Friday, 29 January 2010

Tied Houses in 1902

More about tied houses. I blame magistrates. For creating the tied house system and making it almost impossible for new breweries to start. Funny the unforeseen consequences official actions can have.

"There is hardly a town in England without a brewery, and certainly none with any pretensions to importance. The tendency with breweries, as with most other industries, has within recent years been to amalgamate, which has led to the creation of enormous undertakings with stupendous totals of capital that of Messrs. Watney, Combe and Reid, the largest company, being upwards ot seventeen millions sterling. A large proportion, however, of the capital of a brewery company is invested in public-houses by way of loan to the tenant, or purchase of the freehold, thus securing the custom of the house for beer. This system of tied houses was to an extent forced on the brewers by public opinion being not only averse to the granting of new public-house licences, but showing a tendency to demand a reduction of those already existing. The brewers quickly recognised that a licence had become not only a valuable asset, but a modified monopoly, and they each secured as many as possible to "tie" a trade for their respective breweries. At the present time the number of "free houses," or public-houses which are under no obligation to buy beer from a particular brewery, are under ten per cent. of the total number of licences ; there is thus little scope for further expansion among existing breweries, and practically no opening for a new brewery to start business, as the extent of a brewer's business is practically limited to the number of public-houses he can control. The only exceptions are certain brewers with a family trade, and some of the large firms of world-wide reputation. It is generally understood that Guinness, of Dublin, own no tied houses."
"Britain at work: a pictorial description of our national industries", 1902, pages 160-161.

Though the ried house system isn't an exclusively British phenomenon. The vast majority of pubs in Holland are tied. Though in a slightly more subtle way. I may get around to posting about that sometime.


Matt said...

Christopher Hutt's The Death of the English Pub gives the figures for British breweries (measured by the number of licences to brew issued by Customs and Excise) for the middle half of the twentieth century:

1920: 2,914
1930: 1,418
1940: 840
1950: 567
1960: 358
1970: 176

According to this article, the figure is now back up to 711.

Ron Pattinson said...

Matt, brewery numbers in the UK look very healthy. You have to back to 1944, when there were 741 breweries, to find the last time when there were more.

The nadir was in 1976 when there were just 142.

Rob Sterowski said...

Would I be right in supposing that most of the 2000+ that closed between 1920 and 1940 were pubs that brewed for themselves?

Ron Pattinson said...

Barm, yes.

In 1914 there were:

2,357 publican brewers
179 brewers producing less than 1,000 barrels annually
1,111 brewers producing more than 1,000 barrels annually

and in 1927:

1,045 brewers producing less than 1,000 barrels annually (including publican brewers)
677 brewers producing more than 1,000 barrels annually

So around 1,500 small breweries had closed and 423 larger breweries.

Anonymous said...

Jeez, I despair of my trade sometimes: the intro to the Independent article linked to by Matt says "Britain has more small breweries than any other major industrialised nation, according to the Good Beer Guide.", despite quoting the other RP a little further down the story as saying specifically that this is more breweries per head. IIRC, the US and Germany have more breweries (1,200 each) and I'm guessing Belgium has more per head - anyone have the figures? How does the Czech Rwpublic do? (Yes, I know I could look this up on the net myself, but ICBA.)

Ron Pattinson said...

Zythophile, last time I looked, Austria came top in the breweries per head of population league. Though that was a couple of years ago.

Denmark would be higher today.