the history of yeovil's pubs





drinking laws

How the government has perpetually controlled our drinking habits



Theodore, 7th Archbishop of Canterbury decreed that "a Christian layman who drank too much would have to do 15 days penance".


Ina, King of Wessex, made laws setting up alehouses, the successors to the Roman tabernae.


Ecbricht, Archbishop of York, issued Canon No. 18 ordering 'that no priest to go to eat or drink in Taverns'.


Possibly the first legislation attempting to standardise weights/measurements, by King Edgar the Peaceful (959-75). "And there shall be one system of measurement, and one standard of weights such as in use in London and Winchester."

Influenced by St Dunstan, then Archbishop of Canterbury, he closed many alehouses by limiting each village or small town to only one such house. Edgar was also responsible for the introduction of cups with pins or pegs. The drinker was supposed to be limited to drinking down to a peg inserted inside the drinking horn, but this became the occasion for drinking contests - an early example of how drink legislation can back-fire. This possibly gave rise to the phrase 'to take someone down a peg or two’.


Archbishop Dunstan issued Canon 26 'Let no drinking be allowed in church' and in Canon 58 ordered that 'no priest be an alescop, nor in any wise act the gleeman'. (An alescop was a musical reciter in an alehouse, a gleeman was a minstrel).


King Aethelred II, the Unready (c968-1016) issued his third code of laws which were concerned with the penalties for breaches of the peace. One of these specifically referred to trouble in ale-houses: 'In the case of breach of the peace in an ale-house six half marks shall be paid in compensation if a man is slain and twelve ores if no one is slain."


The Domesday Survey. Many important houses are mentioned, as well as towns and villages and their tithes. 38 vineyards are mentioned in the Domesday Book.


Decree from Bishop Anselm: 'Let no priest go to drinking bouts, nor drink to pegs'.


First record of ale being exported. Thomas Becket, then Archdeacon and Chancellor, was sent to France to seek a French princess for Prince Henry and took many gifts. 'Two chariots were laden solely with iron-bound barrels of ale, decocted from choice, fat grain, as a gift for the French, who wondered at such an invention: a drink most wholesome, clear of all dregs, rivalling wine in colour and surpassing it in flavour.'


Henry II introduced the first national levy on the malt liquor trade. He used it to finance the war against Saladin. Payment of one tenth of 'moveables' (stock-in-trade). This was known as the Saladin Tithe.


The earliest known statute concerning the foreign wine trade decreed that Anjou wines were not to be sold for more than 24s a tun and Poitou wines no higher than 20s. Other French wines were limited to 25s. It was decreed that twelve honest men in each town were to superintend the assize.


The Abbot of Battle was recorded selling cider, a luxury drink at that time.


Magna Carta, Article No. 35, 'There shall be standard measures for wine, ale and corn....'


Another national levy on the malt liquor trade (see 1188), this time one fifteenth of 'moveables'.


An Act of Edward I's reign stated 'If an Innkeeper keep his house open after curfew, he shall put his surety for the first time his hanap (his set of measures) of the Tavern. He will forfeit for any second offence' (meaning he could no longer sell liquor).


Giles of Bridport, Bishop of Salisbury, forbade the drinking of scot-ale and ordered the priests under his jurisdiction to close the forest houses.


The Assize of Ale in 1266 was the first government attempt to regulate ale prices and reflected the Crown's concern to peg them to the price of corn. 'When a quarter of wheat was sold for 3s. or 3s.4d., or 24d. and a quarter of oats for 15d., brewers in cities could afford to sell two gallons of ale for 1d. and out of the cities three gallons for a penny; and when in a town three gallons are sold for a penny, out of a town they may, and ought to sell four.'


An Assize of 1276 stipulated that 'a gallon of ale to be sold for three farthings and another for a penny and no dearer.' This is the first suggestion that two grades of ale at different prices could be sold to the public.


An Assize of 1277 asserted. that no brewster henceforth sell except by true measures viz., the gallon, the pottle (half gallon) and the quart. And that they be marked by the seal of the Alderman, and that the tun be of 150 gallons and sealed by the Alderman.' This is probably to be the first statutory reference to the need for brewsters to have properly stamped measures for selling large or small quantities of ale.


"Because there are more taverners in the realm than were wont to be, selling as well corrupt wines as wholesome, and have sold the gallon at such price as they themselves would, because there was no punishment ordained for them, as hath been for them that sell bread and ale, to the great hurt of the people, that wine must be sold at reasonable prices, and that the wines should be tested twice a year - at Easter and Michaelmas, oftener if needful - and corrupt wines poured out, and the vessels broken." The testing of wine and ale saw the introduction of the ale-taster.


Wine taxes were increased 'on a great emergency' because Edward III wanted 'a vast sum' to pay the subsidies which he had granted to his allies.


A bill was passed compelling brewers to charge reasonable prices for ale, or to return double the charge.


Magistrates were charged to inquire into the 'deeds and outrages' of hosteliers and to deal summarily with them.


An Act confirmed the 1248 one and decreed 'if a Tavern Keeper keep his house open after curfew he shall be put on his surety the first btime by his hanap of the Tavern, or by some other good pledge therein'. A second offence meant that his license was withdrawn.


Richard II ordered that alehouses must exhibit a sign. This law included the following words: "Whosoever shall brew in the town with intention of selling it must hang out a sign, otherwise he shall forfeit his ale." This was directly connected with the statutory obligation of summoning an ale-taster - see 1330.


First record of beer (made with hops) being imported; it came in through Winchelsea harbour and was not for sale, but for Dutch merchants working in England.


First record of hops being successfully grown in England.


Brewers were ordered to regulate the price of ale according to the cost of a quarter of malt; the price ratio was ¼d. per gallon to every shilling of the cost of a quarter of malt. Thus, when malt cost two shillings a quarter, a gallon of ale cost ½d. and so on.
Retailers were warned that 'Ale is not to be sold until it has been tested by the ale testers... measures to be sized and sealed.'


A Statute was made this year ordering that the contents of vessels of wine and oil could not be sold till ‘gauged’ and that malmsey should in future be imported only in butts of 126 gallons. These measures were for the prevention of frauds on the revenue


Henry VII passed a law that no Gascony or Guienne wines should be imported into any part of his dominions unless in English, Irish or Welsh ships using English, Irish or Welsh sailors


In order to counteract the duty of four ducats a tun imposed by the Venetians, Henry VII decreed that 'every merchant stranger (except English born) bringing malmseys into this realm, should pay 18 shillings custom for each butt, over and above the custom aforetime used to be paid' The price of the butt was fixed at four pounds.


Henry VIII's Statute of 1495 ensured that Justices of the Peace were empowerd against vagabonds and beggars "to reject and put away common ale-selling" at their discretion, and to take surety of the keepers of ale-houses. This gave any two justices the power to suppress useless alehouses as part of a policy of discouraging indoor games, which diverted the people from archery. However within half a century the problem became drunkeness itself rather than its effect on archery skills.


Edward VI's Act of 1552 was introduced 'For Keepers of Alehouses and Tiplinghouses to be bound by Recognisance' as a means of dealing with the problem of drunkenness. 'Parliament requires all alehouses to have a license from the justices of the peace'  and for the first time the Justices had the power to choose the licensee. Execution of the Act was inconsistent and evasion was, apparently, widespread. The act specified no term for the license but it became usual to require an annual renewal.


The Act of 1553 was enacted to avoid the excessive prices of wine - "the avoiding of many inconveniencies, much evil rule and common resort of misruled persons used and frequented in many taverns of late newly set up in very great number in back-lanes corners and suspicious places"


The export of beer was prohibited to conserve supplies of wheat and other corn for home requirements.


First order banning gambling in alehouses was issued by the Manchester Court Leet.


A government survey was initiated for fiscal purposes in over 30 counties. The survey showed that there were 17,595 drinking houses with 86% classed as alehouses, 12% as inns and 2% as taverns. Extrapolation gives 24,000 alehouses for a population of 3.4 million which is the equivalent of one alehouse per 142 inhabitants


The Ordinance of Vintners revealed that quart, pint and half-pint pots marked to show their capacity were compulsory.


A Statute was passed that required that 'no innkeeper, common brewer, or typler shall keep in their houses any fewel, as straw or verne, which shall not be thought requisite, and being warned of the constable to rid the same within one day'. The Act was nominally against the danger of fire, but in reality it was intended to prevent tipplers from having the means of conducting furtive brewings.


James I decreed that all innkeepers, under pain of fine and imprisonment in default, were to sell one quart of the best beer for 1d. and two quarts of small beer for the same price. The fine for those who did not was 20s., which was to be given for the relief of the poor of the parish.


James I 'By the laws and statutes of our Realm' ordered that -

1. The keeping of alehouses and victualling houses is none of those trades which is free and lawful for any subject to set up and exercise; but uninhibited to all save such as are thereto licensed - Whereas the ancient, true and principle use of wine, alehouse and victualling house was for the receipt, relief and lodging of wayfaring people travelling from place to place and for the supply of the wants of such people as are not able to make their provision of victuals and not meant for entertainment or harbouring of lewd and idle people to spend and consume their money and time in lewd and drunken manner; it is enacted that only travellers, and travellers' friends, and labourersfor one hour at dinner time, or lodgers, can receive entertainment under penalty.

2. To restrain the inordinate haunting and tippling in inns, alehouses and other victualling houses... the principal use of such places being for the relief of wayfaring men and women, and to fulfil the requirements of those unable to store victyuals in large quantities, nor for the entertainment and harbouring of lewd and idle people to spend and consume their money and time in lewd and drunken manner.'


There was a certain laxity in observance, or evasion, the Act of 1552 and so in1606 the original licensing act was strengthened by one which made it an offence for an unlicensed alehouse keeper to sell ale. "For the better repressing of Alehouses, whereof the Multitudes and Abuses have been and are found intolerable, and still do and are like to increase." The Justices were able to require licensees to close at a certain time at night, not to open on Sundays, not to allow drinkers to remain on premises more than one hour, and to impose any other condition which they thought necessary to impose.

At the same time an Act was enacted for repressing the 'odious and loathsome Sin of Drunkenness' - "Whereas the loathsome and odious Sin of Drunkenness is of late grown into common Use within this Realm, being the Root and Foundation of many other enormous Sins, as Bloodshed, Stabbing, Murder, Swearing, Fornication, Adultery, and such like, to the great Dishonour of God, and our Nation, the Overthrow of many good Arts and manual Trades, the disabling of divers Workmen, and the general Impoverishing of many good Subjects, abusively wasting the good Creatures of God."

Those who stayed at an inn for more than one hour at dinner time, unless thgeir occupation compelled them to lodge at such a place, were to be fined 3s.4d. and those actually drunk had to pay 5s. Non-payment would entail 4 or 6 hours in the stocks respectively.


In an attempt to repress the 'odious and loathsome sin of drunkenness' a brewer would be fined 6s.8d. for delivering a barrel to any unlicensed tap-house.


Licenses were required if croquet and bowls were to be played at taverns; both games were being encouraged by the publicans of the day.


The annual renewal of licenses, promulgated in 1552, was given official approval by Royal Proclamation of 1618 (James I) although it was not actually made law until 1753.


A fine of 20 shillings, or a whipping, was to be imposed for keeping an ale-house without a license.


The Civil War which began in 1642 swept away many retrictions and there followed a period of very little official restriction. The Justices stopped suppressing alehouses and freely issued new licenses. But licensing ceased to mean very much anyway, for coffee houses, which were not licensed to sell alcohol, began to sell beer.


A Parliamentary Ordinance, issued on 16 May 1643, imposed a duty rate of two shillings a barrel on all beer, including that brewed domestically, having a value in excess of six shillings a barrel. The excise on the sale of beer and ale was the single most important innovation affecting the drink trade throughout the revolutionary period and was designed to pay for the war against the King.


Charles I, at Oxford, issued a Warrant stating that he would levy the same duty on beer as that levied by Parliament.


The tax on a barrel of strong beer was increased to 2s.6d.


An Act was passed authorising Excise Officers to enter and search the premises of persons suspected of brewing, and to seize any wort or beer that was not duly declared. At the end of each week the brewer was required to attend at the Revenue Office and declare the amount of ale and beer he had produced.


The beer tax had caused people to turn to gin drinking and consequently a duty on spirits was first imposed at 11s.8¼d. per gallon in England, 6s.2d. in Scotland and 5s.7d. in Ireland.


An Act was passed restricting overhanging signs - 'No signboard shall hang across, but the sign shall be fixed against the balconies, or some convenient part of the side of the house.'


An Act for an additional Duty of Excise upon Beer, Ale, and other Liquors was enacted and intended to last for three years.

A separate Act prohibited all trade and commerce with France. This was chiefly targeted at the import of wine and brandy and
was introduced partly through hostility to France, and partly to encourage the home distilleries. In fact the Government of the Revolution, in 1689, prohibited the importation of spirits from all foreign countries, and threw open the distillery trade, on payment of certain duties to all its subjects. These measures laid the foundation of the great extension of the English manufacture of spirits. Any person was permitted to set up a distillery, on giving ten days' notice to the excise.

The Acts of this year are summarised thus -

An Act for doubling the Duty of Excise upon Beer, Ale, and other Liquors, during the Space of One Year, to 2s.9d. a barrel.

An Act for the encouraging the Distilling of Brandy and Spirits from Corn, and for laying several Duties on Low Wines, or Spirits of the First Extraction

An Act for granting to their Majesties several additional Duties of Excise upon Beer, Ale, and other Liquors, for Four Years... In order to protect trade, build up the navy and maintain the war against France


In the late 15th century the distillation of spirits was still a fairly recent development. It was confined to the Distillers' Company and a few other holders of the Royal Patent and was limited. But spirits were also imported and as part of the commercial warfare waged against France severe restrictions were placed on imports of brandy. Freedom was given to in 1690 to anyone wishing to distil and sell spirits made from English home-grown corn. The duties on such spirits were minimal and so spirits not only became cheap and abundant, but no license was required for their retail sale. At no stage was there any hindrance to consumption which increased rapidly and then alarmingly. The number of places where spirits were sold, dram shops, grew rapidly.


The tax on beer was increased to nearly 5s. a barrel and consumption fell rapidly, which further increased gin drinking. The consumption of beer drinking in London, for example, dropped from 2,088,000 barrels in 1690 to 1,523,000 barrels in 1693.


An Act for repealing a clause in a former Act relating to Party Guiles, and for the better preventing Frauds and Abuses in Brewers and others chargeable with the Duties of Excise. This repealed an earlier Clause to do with keeping strong beer until the small beer has been taken away, which was inconvenient for brewers. A duty was imposed on malt for the first time.


An Act was introduced for encouraging the consumption of malted corn, and for the better preventing the running of French and Foreign Brandy. There was no necessity for distillers to take licenses as common Alehouse Keepers as long as they did not permit or suffer Tippling in his or their Houses.


The Act of Union was passed and, not to miss a trick, the government imposed a tax on malt throughout the Union.


A tax was imposed on hops for the first time and a similar duty was levied on malt (repealed in 1862). This further encouraged the distillers of spirits, especially gin.


The 1720 Mutiny Act stated that 'all retailers who were also distillers or whose principal dealings' were more 'in other goods and merchandize than in brandy and strong waters' and who did not 'suffer tippling in their houses' were exempted from the burdensome obligation to have soldiers quartered upon them which was laid upon inn-keepers, keepers of livery stables, victuallers and retailers of strong waters within the Bills of Mortality.


It was not until 1729 that Parliament tried to alter the situation by passing the Gin Act 1729 which increased by a large amount the tax on gin and other compounded spirits and also required retailers to hold a license costing £50 per year - an enormous sum. It was easy to distil spirits which were not covered by the act and so it was rendered completely useless. The act was repealed in 1733.

The specific problem of spirit consumption having been dealt with, attention was turned to strengthening the licensing laws in general by again increasing the responsibilities and authority of the justices. The
Brewster Sessions, introduced by an act of 1729 as annual sessions at which licenses could be issued, were now made the sole source of licenses. Transfer of licenses was henceforth carried out by a procedure laid down by law. Justices who were brewers or distillers were not allowed to consider license applications. The fees payable to the Justices' clerk were fixed. A license was to be granted only for a particular house and only to the keeper of that house, who had to live on the premises. Other financial conditions were also imposed which had the effect of excluding houses of smaller ratable value, allowing only the better class houses to hold a license, the lesser houses being liable to overcrowding and squalid conditions.


The Gin Act 1736 imposed a prohibitively high duty on gin, but this caused rioting, and so the duty was gradually reduced and then abolished in 1742. This Act covered all spirits and, had it worked, would have almost amounted to prohibition. However it was ignored and consumption continued to increase.


The Act of 1743 repealed the Act of 1736 and tried a new approach, the principles of which are still followed. The licensing fee was fixed at the modest sum of £1, and the duties on manufacture and retail were made variable, to be altered as financial and social circumstances required at any particular time. The license thus became no deterrent for spirit dealers to conform with, which nonconformance had been a problem hitherto. The Justices were now able to establish a systematic registration of retailers, while the duties were high enough to put spirits mostly out of range of the poor.


licenses only to be granted to keepers of public houses for that one house only, so preventing the growth of a chain of houses. license holders were not to be grocers, chandlers or distillers.


The Glass Excise Act 1746 taxed glass by weight, which led to the introduction of lighter, more elegant, and highly decorated glasses.


The Sale of Spirits Act 1750 (commonly known as the Gin Act 1751) was enacted in order to reduce the consumption of spirits, a very popular pastime that was regarded as one of the primary causes of crime in London.  By prohibiting gin distillers from selling to unlicensed merchants and increasing fees charged to merchants, it eliminated small gin shops thereby leaving the distribution of gin to larger distillers and retailers. It effectively confirmed the 1743 Law and spirit-retailing was limited to licensed public houses.


The first act was passed requiring a special license for music and dancing in inns.


In 1753 Parliament passed a law requiring all Clerks of the Peace to keep registers of victuallers licensed in their jurisdictions. Further legislation was introduced to ensure that licenses only be granted at Brewster Sessions and at no other time of the year. That brewers or distillers were not to be Justices. The licensee was to to be of a much higher personal standing and licensees were to produce sureties in their good behaviour. Finally, the power of Justices to proceed against defaulting publicans was simplified and the transfer of licenses was tightened up.


An Act was introduced "to prohibit for a limited Time the making of Low Wines and Spirits from Wheat, Barley, Malt, or any other Sort of Grain, or from any Meal or Flour".


Beer duty was raised by 3s. a barrel, the first rise for 50 years.


An Act for "granting to his Majesty several additional Duties upon Wines imported into this Kingdom, and certain Duties upon all Cyder and Perry..  to come into force 31st March, 1763" was enacted.


An Act was introduced to explain and amend "such Part of an Act made in the last Session of Parliament ... as relates to Cyder and Perry made in this Kingdom." The Cider Bill was debated in March but there were riots recorded in 'the cider counties'.


An Act was passed ordering the removal of dangerous projecting inn signs. The old Act of 1667 seems to have lapsed, as this one no longer stipulated that they should be on the wall of the house.


An Act for "repealing the Duties granted upon Cyder and Perry by an Act made in the third Year of his present Majesty's Reign...".


Prime Minister Pitt adds another ten shillings to the brewing license fee to £1.11s.0d. minimum for up to 1,000 barrels.


A Royal Proclamation against vice and immorality was sent to all Magistrates. There was to be a general tightening up of the issuing and renewal of licenses.


The Sale of Beer Act 1795 stated that any person convicted for the second time of selling without a license would be barred from holding and further license for the retailing of spirits, beer, etc.


Beer money was introduced into the Army. A sum of 1d. a day was paid to NCOs and soldiers on home service as a substitute for an issue of beer. This was in addition to the daily rate of pay and continued until 1874, when it was consolidated into the rates of pay.


A Stamp Act was introduced increasing the duty for a Publican's License to two guineas.


An Act was introduced to prevent the abuses associated with pubs acting as houses of call and the publicans as middle-men in coal-heaving. This Act, ineffectual as it proved, is interesting as a piece of social legislation quite counter to laissez-faire principles, and also as an early attempt to prevent by Statute the payment of wages in public houses.


An official survey finds there are 48,000 licensed alehouses in England and Wales - 14,200 belong to breweries, 10,800 to occupiers, 22,700 to 'disinterested persons'.


Steps were taken to encourage cheaper beer and the home-brewer was permitted to retail his product for consumption off his premises without a further license.


The Distillery Act 1825: "No person can obtain a license for conducting a distillery, unless he occupies a tenement of the value of £20 a year, pays parish rates, and resides within a quarter of a mile of a market town containing 500 inhabited houses. Before obtaining a license, the amount of which is £10, he has to give details of his premises etc to the collector or other office of excise." The Imperial Standard Gallon was introduced; it contained 277.27 cubic inches against the 282 cubic inches of the gallon it replaced.


The Alehouse Act 1828 consolidated all previous statutes relating to the granting of licenses. There were to be not more than eight, nor less than four, special sessions held each year and no sureties were to be required.


Gradually justices began to relax their attitude towards the granting of new licenses until this relaxation culminated in 1830 in two measures designed to create free trade in beer. The first was the budget of that year which removed the tax on beer and cider. The second was the Beerhouse Act 1830 (the Duke of Wellington's Beerhouse Act), under which any ratepayer wishing to sell beer and/or cider on his own premises could do so without getting a justices' license, needing only to pay two guineas to the local excise officers (or one guinea for cider only). The bill took effect on 10th October. By the end of the year 24,342 new retailers had paid their two guineas. The first rush being over, the number of applicants continued to increase and by 1838 the number of those holding the Excise License wad 45,717. The law was not popular with the upper classes (no surprise there) but nothing except minor changes were made to the law for nearly forty years.


The Second Beerhouse Act (Knatchbull's Bill) was passed. This tightened up the qualifications required of beer sellers and created a distinction between beerhouses with off- and on-licenses for the first time, reducing the fee for the 'off' to one guinea and increasing the fee for the 'on' to three guineas..


Baiting was abolished. The keeping of any house, pit, or other place for baiting or fighting any bear, bull, dog, or other animal was forbidden.


The Limitation of Hours Act 1839 introduced a clause which allowed for the prohibition of Sunday morning opening. This was the first statutory regulation of public house hours. Public houses in London were closed from midnight on Saturday until noon on Sunday because there was more drunkenness during those 12 hours than in the whole of the rest of the week. It proved to be effective and was incorporated into local improvement Acts elsewhere. The Act forbade London drinksellers from allowing children under 16 to drink on the premises. This was extended to the whole country in 1872.


The Beerhouse Act 1840. The beerhouse rating qualifications were raised and it introduced the principle of varying statutory closing hours with population density. Proof was required that the applicant for a license was the 'real resident-holder or occupier of the dwelling house for which the application was being sought'.


The Licensing Act 1842 made the transfer of licenses from one holder to another much easier. Sunday morning closing was extended throughout England.


The Gaming Act 1845 disqualified on-licensees from allowing billiards to be played in their houses during permitted hours on Sundays, Christmas Day or Good Friday. The tax on glass was rescinded making bottling much cheaper.


Sugar was permitted in brewing; it provided additional fermentable material and was a means of varying the flavour. Although it had been used previously, its use was now legalised.


Cock-fighting was abolished. This Order was exceptionally hard to control as it was a very popular working-class sport and fights were held in many pubs. It disappeared from pubs but went on in the fields.


The tax on sugar used in brewing increased, varying from 1s.4d. to 6s.6d. a hundredweight according to quality.


The Forbes-Mackenzie Act for the better regulation of public houses fixed 11pm as the hour of closing, and differentiated between grocers who had a certificate to sell liquor for consumption off the premises, and publicans who were prohibited from selling groceries.


An Act concerning Sunday closing stipulated that "sale forbidden except between 1 and 2.30, and after 6.00, closing at 10.00, not to be re-opened until 4 am next day." Refreshment for 'bona fide travellers' was permitted, and for the first time that phrase, later so great a bone of contention, found its way into the statute book.

A further 1854 Act 'lightened' the previous legislation by ordering that Sunday closing hours were between 3 and 5; closing time to be 11.


The 1854 Act was amended slightly making pubs close from 3pm to 5pm instead of from 2.30pm to 6pm and making a final closing 11pm instead of 10pm.

These two Acts caused a drop of 4 million gallons in the annual consumption of spirits in the following year.


With the Refreshment Houses Act 1860 Gladstone's wine-licensing legislation, also known as the 'grocer's license', was an attempt to popularise the drinking of light foreign wines and to bring together the functions of eating and drinking.


The Public House Amendment Act 1862 was passed to make more effective the control of the sale of excisable liquors without a license. In the absence of contrary evidence any place was a shebeen which was 'by repute kept as a shebeen, or in which at the time charged, there were utensils and fittings usually found in Licensed Houses': the powers of the police were extended. The Act also prevented the hawking of liquor, etc.


The Revenue Act 1863 gave those holding 'Beer dealer's licenses permission to obtain a further license for retailing beer off the premises'.

Sunday Closing Bill 1863 was a proposal for the prohibition of 'all sale of intoxicating liquors between 11 p.m. on Saturday and 6 a.m. on Monday. It was soundly rejected.


The Sunday Closing Bill 1868 was a proposal to prohibit 'all Sunday sales for drinking on the premises, but to allow "dinner and supper beer" for home consumption to be purchased during certain hours'. This too was rejected.

A short Bill was submitted in 1868 to the Home Secretary by an influential deputation, on which the Roman Catholics were represented by Archbishop, afterwards Cardinal, Manning, supported by other religious and moderate reforming bodies, which provided that after a certain date no fresh licenses should be granted under the 1830 Act. As these licenses had hitherto been purely personal, they would practically have been extinguished in ten or fifteen years.


The Wine and Beerhouse Act of 1869 restored the obligation to obtain a Justices' license whatever the style of premises, whether on or off-license, and whether for the sale of beer, wine, cider or spirits. The justices were not allowed to refuse either renewal of a license for an existing beer shop, or the grant of new beer and wine off-licenses, except on certain specified grounds. This could be if the applicant had failed to produce evidence of good character, that the house or adjoining house occupied by the applicant was of a disorderly character or frequented by thieves, prostitutes or persons of bad character. Refusal could also be on the grounds that the applicant had previously lost a license through misconduct or that the applicant or the house was not duly qualified as required by law. The Justices' discretion in the grant of new beer and wine on-licenses was complete but without definite guidance on the use of the new powers they rarely refused licenses and so the expected marked decrease in the number of premises with a license did not happen.


The Licensing Act 1872 enacted various regulations and offences relating to alcohol, particularly licensing of premises. Most parts of the Act have been superseded by more recent Licensing Acts, but some parts remain in force. In particular, the Act created an offence of being drunk in public, propelling a horse, a cow (or other cattle), a steam engine, or a loaded firearm. The Act -

  • restricted the closing times in public houses to midnight in towns and 11 o'clock in country areas.
  • regulated the content of beer. (One of the most common practices was to add salt to the beer, which increased the thirst and therefore sales as well).
  • said that licensing hours were to be determined by local authorities.
  • gave boroughs the option of becoming completely 'dry' i.e. banning all alcohol.

These policies were enforced by the police. It was an unpopular Act for the working classes and there were a number of near riots when police tried to enforce closing hours. Brewers resented what they saw as an attack on their independence and profits; others disliked the Act because it interfered with personal liberty

A minor Act concerning adulteration of beer was passed. A schedule of deleterious ingredients was issued with heavy penalties for using or having such ingredients on the premises. The ingredients were - Cocculus indicus, chloride of sodium or common salt, Copperas, opium, Indian Hemp, Strychnine, tobacco, darnel seed, extract of logwood, salts of zinc or lead, alum and any extract or compound of the above ingredients.


(Dr. Cameron's) (First) Habitual Drunkards Act 1879 required that a number of retreats be set up for the admission of voluntary patients who were addicted to alcoholic drinks. Patients had to pay for their own treatment and, after agreeing to treatment, the patient was 'statutorily obliged to remain for the full period of the cure.'


The duty was taken off all materials used in brewing, but was imposed on the specific gravity of the wort.


The Truck Amendment Act 1887 forbade the inclusion of free beer in assessing farm labourers' wages, making farm home-brewing unnecessary.


Beer Tax was increased by 6d. a barrel to 6s.9d.


Second Habitual Drunkards Act 1898 was enacted that gave Magistrates the 'power to commit criminal inebriates to special reformatories'.


The number of on-licenses in England and Wales reached 100,000.


The Intoxicating Liquor (Sale to Children) Act 1901, also known as the Child Messenger Act, was passed prohibiting the sale of beer to children under 14.


The Licensing Act 1902 was intended as 'an Act to amend the law relating to the sale of Intoxicating Liquors and to Drunkenness, and to provide for the Registration of Clubs'. The police were given power to arrest anyone found drunk in the streets or any public place, including licensed premises, whilst in charge of a child under seven years of age. The husband or wife of a habitual drunkard was enabled to obtain a maintenance or separation order, and under certain circumstances a drunken wife could be committed to a retreat for inebriates. The sale of intoxicants to habitual drunkards was prohibited.


With the Licensing Act of 1904 (the Balfour Act) the intention of the government was again to reduce the number of licensed premises and the standard of those remaining to be improved. To achieve this the grounds on which a license could be refused were extended. The justices could now refer cases which they considered to be outside their remit to the quarter sessions who could refuse licenses on almost any grounds, including the fact of there being more premises than required to suit the needs of custom. The act made provision for compensation of licensees deprived of their licenses based on the difference in value between the the house having a license and the value without one. The temptation of compensation was probably the cause of several Yeovil pubs to close in the following few years as has been noted throughout this website. There has been no major legislation since 1904 but the number of premises has naturally declined for economic reasons.

Yeovil pubs known to have closed due to this act include the Anchor Inn, Vicarage Street; the Dolphin Inn, Park Street; the South Western Inn, Lower Middle Street; the Seven Stars, Bond Street and the Victoria Inn, Huish.


Licensed premises were no longer to be used as Courts, Petty Sessions, special Courts, and Coroner's Inquests. These had frequently been held in pubs, especially in country areas and many such occasions are recorded as being held in Yeovil's pubs.


The Children's Act 1908 made it ' offence to give intoxicants to children under the age of five except in an emergency or upon the orders of the doctor.' Children under 14 were not allowed in licensed bars during opening hours.


The 1910 Consolidation of Licensing Law repealed nearly all the Licensing legislation affecting England and Wales from 1828 to 1906, with the exception of certain sections relating to Excise Licenses. In the main it reproduced the existing law in a simplified form.


Initially, following the outbreak of war, the naval and military authorities were given powers to restrict hours of sale in or near harbours and in other areas. (Note - war-time Acts are not actual Licensing Acts). In August the Intoxicating Liquor (Temporary Restriction) Act 1914 was passed with similar powers to those granted to the naval and military authorities. This was intended to last for the duration of the war and for one month afterwards.

The war affected the production and consumption of alcoholic liquors by the withdrawal of materials for manufacture in order to make good the deficiency of food, by interference with transport, and by increase of prices. These changes caused a general, though unequal, diminution of production and consumption. In Great Britain a system of control was instituted which placed the trade in all its branches on a wholly different legal footing, changed its practice in many important respects, and introduced far-reaching experiments. In this procedure Great Britain stood quite alone. Restrictions were promptly enforced and the hours of sale were shortened at both ends; in the morning by fixing the time for opening at 8am or 9am instead of 6am, and in the evening by closing an hour or two hours earlier. War tax on beer was imposed on 18 November 1914, to raise revenue rather than curtail drinking. Duty on beer increased as follows: 1914 - 7s.9d., 1915 - 23s., 1916 - 23s., 1917 - 24s., 1918 - 25s., 1919 - 50s., 1920 - 70s., 1921 - 100s., 1922 - 100s. Duty on spirits (proof per gallon) increased from 14s.9d. in 1914 to 72s.6d. in 1921.

There were 183,828 convictions for drunkenness in 1914, although this reduced by 1918 to 29,075.


On 19 May the Defence of the Realm (Amendment) No.3.Act 1915 was passed which created a Central Control Board (Liquor Traffic) under the Chairmanship of Lord D'Abernon. This statute completely superseded the ordinary law within the defined limits and transferred the control of the trade from the local authorities to the Government, to be administered through a special organ called ‘the prescribed authority.' At the same time, it conferred on this authority far wider powers of action than those previously possessed by the local magistrates.

The greatest change introduced was a drastic reduction in the hours of sale. Previously these had been on weekdays - in London 19½ hours, namely from 5am to 12.30 midnight (Saturdays 12 midnight); in other English towns 17 hours, namely from 6am to 11pm; in country districts 16 hours, namely from 6am to 10pm. The Board reduced these hours at one stroke to 5½ in all districts, namely 2½ hours at midday (12 to 2.30pm) and 3 in the evening (6pm to 9pm., or 6.30 pm to 9.30pm.). Except during these hours the sale of alcoholic liquor for consumption on the premises was prohibited, and this applied to clubs as well as to licensed houses of all kinds. Three main changes effected by this. Firstly public house drinking in the morning was completely stopped, secondly drinking in the evening ceased much earlier and finally an interval of several hours was interposed in the afternoon between the morning and the evening periods of sale, so that the consumption of liquor coincided broadly with meal-times, and ceased in the intervening period.


The Beer Restriction Act 1916 limited output to 26 million barrels for the ensuing twelve months.


Beer output was limited to 10 million barrels by the Food Controller. Clearances of spirits from bond were limited to one-half of the previous year's.


In March 1919 the weekday evening hours of sale were extended half an hour by the Control Board, generally to 9.30pm and further extended to 10pm in May. Sunday evening hours were extended in July from 9pm to 10pm.


Under the Licensing Act 1921 the hours during which intoxicating liquor might be sold or supplied for consumption either "on" or "off" and whether in licensed premises or clubs, were limited to nine in the metropolis and eight (or eight and a half) elsewhere on weekdays, and five on Sundays, Christmas Day and Good Friday, except in Wales and Monmouthshire, where there was no Sunday opening. Between 9am and 10pm or 10.30pm (between 11am and 11pm in London) 2 hours interval required. Note: there were no longer any statutory "closing hours" for licensed premises

Due to agitation for removal of the Central Control Board, partly because it was indelibly associated with war-time restrictions and partly because it was felt (constitutionally) that administration should return to Parliament rather than be the subject of administrative orders relating to areas, the Board was abolished. The Act was a compromise between those who wanted a complete return to pre-War conditions, and those who wanted more stringent measures. Although the hours of sale were increased to eight on weekdays, the main war-time principles of a break in the afternoon and a morning opening time of 11am were retained (hence hours were kept in some alignment with mealtimes).


The Intoxicating Liquor (Sale to Persons under Eighteen) Act 1923 made it illegal for persons under 18 years old to buy or serve alcoholic drinks on licensed premises, but allowed the sale of beer and cider with a meal to a person over sixteen years.

I know for a fact that this Act was circumnavigated - my dear old Mum was born in 1923 and, she tells me, between the ages of about 7 to 14 had to go to the pub nearly every day to collect my Granddad's jug of beer and my Nan's bottle of Stout.


Snowden's Budget increased the duty on beer from 80s. to 114s. a barrel. The consumption of beer fell from 24 million barrels to 18 million in a year.


The Licensing (Permitted Hours) Act 1934 gave authority to licensing justices to extend the closing hour from 10pm until 10.30pm for part of a year should special circumstances or requirements dictate that it was in the public interest so to do. This was mainly for the benefit of farm workers.


The Finance Act 1942 allowed the licenses of war-damaged public houses to be placed in suspense.

You should have heard my Granddad go on about the Nazis trying to bomb his local pub, the Railway Inn at Enfield Lock (ironically, and still, known locally as "The German's" after its first landlord, a German, in 1895) - never mind them trying to bomb his house!


The number of on-licenses in England and Wales was recorded as 73,000. There were also 24,000 registered clubs (from virtually nothing in 1900).


The Hotel Proprietors Act 1956 repealed 'the Innkeepers Liability Act of 1863' and gave an 'up-to-date definition of an hotel'. Henceforth only those establishments measuring up to the new specifications were legally qualified to be called inns.


The Licensing Act 1961 was concerned with Sunday opening and the ten-minute drinking up period was introduced. An extension of 1949 London conditions that variation and extension of permitted hours for those licensed premises which provided late meals, music and dancing was applied to the rest of the country.


Reginald Maudling, Chancellor of the Exchequer, legalised the brewing of beers at home without the necessity of a license. This soon led home-brew kits being on sale in the shops.

The Betting and Gaming Act 1963 allowed games for small stakes to be played in pubs; games specified were cribbage, dominoes, and certain games of skill but Magistrates were empowered to add to the list according to local needs.


The Licensing Act 1964 was simply consolidation of some previous legislation.

Betting, Gaming, and Lotteries Act 1964 covered the use of 'one-armed bandits' and amusement machines on licensed premises.


The Road Traffic Act 1967 saw the introduction of the breathalyser.


The Licensing Amendment Act 1976 relaxed the provisions of the 1964 Act dealing with Special Hours Certificates.


Sunday opening hours revised.


Pubs allowed to stay open during the afternoon in England and Wales.


Sunday afternoon drinking allowed.


The Licensing Act 2003 established a single integrated scheme for licensing premises used for the sale or supply of alcohol, to provide regulated entertainment, or to provide late night refreshment. Permission to carry on some, or all, of these licensable activities being contained in a single license — the premises license. Responsibility for issuing licenses now rested with local authorities who took over this power from the Justices of the Peace.  The powers of the Act came fully into force at midnight, 23 November 2005.