1. : The Need
This is no place to review the entire history of
English Licensing Laws. But a few "markers"
are needed to make sense of what has happened
'on the ground' - over the last couple of centuries,
at any rate.
To begin with, Justices of the Peace had exercised
their powers over "pubs" since at least 1552,
in the reign of Edward VI.
We may readily suppose that rowdiness
- following heavy drinking - was uppermost
in the minds of the Authorities, as it still is today !!
On the other hand, there has always been a limit
to what a Licensee ('Landlord') can do to control
the behaviour of customers.
For other possible reasons, for the control
exercised by J.P.s, see auxiliary notes on
of the late 18th Century.
2. : Licensing Relaxation
Clearly a "free-market" monarch, George IV
(1820 to 1830) began the relaxation of the laws;
then William IV swiftly completed the removal of
all control by the Justices in 1830.
This may well account for the large number of
"pubs" dedicated to him, in 7 short years !.
As a direct result, low-grade pubs (known as
"beerhouses") sprang up in large numbers.
By 1840 Queen Victoria had reacted : restricting
beer-houses to a minimum of £8 annual
rateable value, which thinned them out somewhat.
Somewhat later in the century, apparently a
Government "u-turn" reinstated the general
oversight powers of the Licensing Justices.
Also hours had been restricted (locally)
as early as 1848 - see paragraph 4.
3. : Proliferation
Rateable values notwithstanding, the fact remains
that full-blown pubs and beerhouses existed in
very large numbers in the mid- to late- 19th Century.
As Riddington Young points out, many 'alehouses'
(his composite term) were little more than the
downstairs room of a house where the family
lived at the brewery's expense.
He further mentions the fact, observable since the
earliest records of 1760, that publicans were seldom
full-time "victuallers", and usually had (at least)
one other trade.
Indeed this other trade often found its way into
the name ('inn-sign') of the premises - e.g.
Young's snapshot of 1870 concludes that the
total number of 'alehouses' was no less than 780.
This compares with a figure of 558
- for fully-fledged pubs only - in the 1845 Lists.
Also see notes on pub numbers.
4. : Pubs Hours
Once gaining a Licence, the landlord had -
historically - been allowed his own discretion about
opening hours; bearing in mind the threats (from
rowdiness etc.) to his continued existence, under
the terms of his licence.
But in September 1848 a local
ordinance closed the pubs at midnight!
In August 1872, a Licensing Act cut the hours to
17 per weekday i.e. from 6.00 a.m. to 11.00 p.m.
At the same time many city-centre pubs (particularly
off-licences) were not allowed to open on Sundays.
These moves may well have tended to reduce the
number of pubs; also in relation to the new
'standards' for pubs required under the 1872 Act.
But the more likely result was jugs of beer
being taken from the premises at closing-time.
See Thompson, page 29.
Continued . . .
The same arguments have persisted until the
present day. The widespread availability of beer,
in cans and bottles, from shops and off-licences,
makes nonsense of any attempt to regulate
drinking per se.
The next curtailment, under the exigencies of
WWI, was via the Defence of the Realm Act
(Aug. 1914) By 1915 closing-time had been
brought forward to 9.30 p.m.
After WWII broke out, typical opening hours
(1940s) were :-
Midday to 2.00 p.m. and 7.00 p.m. to 10.00
Other days :
6.00 p.m. to 10.30
(N.B. - no 'daytime' hours !!)
(Evidence from the Rainbow, King Street).
Closing times have been restored, to those of
the late 19th C., only in quite recent decades;
but legislation, which came into force on
24th November 2005, allows much more freedom.
5. : Redundancy
After 1872, and for the next three decades
and more, the Licensing Magistrates insisted upon
the surrender of licences of existing pubs
(often two or three at a time) before the
brewery was allowed to open a new house.
That arrangement, moreover, did not guarantee
the transfer(s); as the "trade-offs" were vigorously
fought on both sides, and refusals could hold things
up for some years.
Later, the relentless spread of Edwardian housing
would probably cause the magistrates to cave-in :
e.g. at the Lacon Arms - see paragraph 7.
6. : Forced Closures
For all that had happened throughout
the 19th Century, it was -
'generally accepted that there were more
This was Parliament's view, so it gave Licensing
licensed premises than were really justified'.
Justices the power to put the "kybosh" on houses
they considered surplus to local requirements.
Fortunately, as the title of the
Compensation Act 1904 suggests, pubs
were not simply extinguished; but the
Compensation Authority would make the
final decision - then award compensation
to both landlord and brewery.
In Norwich, the first licence expired in
January 1906, and a total of 25 houses
was "referred" in the following 12 months.
In fact, no more were settled in 1906;
but 23 were in 1907, followed by 15 in 1908.
In all, some 139 pubs were compensated under
the Act; the final "batches" being of six,
in late 1939, and three in January 1941.
After that, it was left to Adolf Hitler
to reduce the numbers!
The average 'closure' rate in the period
1909 - 1938 is almost exactly three per annum.
It is important to note that compensation did not
necessarily mean that the premises were all closed;
as some remained in business, downgraded to mere
They clearly believed in having their cake
and eating it !.
7. : Control Persists
A few well-documented cases (e.g. Lacon Arms)
illustrate that the opening of new pubs was just
as difficult in the 1920s and 1930s as it had
ever been since the 1870s.
Nevertheless, very many pubs in the 'inner-'
City areas were abandoned in favour of provision
in the outskirts of the ever-expanding City.
It is just possible that the Norwich Magistrates were
particularly severe on Lacon's brewery, now that it
was based entirely in Great Yarmouth !