Some of the most interesting of Charles Booth's interviews, taken in the East End in the 1890s, were those with publicans and former policemen. Which discussed the unwritten - and often technically illegal - rules of interaction between the two.
The relationship between the beat bobby and landlords was a complex one. Publicans were keen to keep the local constables onside, to be sure of help dealing with unruly customers. For which the policeman was rewarded with a cigar. Or a free drink or two. The latter being very much against the law, if he was on duty.
Paying the police - again very illegal - was also common. A Mr. Cox, who owned five pubs, including the Pembury Tavern admitted: "Every week he pays 1/- per week to the police as "call money".
Knowing this, I'm pretty sure that there was an existing relationship between landlord and policeman in this case.
"3 KNOCKS AT PUBLIC HOUSE DOORThere were good reason for maintaining good relations with your local copper when you were a publican. They could make your life very difficult and potentially take away your livelihood. Which is why Mrs. Eales "not like to refuse the police constables".
P.C. GIVEN BEER OUT OF HOURS
Police-Constable Joseph William Taylor of the Liverpool City Police Force, Cherry-lane, Walton, was summoned at Liverpool Police Court, today, accused of having consumed liquor outside permitted hours, while on duty, at a publichouse in Bevington-hill at 10.25 p.m. on August 22. He pleaded not guilty.
Mr. J. E. Bishop, prosecuting, said that at 10.25 p.m. on this date a plain-clothes sergeant on duty saw Taylor, who was also on duty, go to the side door of the public-house and knock three times. The door was opened by the woman licensee, and the sergeant heard the accused say, "It’s me."
The sergeant, added Mr. Bishop, then walked up to the door and gave three knocks and was admitted by the licensee. The sergeant searched the premises and found Taylor hiding behind a curtain in the saloon bar with a pint glass of beer in his hand.
Mr. Bishop said, "I must suggest that Taylor rather forced his way into the premises and somehow persuaded the licensee to supply him with drink."
Taylor, in evidence, said he did not consume any drink on this night. He admitted, in cross-examination that he was about to drink it.
Police-Superintendent C. S. Wheeldon said Taylor had a good character. He had been awarded a medal for stopping a runaway horse.
The Stipendiary fined Taylor 10s.
DEMAND FOR LIQUOR ALLEGED.
Mrs. Lily Eales, aged 36, licensee of a public-house in Bevington-hill, pleaded guilty to having aided and abetted Taylor to consume the liquor.
Mr. Bishop said that a policeman in uniform came into the public house and "practically demanded” that he should be supplied with liquor.
Mr. R. K. Milne, defending, said Mrs. Eales was in a quandary. She did not like to refuse the police constables.
The Stipendiary said that in view of what he had been told he would dismiss the summons with a caution against Mrs. Eales, on payment of 4s. costs."
Liverpool Evening Express - Thursday 11 September 1941, page 1.
That the constable said "it's me." is another giveaway. It clearly wasn't the first time this had happenend. It seems an amazing coincidence that the plain clothes sargeant, also on duty, should have randomly been on the spot. My guess is that they knew Taylor was drinking on duty and deliberately trapped him. Which would also explain why the prosecution was very leniant on the landlady.
Knocking three times was obviously a signal.