Monday, 12 November 2012

Mine's a beer!

Copyright 1955 Steve Bowbrick Creative commons license
For over 150 years my family in the village of Gedling were market gardeners, so I was surprised to see that Thomas Oldknow Palethorpe - my great grandfather x 4 - recorded his occupation in White's trade directory for 1832 as beerhouse owner.

I speculated initially that Tom had set himself up in opposition to the village pub, the "Chesterfield Arms".  I knew that Tom had radical political leanings and wondered if he had taken against the Tory Earl of Chesterfield who was the biggest local landowner.

But further perusal through Whites revealed that in 1832 that the parish of Gedling had 7 beerhouses in addition to it's 4 pubs - that's 1 pub or beerhouse for about every 200 residents!

It seems that the explanation for this lies in a piece of legislation passed by parliament in 1830 with the aim of actually reducing the problem of alcoholism.  The 1830 Beerhouse Act permitted anyone who bought a 2 guinea licence to brew and sell beer in a shop or even in their own front room or kitchen.  The idea was that if people drunk beer in the beerhouse they would not be tempted by the evils of stronger spirits, and particularly gin, sold in fully licensed inns and taverns.

There was a massive growth in beerhouses immediately following the legislation but few survived for very long.  By 1847 the Lascelles and Haggar's directory listed just 2 "beer retailers" in the considerably expanded parish of Gedling in addition to the 6 fully licensed inns.  And great grandfather Tom had gone back to his first love - gardening.