 130 - 131.

The percentage of houses which were tied was thrown around by a few speakers. Not always the same number. 70% seems to have been the most popular.

Why were tied houses so much more common than 20 or 30 years earlier? That's an easy one: the 1869 Licensing Act, which made it very difficult to obtain new licences and had provisions for actively reducing the number.

At a time when the population was increasing, the number of pubs was falling:

Pubs in England and Wales 1870 - 1895.
Date  Full Beerhouse Total Pubs  population pop. per pub
1870 68,789 49,396 118,185 22,783,541 193
1875 69,184 43,884 113,068 24,045,385 213
1880 69,112 49,597 118,709    
1881 68,632 38,309 106,941 26,046,142 244
1885 67,822 37,278 105,100 27,220,706 259
1890 67,315 36,498 103,813    
1893 67,028 35,809 102,837    
1895 66,750 35,351 102,101 30,451,528 298
Brewers' Almanack 1912, page 162.

With the number of potential outlets in decline, brewers increasingly tied pubs, either my outright purchase or by loans.

Tying pubs on matches and sawdust? That sounds very Sam Smiths


Phil said...

The casual assertion that most brewers with tied houses sold "bad beer made from the substitutes for malt and hops"(!) tells us how much reliance to put on this person's claims.

Sokratees9 said...

When did the number of licences start to increase? Was it a particular law that allowed that? In Ireland, North and South, the number of licences is still restricted -

Ron Pattinson said...


late 1970s was when they started being easier about new licences. I think it wa a change in interpretation rather than a new law.

Sokratees9 said...

Here in Northern Ireland, another premise has to "surrender" their licence before you can open up somewhere new. With licences in limited supply, as a consequence, the value of a licence has increased to ludicrous levels. So it stops anyone from doing anything different, as the cost to getting started is so high, you need to cover those by signing a big contract with a big distributor.