Saturday, 3 November 2012

Thefts of Liquor

Here's another happy combination of obsessions. Not even sure how I found it. Was I searched for Lager or WW II? Or was it both?

This is an example of the type of dodgy dealing that went on in wartime Britain. With everything in short supply, there was plenty scope for the unscrupulous to earn cash. Bottled beer, which is what was stolen here, was in particularly short supply, due to shortages of bottles and crates, plus the extra energy and manpower needed to produce and sell it.

Brewery Clerk Sent To Prison

THEFTS of large quantities of beer from the St. Anne's Well Brewery Company, Ltd, by middle-aged clerk who had been in their employ since May of this, year were described at Exeter Police Court on Tuesday, when Alfred Wm. Sweeney, of 77, Victoria-road, Exmouth, was sentenced to four months' imprisonment in the second division for the offences.

Sweeney pleaded guilty to having stolen on October 28 three cases containing 6 dozen half pint bottles of Lager beer, value £2 18s 6d, and to having stolen during August, September and October of this year 4 dozen half pint bottles of Bass, 4 dozen half pint bottles Worthington, 92 dozen half pint bottles Lager beer, and 30 dozen pint bottles Guinness, together with cases, to the total value of £72 15s.

The Chief Constable (Mr. A. E. Rowsell) said part of Sweeney's job was to make out orders and arrange for the despatch of beer to public houses belonging to the company. He had exercised considerable cunning in his defalcations. All but one of the frauds were connected with supplies sent to the South Western Hotel at Exmouth. Sweeney made out documents for the despatch of the goods by the firm's lorries, and then called at the hotel in the evenings with another invoice on which lesser quantities were shown; he would explain that some mistake had been made and would remove or arrange for the removal of the balance of the goods. This balance went to another hotel in Exmouth where Sweeney was paid cash for the goods at their full trade value. In connection with the October 28th charge, Sweeney arranged for a firm of carriers to call at the brewery for the goods, which were taken to his house at Exmouth, and on that occasion no entry at all was made in the firm's books.

Mr. Rowsell said the police were quite satisfied that Mr. Duly, licensee of the South Western Hotel, was an absolutely innocent party in the matter; he did not know his house was being used by Sweeney in the frauds, and, in fact, in the end the matter came to light through Mr. Duly's enquiries as to what was happening.

Kenneth Walter Duly, licensee of the South Western Hotel, Exmouth, said he thought Sweeney had a responsible position at the brewery, and asked him to split up the rationed supplies to the house as best he could. When the goods arrived. Sweeney called in the evenings, and, handing in an invoice for a lesser quantity, removed the excess, saying a mistake had been made, or something like that.

Francis Meekings, licensee of the Beach Hotel, Exmouth, said he bought liquor, the subject of the charges, from Sweeney paying full trade prices. Answering the Chief Constable, witness agreed his reason for having bought was the shortness of intoxicating liquor he was experiencing. Some of it he collected himself or arranged to have it collected from Mr. Duly's house. The empties went back to the South-Western Hotel.

Detective Constable Percy Noble said that Sweeney, in a statement concerning the offences, said both Duly and Meekings were innocent of any complicity in or knowledge of the frauds, which he had committed because he was living beyond his means and overindulgence in intoxicants. Before being interviewed by the police, Sweeney, having heard that enquiries were afoot, had written a confession and apology to the manager of the brewery, in which he said he wanted to make restitution.

The Mayor said the Bench took a serious view of the cases. In the ordinary course they would have sent Sweeney to prison for six months on each count, but in view of his previous good character the sentence would be four months' imprisonment in the second division, on each count, to run concurrently. "We should like to say," said the Mayor, "that there is no reflection at all on Mr. Duly; we think he did all he could."

The Mayor said the Bench thought if there had not been a ready market — or as one of his colleagues suggested to him, a "black market" — for the commodities this would never have happened.
Western Times - Friday 21 November 1941, page 8.

It looks like it was that last delivery that got him caught, presumably because there was no entry made in the brewery's books. But surely there must have been a discrepancy in the accounts from his earlier deliveries. Wasn't the brewery matching up the amount delivered with the amount the pub paid for it?

Were the two landlords totally innocent? Maybe. But you would have expected the one at the Beach Hotel to be a bit suspicious. Perhaps it was the fact that Sweeney worked for the brewery that convinced him everything was kosher.

But none of that is the main reason I'm writing about this article. It's one of the things that was stolen: 6 dozen half pint bottles of Lager beer. You may not remember this, but the St. Anne's Well Brewery was one of the first I found advertising a Lager, at the very early date of 1881. Its last appearance in newspaper ads was 1892. I wondered, was it a real bottom-fermented Lager and did they stop making it in the 1890's?

I've not answered those questions, but it does look as if St. Anne's was brewing a Lager in the 1940's. Hang on. A quick search has confirmed that they were still brewing Lager in 1914. That leads me to another question: were they brewing it right through from 1881 to 1941?

One last thing: the price of the Lager. £2 18s 6d for 6 dozen bottles is 9.75d per half pint. Which is pretty damn pricey. I wonder if that includes the deposit on the crate and bottles? Because in 1942 the wholesale price of Barclay Perkins bottled Lagers was 7.5d per half pint for Light Lager and 9d for De Luxe Dark Lager.

1 comment:

Barm said...

Was nobody keeping records of empties? The Exmouth must have returned more empties than they'd bought? And why would they have agreed to take empties from another pub?