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Off Licences.

The Beer Dealers Retail Licenses' Amendment Act received the Royal Assent on August 10th 1882 before which anyone could apply for a license to sell intoxicating drinks either to be drunk on their premises or to be consumed off their premises and as long as the applicant was shown to be of good character and had no previous convictions, the license had to be approved. So as long as the applicant could supply evidence of his or her character there could be no objection to them selling beer from their own home. This lead to many towns having large numbers of places where beer could be easily obtained.

 This report from the Bath Chronicle & Weekly Gazette shows the frustration of the inhabitants and magistrates of Twerton, Bath, Somerset in 1880.

“16 Sep 1880

Western Division Brewsters Sessions

… The Rev W.S. Shaw spoke of the close proximity to premises already fully licensed, but the Chairman, while remarking that it was the wish of the magistrates to put down drunkenness, explained that if the law as to the character of the house and the applicant was complied with, the Bench, could not help themselves. The Rev W.S. Shaw replied that he was fully aware of that and he regretted it. To show that the inhabitants of Twerton did not desire to have the number of licensed houses in their parish increased, he would take this opportunity of reading the following memorial,which bore a long list of signatures:-

To the Magistrates for the Western Division of Somerset in licensing Session assembled, September 1880.

We, the undersigned inhabitants of Twerton, desire to express our general regret at the numerous applications for licenses in the Village, which are proposed to be brought before you at the approaching Session, as in our decided opinion we are already more than sufficiently supplied with places for the sale of intoxicating drinks. We therefore, earnestly hope that you to the utmost of your power, limit their increase.

1. If we may allude to the applications individually we would say; That the application to sell beer on the premises on Witenay Hill as well as off has already been refused by you three times,and we are unaware of any reason which can be assigned for asking for it now.

2. If Mr Parker Walker's application is for a license which will be additional to that of the White Hart, which his new premises enjoin, we believe it to be unnecessary and undesirable.

3.The application of Mr Martin is perfectly unnecessary, as his house is within a few yards of the Royal Oak.

4 Mr Bale's proposed licensed house will be exactly on the other side of the way from where he has held an off license during the past year, which is of itself quite unnecessary

5. Mr Walters's house in Summerlays-place is not so far distant from the Belvoir Castle, and other drinking houses as to render it at all necessary.

On these grounds therefore, we earnestly beg that you will not be disposed to grant their requests, as we have already some 20 to about 4,000 inhabitants.

Mr Butler stated that if every house in the street were to apply for an out license they could not refuse, and the Chairman said it was quite outside their legal power, -The Rev. W. S. Shaw knew that, and regretted it very much- The notices having been proved, the application was granted.

An out-license for 9 Roseberry-place, applied for by Charles Martin, through Mr Clark, was also granted.

Another for 1 Alfred-place was abandoned.”

The bench were acting under An Act agreed on 12th July 1869 to amend the law for licensing Beerhouses, and to make certain alterations with respect to the Sale by retail of Beer, Cider, and Wine.

This act made provision for the grant of licences by the excise for the sale by retail of beer and cider upon the terms and conditions therein specified:

“...For the purposes of this Act the term " beer" shall include ale and porter, and the term "cider" shall include perry.

This Act may be cited as " The Wine and Beerhouse " Act, 1869."

From and after the fifteenth of July one thousand eight hundred and sixty-nine no licence or renewal of a licence for the sale by retail of beer, cider, or wine, or any of such articles, under the provisions of any of the said recited Acts shall (save as is in this Act otherwise provided) be granted except upon the production and in pursuance of the authority of a certificate granted under this Act.Any licence granted or renewed in contravention of this enactment shall be void....

A certificate under this Act shall specify the name and address of the person thereby authorized to receive a licence, the description of licence or licences authorized to be granted to him, and whether such licence or licences is or are to be granted for the sale of beer, cider, or wine to be consumed on or off the premises, and the situation of the house or shop in respect of which such grant is authorized. It shall be in force for one year from the date of its being granted, and shall be in the form given in the first schedule hereto, or as near thereto as circumstances admit....

with regard to grants of certificates under this Act, subject to this qualification, that no application for a certificate under this Act in respect of a licence to sell by retail beer, cider, or wine not to be consumed on the premises shall be refused, except upon one or more of the following grounds ; viz.,

(1.) That the applicant has failed to produce satisfactory evidence of good character:

(2.) That the house or shop in respect of which a licence is sought, or any adjacent house or shop owned or occupied by the person applying for a licence, is of a disorderly character, or frequented by thieves, prostitutes, or persons of bad character As to transfer of certificates.

(3.) That the applicant having previously held a licence for the sale of wine, spirits, beer, or cider, the same has been forfeited for his misconduct, or that he has through misconduct been at any time previously adjudged disqualified from receiving any such licence, or from selling any of the said articles :

(4.) That the applicant, or the house in respect of which he applies, is not duly qualified as by law is required:”

However once the amendment was applied in August 1882 the same group of people in Twerton were quick to show how much they approved of the Magistrates being empowered to limiting the number of Licenses

Bath Chronicle & Weekly Gazette 14 Sep 1882
Decisions of the bench on Applications for New Licenses

“... A deputation consisting of Rev W Stokes SHAW, vicar of Twerton -on-Avon, the Rev. C.BAZELL, Mr T CARR and Mr J DAVIES attended,and have presented the following petition:-

We, the undersigned inhabitants of Twerton, over 16 years of age, beg leave to express our deep regret that so many licenses are being applied for in this parish, and our earnest hope that you will see fit to use the powers and opportunities you progress to diminish rather than increase the number of places where intoxicating drinks are sold here. We have at present 25 such places 19 with “on” and 6 with “off” licenses. With a population of just over 4,800 we have,therefore one such place to every 200 of the entire number of inhabitants, or deducting those , who , according to a school board census just taken,are 13 years of age or under, we have one for every 142. If intoxicating drinks are necessary at all we think this proportion must be acknowledged to be already far in excess of what can be considered desirable. Application is however, now to be made for four or five more, one for an “on” or “off”, the rest for “off” Licenses. With one exception they would all be situated at the eastern end of the parish where there are at present some six or seven. Some licenses have been granted by you in the past years with very considerable reluctance. We are most thankful, therefore, now to know that by the beer Dealers Retail Licenses' Amendment Act which received the Royal Assent on August 10th, licensing justices are at liberty in their free and unqualified discretion either to refuse a certificate for any license for sale of beer by retail be consumed off the premises on any grounds appearing to them sufficient, or to grant the same to such persons as they, in the execution of their statutory powers,and in the exercise of their direction shall deem fit and proper. We confidently hope, therefore that not only will the present applications for new licenses be refused by you, but some of those already unwillingly granted may be withdrawn as undesirable or unnecessary, notably one held by a man who has twice, within the last year been fined by your bench for breaches of the law in the management of his house.

Wm Stokes SHAW Vicar.

There were also appended 300 signatures of persons living in East and West Twerton.

Mr Bartlett said he supposed all those who signed the memorial were teetotalers.

Mr Shaw: I think not; I am afraid they are not so plentiful, I wish they were (laughter) The Bench then retired for consideration, and on returning the Chairman said the magistrates had made up their minds to refuse the application and he had been asked to say this, that unless it were shown that the public required additional accommodation they had decided to refuse all applications.”

So the Bench having received the memorandum acted immediately even refusing a license to a house purpose built by a brewery who offered a man with an excellent reference-

“Mr Bartlett also appeared on behalf of Joseph Thompson of 12 Stuart place for an indoor and outdoor license . The premises had been built for a brewery, on the site of the old goal, at a cost of £1,000 The applicant was a man of good character and produced a memorial signed by several persons living in the immediate neighbourhood who spoke as the necessary of the place,- The Chairman said the Bench, adhering to their previous decision, would refuse the application”

They did however grant one new license

“Mr Clark said his next application was one, the circumstances of which differed from those of the others. It was on behalf of Richard Chave, farmer of Englishcombe, for a six days' out-door license. A memorial,signed by the Vicar of the parish, a church warden, and other respectable inhabitants, was produced, praying that the license might be granted. There was no other beer house in the village of Englishcombe; one had formerly existed but it had been allowed to lapse.- The application was granted...”

When it came to renewing existing licenses they appear to act in their usual manner

“All the existing licenses were renewed, with the exception of two, against the renewal of which Mr. Supt. Morgan objected. These were the licenses of John Bale, of Twerton, and George Wrintmore of Camerton, both of whom had during the year, been fined for breaches of the law. Bale had been fined £4 in October, and £3 in August; Wrintmore had been fined £5 in Nov.- The consideration of both cases was adjourned for a fortnight.”

John BALE [593] is on our tree and so we have particular interest in his case. In 1881 he lived at 1 Alfred Place and was listed as an innkeeper however various newspaper reports including the extracts shown here show that in fact he kept a grocer's shop and at one time held a license allowing him to sell beer to be consumed off the premises.

As stated in the last report his renewal application was again heard a fortnight later and the report appeared in the Bath Chronicle & Weekly Gazette of 28 Sep 1882

“Weston Division Licensing Sessions

Deferred Licenses

Mr E.B.TITLEY appeared to make an application having reference to the case of John BALE of Twerton the granting of a renewal of whose license had been deferred because the holder had, during the past year, been convicted of offence against the Licensing laws. Mr Titley applied that the consideration of the matter should be further adjourned. The premises in respect of which license was granted were, up to the 21st instant, the property of Mr BALE, but there were two mortgages upon them for an amount far above the value of the premises. These mortgages were held by the Conservative Building Society and by Mr. J.T. WELCH, who, having an interest in the house, were anxious to take some steps to put another tenant in the house, and thus to remove the objection that now existed in the granting of the license. The Bench, after a lengthy consideration, decided to refuse the adjournment and Mr TITLEY, saying he did not appear for Mr BALE, stated his intention of not proceeding with the application for transfer. The Chairman pointed out that there were already too many licenses in the neighbourhood -the renewal was then refused”

The two convictions that John Bale had contravening the Licensing law were both recorded in the newspaper. One seemed rather harsh as John was not present when the offence occurred. Here are extracts from the reports:

Bath Chronicle & Weekly Gazette 3 Nov 1881

John Bale, a shop keeper, of Twerton holding a licence to sell “off” was summoned for having committed a breach of the licensing Act by allowing intoxicating liquor to be drunk on his premises, on the 21st Oct.

Mr E.B.Titley defended-P.S.Edwards found four men on the premises,smoking and one had a glass of beer before him. Defendant's wife was behind the counter, on which there were a quart jug and glass, each containing beer. He asked Mrs Bale a question, and she said she had given them a quart of beer for a “bit of straw” they had brought. He took the names of the men present, and one of them said “You'd better not say anything about it this time.”Mr Titley,for the defence,argued that the principal or defendant was not responsible as his consent was not proved, he being absent. He did not think that the defendant could not be held responsible in a criminal action...The magistrates fined defendant £4 including costs.-Mr Titley: I must ask your worship to instruct the clerk to state case on the probity and consent- Mr Williams (the clerk) it is not a question of law. you must give notice of appeal.-Mr Titley I submit that it is a question of law, and that there is no evidence on the point. The bench thought differently.”

 Bath Chronicle & Weekly Gazette 10 Aug 1882

John BALE of Twerton was summoned

for having, on the 27th July, sold beer which was consumed on a highway near the premises, he at the time not being licensed so sell the same to be drunk on the premises … Defendant was not there  ...

Mr Tucker said that the defence was that the beer was sold by Mrs Bale under the impression it was to be taken away. He contended that there was no evidence that Mrs Bale had connived at the drinking of the beer on the highway- Mrs Bale deposed that Robbins asked her to lend him a cup and put a pint of ale in it. She did so. She did not see the people outside, and Robbins said he was going to take the beer away- a fine of £5 was imposed.

On first reading it looks like John BALE has been falsely convicted as neither time was he present however he had other convictions for breaching the peace as in the next extract;

John BALE of Twerton, Charles WEEKS of Colerne, and George WEBB, of Thickwood, Colerne, were all summoned for having created a breach of the peace by fighting at Batheaston on 23rd March. It appeared that he defendants BALE and WEEKS quarrelled at the White Hart on the point as to who were friends and who were not. They then turned out and endeavoured to settle the matter by pugilistic means. The Bench discharged WEBB against whom there was no case and bound the others over to keep the peace.“

Bath Chronicle & Weekly Gazette 6 Apr 1882

So his character was beginning to be questioned and once he lost the license he was involved in several skirmishes which were reported in the newspapers., culminating in the chilling report below

"John Bale was summoned for committing an aggravated assault upon his wife, Louisa The clerk said that when the applicant applied for a summons, she was in a deplorable condition. He had seen nothing in the way of a black eye like it before. A letter was read from applicant's daughter, to say that her mother was ill, so that she asked for an adjournment until the following Saturday. This was granted."

Bristol Mercury November 21, 1896 at the Police Court, Bath.

They did not separate and appear together on the 1901 and 1911 censuses when poor Louisa Ann his wife was said to be totally blind for 4 and 14 years respectively.

Incidentally there were only two types of on-licence in the 1860s (1830-1869) - beerhouse (via the excise office) or alehouse (via the brewster sessions). Inns were alehouses in terms of liquor licensing. The difference between ale and beer houses is often confused - many thinking that they are two terms for the same thing.

In general alehouse (also known as full or publican's) licenses were held by pubs, large and small, that were around before the Beer Act of 1830, and beerhouses were the pubs (usually small) that opened using the new form of licence (beer and cider only) created by the Beer Act. Of course, just to confuse matters, there were new pubs that got full licences and old alehouses that downgraded to the cheaper, easier, beerhouse licences. I even know of one that opened in the early 1850s with a full licence, downgraded to a beer licence in the 1870s and remained a beerhouse until the early 1960s when the local magistrates awarded full licences to all the remaining beerhouses in their district.

Roots Chat Kellys Directory 1866« Reply #3 on: Tuesday 22 March 11 Newburychap

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