Sunday, 6 May 2012

Bribes by brewers

Time from another fleeting break from North Britain. We're moving south to the North of England, Manchester to be precise.

Police corruption in nothing new. It's been around since, well, there have been policemen to corrupt. Our cosy nostalgic view of the honest 19th-century copper is far removed from the reality. The police had a strange relationship with public houses. Especially those on the beat. Drawn from the working classes, constables were often reluctant to impose the law on pubs. And quite liked a drink themselves.

Despite it being very much against the rules to drink on duty, it did occur:
"With regard to the police - Any policeman who looks as if he would like it is sure to get it, "there can be no question about that". Doubts if it amounts to very much but it would be better if it were not done. Publicans do it wherever they can because they know they will get help in turning out drunken men more easily if they do. A man who makes a noise drives away trade, therefore the publican is only too anxious to get rid of him. A policeman who takes drink is more likely to be near and to come quickly if he is called. "Well at any rate the publicans think so.""
5th October (1897)
Mr. Bramham. Surveyor and Valuer to the Assessment Committee of the Hackney Union. 115 Bow Road on an introduction from Mr. Young a member of the above committee.

"Policemen sometimes get treated to beer but this is less common than it used to be. Public houses are so much more strictly kept. There is so much money at stake in them that it is not worth the publican´s while to run any risks. Beerhouses are much more likely to offer beer than Publics. He admitted that any man who looked as if he would not mind a drink would get it. He has seen potmen bring it round to constables in the urinal at the side of the Public. But policemen are a more sober lot than they used to be."
Nov 11th. 1897
Interview with Inspector Thresher, retired after 26 years service in the London police corps. of which 12 years were spent in Whitechapel.
He keeps a sweet stuff shop in the Upper Clapton Road. Address Swanley House, The Pond, Upper Clapton Road. (Booth B348, p189-193)

Policemen were also sometimes given money by publicans:

"The first had been in place a year. He is now doing a business of £50-60 a month (13 months to a year). Before he took it the house only did £42 and was very rough in character. He determined to get rid of the rough ones, refused to sell to noisy customers. Got the policeman on his side - gives him about 6d per week so that he should always be there when wanted and more important than that should clear the neighbourhood of his door of loungers and rough characters."
October 1897
Interview with manager of public house, in Red Lion Street, Holborn, public house owned by Truman, Hanbury and Baxton's Brewery , 22 (Booth B348, pp70-73)

"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."
Nov 10th 1897.
Interview with Mr. T. Cox, manager of 5 Public Houses at the Pembury Arms in Hackney, Amhurst Street.
(Booth B348, p179-187)

All relatively small potatoes  - 6d here, a pint of beer there. This was rather more serious:

Further disclosures in connection with the police administration were made yesterday at a mreeting of the Manchester City Council.- The Chief Constable reported that a deplorable state of affairs had existed in one of the divisions since the appointment of a certain ward superintendeat in 1894. This surperintendent, who had resigned, was frequently seen drunk. and he had allowed alterations to be made to public-houses without permission of the Justices, and had been in receipt of presents from brewery companies, so that it is impossible for him to carry out his duty properly. Depositions from other officers showed that they also had been in receipt of presents, among those who had given these presents being two aldermen now deceased.- The Superintendent's resignation was accepted at a reduced pension, and other officers were censured. A general warning was also issued to the force.- The Chief Constable said he was satisfied that the system of accepting presents had since the disclosures ceased to exist. "
Northern Echo - Thursday 05 October 1899, page 3.

I'm amazed at how lightly everyone got off. Even the main culprit only got early retirement on a reduced pension. Surely this serious case of corruption deserved more severe punishment? The others invoved only got a slap on the wrist. Would they be treated so leniently today? That probably depends on whether it was a national newspaper coughing up the cash and presents.


Anonymous said...

I remember when the Police had a generally more relaxed view of things.Drinking when we were under age was ignored as long as we behaved.We covered our glasses with hats.And many officers had no interest in enforcing closing time-as one said "How can something be perfectly legal one minute,become illegal then legal again in a few hours?"
The Red Lion never closed on time for 14 hours.I was in at midnight when someone asked the landlord what the Police thought of his being open."Ask them, they are in the best room" was his reply.

Anonymous said...

For 14 hours read 14 years, the time during which the landlord was incumbent.In fact he did say he'd called "Time" twice during his spell!
24 hour drinking is nothing new, if you knew your way around a drink was normally to be found.

Ron Pattinson said...

Marquis, that's very similar to an argument made in a speech opposing the Scottish Local Veto bill in the 1890's: how can something be legal in one street but illegal in the next?

Matt said...

My grandmother grew up in a Threlfall's pub in Wigan run by her uncle (her parents had died in the 1918 influenza epidemic). I once worked with an ex-member of the Wigan poilce force who knew it well when I mentioned it - apparently, beat bobbies were taken out of sight down into the cellar by the landlord and treated to free pints there.