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The Great War (1914-1918) Forum

Remembered Today:

Pubs Closing at 9.00 p.m. in Nottingham, Derby, etc.


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As is well known, pub opening hours were restricted during the Great War. However, controls were introduced piecemeal and never applied universally. Within parts of the East Midlands, an order was made on 5th January 1915. It read as follows:


"I, Major J.A. Reeks, being a Competent Military Authority, in pursuance of the powers contained in the Defence of the Realm (Consolidation) Act, 1914, and of all other powers thereunto enabling.

"Do hereby order that all licensed premises for the sale of intoxicating liquor within the areas specified in the schedule shall be closed for the sale of intoxicating liquor to any persons not resident therein at 9 p.m., and shall also be closed as respects the members of His Majesty’s forces except during the hours between 12 noon and 1 p.m. and the hours between 6 p.m. and 9 p.m.


"1. – So much of the County of Derbyshire and borough of Derby as is situated within a radius of three miles of the Market-place, Derby.

"2. – So much of the County of Derbyshire and Borough of Chesterfield as is situated within a radius of three miles of the Market Place, Chesterfield.

"3. – So much of the County of Derbyshire and village of Baslow as is situated within a radius of three miles of Baslow.

"4. – So much of the County of Derbyshire as is situated within a radius of three miles of the town of Buxton.

"5. – So much of the County of Derbyshire as is situated within a radius of three miles of the building known as the Hayes, Swanwick.

"6. – So much of the City of Nottingham and County of Nottinghamshire, as is situated within a radius of three miles of the Market-place, Nottingham.

"7. – So much of the County of Notts. and Borough of Newark-on-Trent as is situated within a radius of three miles of the Market-place, Newark-on-Trent.

"8. – So much of the County of Notts. as is situated within three miles of the town of Retford.

"Signed at Derby this 5th of January, 1915.

"J.A. REEKS, Major

Commanding 45th R.D."

The response of the trade was hardly positive. Having already lost business through higher taxation, pub landlords felt themselves to be discriminated against compared to private clubs and unfairly stigmatised as damaging the war effort.

John Stringfellow, secretary of the Nottingham Licensed Victuallers' Association, whilst guilty of special pleeding to an extent, saw little justification for the action, as business had already been affected by the war. "It will be a most disastrous thing not only for publicans, but for many other people as well," he said.

"The sale of beer has already gone down from 40 to 60 per cent. Since the imposition of new duties, and that followed on the previous slump caused by the outbreak of war. The order will throw hundreds of men out of a job, for the greater part of the business is done between half-past eight and eleven, and it is safe to assert that all the 490 houses affected employ extra barmen at night. These won’t be required now. We regard this order as quite unnecessary. Nottingham is not a military area, there has been no exceptional drunkenness – indeed, the police returns show that there has been a substantial decrease – great numbers of men have gone away, and Christmas leave has expired. In any case, the authorities might at least have waited until the military are stationed here. And why is not the order applicable to clubs? Clubs may sell the most inferior spirits, because they don’t come under the provisions of the Food and Drugs Act.

"The whole of the ratepayers will suffer in consequence of the reductions that will have to be made in the assessment of licensed property, and the lessened consumption of the Corporation’s gas and electric light.

"The order comes as a thunderclap to us in Nottingham. We should have been prepared to abide by any suggestions that the authorities might have made in regulating the conduct of our houses, but this drastic step, affecting not only soldiers but civilians, will ruin many people. Already a lot of the brewery workers are on short time.

"A good deal of general inconvenience will be caused too. If the houses are closed at 9, those friendly societies which meet on licensed premises will have to find new quarters, for many of the lodges don’t assemble until nine o’clock. One of the most serious results of the order will be to multiply clubs."

Source: ‘The Mansfield Reporter and Sutton-in-Ashfield Times’, 8th January 1915.

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So a big sigh of relief for the "Chequers Inn" on High St in Uckna then. :whistle: Bronno.

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Very interesting piece Jim. It concurs with much that happened here in Denbighshire. I've not come across references to clubs here - but Wrexham and the NE Wales coalfield certainly had plenty of them. The standard of beer and spirits sold in those clubs WOULD haver come under local anti-profioteer measures run by the local constabulary - and the police courts would have taken action against a club, a pub, a baker etc who contravened those local standards. (Basically understrength liquours and contaminated food and drink, as well as meat in meals sold on the official non-meat days.)

Here, beer sales were also slightly down, and landlord and customer behaviour at an all time high. The police superintendant's quarterly report to the court often stated a nill drunkeness return, and impecable landlord behaviour during 1915-18; and the reason given that the "worse behaved clients were now enlisted in the army".

Your statement that the sale of beer had gone down 40-60% is not reflected here. By 1914, all pubs reported a healthy trade with an increase in consumption. But this needs to be put in perspective of 1905 - 13 events here - the effect of the religious revival of 1905, and the growth of temperence which saw immense pub closures. In my home town of 5,000 souls in 1904, there were 48 licensed drinking houses. By 1913 that was reduced to 12 - the same number as today.

Closure at 9.00 doesn't seem to have been an issue. Though I've one report of a village bobby loitering in a hedge observing the lights in the pub continuing to shine well past midnight, and another report of two men setting off fireworks at last orders, waking up the street into believing that they were being bombed by Gothas. This in rural Denbighshire. Both were fined 10/- each.

Home front material is absolutely riveting! :)


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Here's an example of the consequences of this restriction on hours (taken from a piece I wrote some time back):

"At 8.00 p.m. on 8th October 1915, Grainger had just finished his shift at the pit. He only had an hour’s drinking time left before closing at 9.00 p.m., so he wasted no time and drank, probably a little more swiftly than usual, about three or four pints. A regular drinker, he thought he could manage that without much trouble but P.C. Whitsed disagreed, charging him with being drunk, causing a nuisance and, possibly his greatest embarrassment, having to be taken home by his mother-in-law.

"He duly appeared before the magistrates on 16th October, when he strongly denied being the worse for wear. As he said, “How is it possible for a man at work until 8 o’clock to be supplied with enough drink before 9 o’clock to make him drunk?” Deputy Chief Constable Harrop said that he didn’t know but that he didn’t know Grainger’s capacity either! A fine of 12/6d was imposed."

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Thanks, Geraint.

Hucknall has always had a bit of a reputation as a place where, despite the efforts of zealous temperance campaigners in days gone by, people have always drank a little more than is wise. And just before the war, the 'Jolly Colliers' was closed because of, well, too many 'jolly' colliers enjoying more than they ought. The Council was run by Liberal Non-Conformists, so there was no lack of enthusiasm for temperance at official levels, at least. However, you get an idea of how some people viewed the place in the years before 1914 with this account:

“It is Saturday afternoon, and as you walk along the street every passer-by stares you, open-mouthed, in the face; and turns back to look at you. At the doors of the frequent public-houses the loungers are clustered together discussing a football match in a language that is full of colour but monotonous in its redness; and in the atmosphere of the place, there is something that makes you thankful you will not be staying into the rowdy, drunken night which lies ahead.”

As always, though, such reports were 'coloured' by the correspondent's viewpoint and Hucknall's relationship with drink has either been down-played or exaggerated, depending on which side of the argument they stood.

There were quite a few reports of drunkenness during the war but there is no doubt that these were comparatively rare - fewer than before the war and, very probably, because a lot of those who made regular appearances before the magistrates had, as in Denbighshire ('Old Scroatch' Hutchinson comes to mind) enlisted. Having said that, what could get you arrested then would probably hardly merit a policeman's attention today!

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Jim - I know that the non-conformist predominance of Wales may be an additional dimension here - but did a religious revival effect Notts and Derby over the turn of the century. I know that Birmingham underwent a revival at that time. What about the effect of teetotalism? Wrexham being a heavy industry coal and minerals area had a heavy and dire drink reputation which was kept in control to a large degree by the chapels.

I'm sure that I've read somewhere that the DORA acts also regulated the strength of beer. Wasn't it reduced to 3.7 vol at that time? Ie only small beer was brewed and sold?

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I'm not sure whether there was a 'revival' to be honest. Hucknall's councillors and the MPs in the immediate pre-war and war years were ardent temperance campaigners but this didn't seem to have too much effect - at least based on the evidence from the local newspapers of the time (and the founder and editor never carried any adverts for alcohol during his 50+ years at the 'Dispatch').

Our wartime MP, Leif Jones, was actually a prohibitionist. He was known as 'Tea-Leif Jones' and described as a man who 'would run a mile from the smell of a bottle of beer' by the then Mansfield MP, Sir Arthur Markham. But I don't think the coalminers paid that part of his political views too much attention!

You're quite right that beer was weakened under DORA. So-called 'Government Ale' was satirised in a song by Ernie Mayne - 'Lloyd George's Beer'. You can listen to it here: http://www.ww1photos.com/LloydGeorgesBeer.html.

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Excellent link. Hadn't come across that one before! I'm a humming it!

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I think that many brewers continued to brew week beer for many decades after WW1. I recall,but I have had a few bbers since then so I may be mistaken.when beer in the 70's & 80's was only about 3.4 to 3.7% abv. In the 80's i was drinking the stronger German & Dutch Beer.

The revival of Cask conditioned ale and the increas in small independent brewers producing quality beer with abv above 4% is a fairly recent phenomenon althogh some older brewers did produce stronger +3.7% "special" beers.

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