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11-01-2018, 07:26
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Wartime restrictions and regulation of the brewing trade didn’t end with the Armistice. In particular, price control continued until 1921.

That the authorities took the regulations seriously is clear from this report of prosecutions for selling beer at too high a price.

“Publicans and Bottled Beer Prices. — Three cases of overcharging for bottled beer were dealt with by Sheriff-Substitute Orr at Edinburgh Sheriff Court yesterday. James Archibald, spirit merchant, 94 High Street, Fisherrow, pleaded guilty to selling to a Food Inspector a bottle of "Bass" of the original gravity of 1054 degrees containing 15 fluid ounces at 10d., which was in excess of the maximum price of 7.5d. and also that he had failed to post a notice in his shop showing the retail price of beer. Mr H. Millar, solicitor, stated that prior to 1st March last publicans were entitled to sell Bass and other bottled beer at 11d., and that the general practice was to charge 10d. Under the new Order the control charges were based on imperial measurement. The authorities, however, did not appear to be cognisant of the way beer was sold in Scotland — namely, by reputed pints. The imperial pint was defined as 20 fluid ounces, and the half-pint 10 fluid ounces, whereas the Scottish reputed pint came out to between 12 and 13 ounces. In Scotland the bottles were all of different sizes, and to comply with the regulations the publicans would require to measure every bottle to arrive at a correct price according to the schedule. The Procurator-Fiscal stated that the trouble arose out of the difficulty caused by the reputed pint bottle. But the Local Authorities had agreed with the trade that bottles containing 12.3 ounces could be sold at 8d., which left a slight margin in favour of the trader. Unfortunately certain publicans were selling at a higher figure. His Lordship imposed a fine of £1. Fred A. Lumley, Imperial Hotel, 143 Leith Street, Edinburgh, pleaded guilty through an agent to selling by the hands of a servant a bottle of stout of the original gravity of 1054 degrees containing 11.5 fluid ounces at 10d., the maximum price being 7d. The agent explained his client was unaware of the new Order. The licence-holders were disputing with the Food Controller the question of the new schedule. His Lordship observed that Scotland seemed to be, as usual, ignorant of the passing of the new Order. A fine of £3 was imposed. This fine was also imposed upon Malcolm Urquhart, Waterloo Bar, Waterloo Place, Edinburgh, who had sold through a servant two bottles of lager beer of 1046 degrees, each containing 13 fluid ounces, at the price of 10d., the maximum being 7d. He had also failed to exhibit a notice showing the retail price of beer.”
The Scotsman - Tuesday 27 April 1920, page 4.
I really don’t get the defence of not knowing about the new Orders, because they raised the maximum prices in April 1920.

The reputed pint defence is a more interesting one. Reputed pints and reputed quarts had been common bottle sizes in the 19th century, not just in Scotland but in England, too. And even further afield than that: the reputed pint was also in use in Australia and lives on in the Victorian schooner. By the time of WW I, Imperial measures seem to have been the norm in England.

Claiming that every bottle was a different size is also an interesting line to take. How the hell did they know how to price anything if that were the case?

The Imperial Hotel was demolished in 1973. In its later days it seems to have sold William Younger’s beers. Its site is now occupied by John Lewis. The Waterloo Bar is still going strong.

This is the final incarnation of the Beer Price Orders, which was in force when the offences were committed:

Sales of Beer by Retail in a Public Bar or for Consumption off the Premises.

Beer by gravity
Bottled Price per

price per pint
half pint

Under 1020º

1020º - 1027º

1027º - 1033º

1033º - 1039º

1039º - 1046º

1046º 1054º

above 1054º


"The Brewers' Almanack 1928" pages 100 - 101.

The maximum prices given in the article do seem to be taking into account the the bottle size was a reputed, rather than an Imperial, pint.

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