View Full Version : Shut up about Barclay Perkins - London Pubs in the 1850's (part two)

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06-04-2013, 08:23
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We're continuing with George Dodd's description of London pubs. This time considering the licensing system.

I'm shocked that bribery was once the way to get a licence.

"Mr. Lawson draws attention to a few facts that strikingly illustrate the defects of the public-house licensing system in past years. It was found in the year 1817, by a Parliamentary Committee, that the ordinary mode of obtaining a license in the metropolis was to give the beadle of the parish a bribe of a few shillings, whereon he produced the signature of the 'clergyman of the parish,' or of the other persons whose recommendation was essential. Public-house licenses were obtained in various other ways, with a scandalous disregard to public necessity, and merely by the influence of builders, landlords, and others, who had an object in enhancing the value of property. At the period in question, in High Street Shadwell, there was one public-house to every twelve other houses; in New Gravel Lane one to eight; in Lower Shadwell one to six; in Norton Folgate there were twenty-four public-houses to 1752 inhabitants, being one to every 73 persons; in Whitecross Street, within a length of 300 yards, there were 23 public-houses.*"
* Merchant's Magazine, 1853.
"The food of London" by George Dodd, 1856, pages 472 - 473.
"Good old Shadwell, the Kennel is our place, Shadwell never, ever, ever shall lose face." No wonder they sing that there are that many pubs in Shadwell. I want to move there now. No, not now. I want to move there 160 years ago. There hardly seem to be any pubs there today. How sad.

"This licensing, whether intended as a source of revenue or as a measure of moral police, extends throughout the malt-liquor trade. There must be a license for a public brewer, a license for a victualler or publican, a license for one who sells beer 'to be drunk on the premises,' a license for one who sells beer 'not to be drunk on the premises;' and in addition to these there are licenses for spirit-sellers and for wine-sellers. The whole number thus amounts to something considerable — not less than 270,000 licenses in the United Kingdom, granted to these dispensers of beverages. In 1830, a change was made, whereby the excise could grant licenses as well as the magistrates; hence arose the beer-shops, and hence the establishment of new ale-breweries, and hence the brewing of ale by the great porter-brewers.
"The food of London" by George Dodd, 1856, page 473.
I've mentioned the 1830 Beer Act as the catalyst for Porter brewers to move into Ale brewing. But what direct evidence is there? I don't think I've seen any, just supposition. Though I can understand why, in a pub where only beer could be sold, that a brewery might want to be able to supply every type, rather than just Porter and Stout.

270,000 licences connected to drink? That's a huge number. According to the 1851 census, there were 27,393,337 people living in the UK. Which makes one drink licence for every 101 people. I'd definitely count that as "something considerable".

"In relation to the metropolis only, the number of public-houses is of course enormous — intended, as they are, to supply malt-liquor to two million and a half of drinkers. In London, the licensed victuallers are probably about 4500; while the beer-sellers are somewhat over half this number — very likely 7000 altogether, equal to one in about every 45 houses, or one to 350 inhabitants."
"The food of London" by George Dodd, 1856, page 473.
I feel it's my duty, where possible, to verify numbers like these.

Brewers, Vuctuallers, etc 10th October 1848 to 10th October 1849, England

number of persons
Number of persons who brew their own beer

licensed to sell beer

licensed to sell beer

To be drunk on the premises
Not to be drunk on the premises
To be drunk on the premises
Not to be drunk on the premises
Bushels of malt consumed by the whole




"Statistics of British commerce" by Braithwaite Poole, 1852, page 4.

Victuallers are fully licensed publicans, so his guess of 4,500 is only a couple of hundred out. He reckoned about 2,500 beer houses, which is a gain a few hundred higher than the real figure of 2,054.

While I've got this table here, see what a disproportionate amount of the country's beer was brewed by a few big London breweries. Just 79 breweries consumed almost a quarter of the malt used in brewing.

And note the huge difference between pubs in London and elsewhere: breweries. Only 51 pubs in London brewed, compared to more than 38,000 in the rest of England. With 2,362,200 inhabitants in 1851, London contained 13% of England's population (17,982,849 in total).

Next time we'll be looking at pub names.

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