Black Country Muse

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Alaska.
Site Owner
Posts: 1404

There was a great deal of upheaval following the English Civil War, and most were glad to see the Manarchy restored. Nobody foresaw though, that the lifting of some restrictions, would lead to problems we still have today. Largely still a rural Country in the 1690s, the growth of the industrial centres were just starting, Birmingham being the nearest to the area that would later become the " Black Country ". The tipple of choice for the major part of the population, was either Beer or Cider, although spirits were available, and one, which had appeared early, wasn't all that popular, as it tasted a bit bland. The Dutch, forever a nation with an eye on trade, took this spirit, and added the flavour of  the purple Juniper Berries. This drink they called " Geneva ", or as it became known, " Gin ". As the industrial towns grew, so did the popularity of the drink, mainly, as so much was being distilled, due to it's rather low price. The largest city in the Country, and also the most overcrowed, being London, it's not surprising that from here, the problem spread. Working and living conditions throughout the 18th century were pretty grim, no matter where you lived, and most sought refuge from the daily grind in drink. By the 1720s, Gin had become a way of life. Crime rose to staggering levels, and the sights that could be seen in most towns, would still shock most folk today.


There were reports of the dangers of excess in most of the Newspapers of the day, like the man who entered one establishment and proceeded to down two quarts of Gin, ( four pints ) in two hours. He dropped down dead immediately after this fete, but it was such a common thing, that it only warrented a few lines of type. Inquest Juries some got used to hearing other cases where the ammount consumed was even higher, one hardened drinker, only keeling over stone dead after drinking five quarts of the deadly stuff. ( 10 pints ) The price at the time was equal to three pence a pint, the drink only being served in quantities of a quart. It had several other names, " Blue ruin ",  ( the tinge given by the juniper berry ) " Mothers milk ", ( a reflection on it being most womens favourite tipple ) and " Mothers ruin ", ( which of course was the end result of too much consumption )  There's an old ryhme that sums up the situation quite well, for the women that is. " Little nips of Whiskey, little drops of Gin, Make a Lady wonder, where on earth she's bin ". To increase the attraction of the spirit, enterprising sellers set up establishments, for the consumption of the product in more salubrious surroundings, The Gin Palace. Soon, every City and town in the Kingdom had one, and it must have semed as though every citizen, even young children, were perpetualy drunk. It couldn't go on, and in 1735, the Government set up an enquiry, which resulted in the Gin Act,1736. This compelled the distillers to obtain licences, forced up the price of gin, and cosumption thankfully dropped. Not everyone though was happy, especially the workers.


Riots broke out in London, followed by others in the big Cities around the Country. Unrest was widespread, and in 1742, under tremendous pressure, and some would go to say, showing a yellow streak a mile wide, the act was repealed. Consumption shot up again, and, as predicted, so did the crime wave and being absent from work, which cost the country dear. Another act, in 1751, was better received, and only licenced houses were able to sell spirits, including of course the cheap Gin. It was still only about six pence a pint, and continued to be a source of some concern. The answer some felt, was to push the benefits of Tea Drinking, set up Abstinence Movements, and send in the Bible bashers. Surprisingly, some of this worked, for not everyone was a drunken layabout, and family life became more comfortable. Some bright spark in the 1820s, then threw a bit of a spanner in the works by suggesting that it would be a good idea to allow the sale of beer without the required Licence. Disaster was looming again. Anyone who has researched their family history, will be aware, that in every place their relatives lived, there was a Beer house close by, or they actually ran one. All you needed was a spare room, and a place to brew some beer. It was recorded, that in 1838, there were over 45,000 Beer House's in the Country, a figure, which 20 years later, had almost doubled. Something needed to done to curb the ever thirsty workforce, because the population were rapidly becoming alcoholics. Another Licensing act was proposed in 1869, only for it be withdrawn  after pressure from those making vast fortunes from the brewing industry. There wasn't any curb on the nations drinking habits, until the Great War started in 1914, and sober workers were needed to maintain production of the materials required. And so it rested there, until some bright spark thought it would be a good idea to relax the rules. Oh dear I can hear some say, here we go again, drunken antics in the streets, lewd sights to assail the eyes. yes indeed, here we are again, back to same problems of the past, and not a solutiion in sight.

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A wonderful thing is work, I could watch it all day.  ( See my Blog entry )

October 9, 2013 at 10:53 AM Flag Quote & Reply

Alaska.
Site Owner
Posts: 1404

To illustrate that it pays to be sober when working, here is a little tale from that part of the Black Country known as Commonside, Pensnett. In 1859, there were a number of Public Houses in the area, and, a lot more described as " Beer Houses ".  Non of them had a shortage of customers, including one William Bate, a local 35 year old Coal Miner. A Victorian Christmas was nothing like what we take for granted today, some folks opted to get married on this day, for it was concidered to be lucky. Just like today though, there were others who celebrated by spending the day in a Beer house, Mr Bates was of the latter variety. He worked at the Wide Water Colliery, in Commonside, and on the 25th December, he was very drunk indeed. So drunk in fact, that he mistook the fence around the mine shaft, for a fence that  surrounded a small area where the mine's horses were kept. Naturally, he climbed over this fence, and fell over 300 feet to the shaft bottom. They do say, that there's nothing like a little shock to sober a man up, but in this case, it failed. His condition would best be described as " Dead Drunk ", for dead he certainly was.

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A wonderful thing is work, I could watch it all day.  ( See my Blog entry )

September 8, 2014 at 11:49 AM Flag Quote & Reply

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