Sunday, 8 April 2012

How the beer trade worked (part two)

I  just love this article. It combines seevral of my Scottish obessions. Including the relationship between publicans and brewers in Scotland. Or, to be more precise, between Scottish brewers and publicans. Because the publican in this case is situated in England.

It's a report of the bankruptcy of a Newcastle publican:

A meeting of the creditors of George Muir, licensed victualler, Rose and Crown Inn, Newgate Street; Green Tree Inn, Scotswood Road; Prince Consort Inn, Cottenham Street; and residing at 7, St. Thomas's Square, Newcastle, took place on Friday, at the offices of Messrs Gillespie Brothers, accountants, Westgate Road. Mr Wm. Allan, representing Messrs McLellan and Urquhart, Dalkeith the principal creditors, occupied the chair. The debtor had filed a petition for liquidation by arrangement or composition. - The statement of affairs as on the 10th February, presented by the receiver (Mr Thomas Gillespie), showed as follows:- Liabilities: unsecured creditors, £3,102 17s 9d; creditors fully secured, £2,843; estimated value of securities, £2,890; creditors partly secured, £142 5s; estimated value of securities, £117 11s; creditors for rent, rates, taxes, and wages, £306 18s 3d (deduct from assets per contra); total, £3,127 17s 9d. Assets: Stock-in-trade, £174 7s 5d, namely, Rose and Crown Inn, £73 10s 5d; Green Tree, £57 7s 8d; prince Consort, £43 95 4d; cash in hand, £4 10s; furniture at 7, St. Thomas's Square (see creditors partly secured)- surplus of securities in hand from creditors fully secured, £47; total, £225 17s 5d. - The debtor, examined by Messrs T. Forster and Theo. Hoyle, solicitors, said he commenced business about eight years ago with a capital of £100 or £150. He paid Mr D. A. Williamson £300 a year rent for the Green Tree Inn and £160 a year for the use of the fixtures; and for the Rose and Crown be paid £150 a year rent and £300 a year for the fixtures. What he was paying for the fixtures in one year might be their worth. The average receipts for the past six months had been, Rose and Crown, £36 a week; Green Tree, £40 a week; Prince Consort, £20 a week. His expenses, exclusive of gas, were £3 10s a week for the Rose and Crown, £3 17s for the Green Tree, and £2 5s for the Prince Consort. He had no books, and had never kept any. He banked all the money except for expenses. He had paid £5,000 or £6,000 during the last six months. His last payment was £60 to Mr Williamson on January 28th. He took stock six months ago. and it was valued at £500. He filed his petition because he was pressed by Messrs Younger of Edinburgh. On 29th January, he gave a bill of sale for £142 5s to Mr Williamson for past consideration, and a present consideration of 5s. The bill of sale was registered on February 5th, and the petition was filed on the 10th. He produced a letter from Mir Williamson, dated 16th January, calling upon him to pay the amount due. Mr Williamson, as landlord, had already security on the fixtures and stock. He had nothing to show what was the amount due; it had been more, but he had given two cheques, one for £50 on the 21st, and one for £60 on the 28th January. He could not tell on what day he took stock; it might have been in August. He had never deposited any money with Williamson; He had paid £3 5s a month for five years into a building society on account of his house. Mr Williamson had never taken over his interest in the building society. He used to buy stock of Williamson until two years ago. There were agreements for the houses, but Mr Williamson and Mrs Brooks had them; he did not know they were leases or quarterly tenancies. - It was resolved that there should be a liquidation by arrangement, and Mr Thos. Gillespie was appointed trustee, with a committee of inspection, consisting of Mr Allan, agent for McLellan and Urquhart; Mr Campbell, agent for Aitken and Co.; Mr G. Milburn, manager for Mr F. M. Laing; Mr James Reid, for Clark and Son, Leith; and Mr Jas. Tait, agent for McKay and Co."
Newcastle Courant - Friday 05 March 1880, page 5.

I'm jumping from foot to foot in excitement. What a lovely treat. So much detailed information and some of my favourite characters. Or at least their agents.

Before we go any further, I'll point out that there's a misspelling in the article. They manage to get wrong the easier of the two partners' names in McNellan and Urquhart. Not sure where they got McLellan from.

That "committee of inspection" consists mostly of brewers' representatives. McNellan and Urquhart, Aitken and Co. and I think McKay and Co., too. And "Messrs Younger of Edinburgh", who precipitated the bankruptcy, must surely be one of the brewers Robert and William. Given their interest in the liquidation, I think it's fair to assume they were owed money. It also demonstrates the extent of Scottish brewers' trade in the Northeast of England.

Mr. Muir doesn't seem to have been the smartest businessman, despite running three pubs. Having no idea of how much you've paid in rent and how much you owe seems pretty poor. He didn't seem to have any idea of , or in his possession, the rental agreements.

Why had he paid Mr. Williamson "£5,000 or £6,000 during the last six months"? The rent and fixtures cost for two of the pubs was £910 a year. If the third pub cost a similar amount, that's still only £1,350 a year. Had Muir got several years in arrears in his rent?

On the face of it, his business looked healthy enough:

Rose & Crown Green Tree Inn Prince Consort
rent £2.88 £5.77
fixtures £5.77 £3.08
expenses £3.50 £3.85
total £12.15 £12.70
income £36.00 £40.00 £20.00

Though those expenses can't include beer. One barrel of standard-strength beer like X Ale or Porter cost about £3. It's hard to guess how many barrels the pubs would have got through in a week. More than one, I'm sure. He did have stock worth £174 7s 5d across the three pubs. How many weeks; worth would he have.

The cost of the pubs in rent and fixtures looks pretty high. Eight quid odd, at a time when two quid a week was a good wage.


Unknown said...

Wm Allan was my great grandfather, he died in 1935.

He was a wine and spirit merchant first in Percy Street and then Prudhoe place ine Newcastle.
Richard Allan

Ron Pattinson said...


thanks for that information. It's interesting that he repreesented a Scottish brewery.