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Victorian lives in North Mymms
by Peter Kingsford

Chapter 5
Publicans and the community

Throughout our history the public houses, whether inns, taverns, alehouses or beerhouses, have been the solace of the labourer, the frequent friend of the farmer and the tenant of the landowner. This chapter considers the relation between the publicans of the parish and those people and also that between the two great institutions of the church and the drink trade. The publican played his part in government as juror and elector and converse1y he had a relationship with the authorities who controlled him. He had his friends and his enemies.

Hertfordshire was always well provided with public houses. In 1902 the county council considered it over provided. By that year one licence for every 166 inhabitants in the county, compared with one in 326 for England and Wales, was the greatest proportion for all counties except one. North Mymms contributed to that figure. It had six public houses or one for every 261 persons, men, women and children.

Earlier on, in the mid 19th century there were the six public houses for a lower population, about to every 130 persons. Some of them had a long history.. To go back no further than 1756 at the start of the Seven Years War when, after the loss of Minorca Admiral Byng was shot ‘pour encourager les autres", the Government required a billeting return from all victuallers. It showed that at Bell Bar the White Hart had four beds and stabling for ten horses, The Bell had two and twelve and the Swan eight and twenty; in Welham Green the Duke of Leeds (later the Sibthorpe) had two and four and the Tollgate two and one, while at Water End there was the Maypole with two beds and stabling for three horses and the Tollgate had two and three. The Swan could evidently take more cava]ry than the others and this is confirmed sixty years later when it had become a farmhouse and was described as having "a Range of Stabling, Weather boarded & Tiled, containing one for Six Horses, one for a Single Horse and another for Five Horses, another Range of Stabling for Twenty Horses, divided into Six Apartments with Hay Lofts over, Brick & Tiled." That year was not the first time the Government had relied on the public houses. Immediately after the Monmouth Rebellion of 1685 the Secretary at War compiled a list of all the inns and alehouses showing the beds and stables available for troops.

While the publicans could be useful to the Government (and to a political party later on) they also had to show the authorities that they were proper persons to hold a licence. From 1552 until 1828 they had to satisfy the Justices of the Peace that they were such persons by taking up a bond of surety or recognisance for the orderly conduct of the public house. This requirement involved them in close relationships with villagers of some substance. These men were usually farmers. Solomon Baxtcr, the farmer at Potterells, was much in demand in the 1820s. Subsequently there were friendly relations with other farmers. Stracey Lake of Moffats farm took over from Baxter as John Massey’s surety, George Littlechild, Brookmans farm, stood for Thomas Speary when he succeeded to the Duke of Leeds, and farmer William Giddins supported Robert Franklin at the White Hart.

The link thus established between publicans and farmers continued. There were few other figures of sufficient standing, apart from the gentry who owned the public houses. There were also other connections. Massey had been a farmer before going down Hawkshead Lane to take over the Maypole at Water End, Welch of the Bell on the other hand, went down hill, in a different sense, and became an agricultural labourer. Publicans and farmers met and conferred regularly at the Vestry, which met to fix the poor rate for the year. The licensees of the White Hart and the Maypole served in that way in the early 1800s when churchwarden Joseph Sabine was busy reducing the rates by cutting poor relief. Both farmers and publicans could only have welcomed his efforts, though the later perhaps not so warmly if it meant the poor buying less beer. Such friendships were no doubt tested somewhat if the sureties were endangered. The White Hart was at one time in bad repute, at least according to John Byng in 1793. When he put up there for a night he was disturbed by the drunken haymakers and mine host himself, ‘Mr Mayes", was much the worse for liquor.

The publicans continued to take part in Vestry meetings, discussing parish affairs with the farmers, right up to 1894 when the Parish Council succeeded the Vestry. Henry Bodger of the Hope & Anchor and even on one occasion Mrs Hannah Bodger, George Dickens from the Woodman, Edward Woalley from the Swan and his successor Charles Chatman, William Aslett from the Sibthorp. all met at the Vestry at different times. The last named, in fact. became a councillor at the first meeting of the Parish Council in 1894. There, the same century old friendship continued as Aslett and the farmers at Potterells, Bell Bar and Moffats supported each other at subsequent elections.

Both publicans and farmers were tenants of the landowners, but whereas class united them, it divided them from the latter. The inns proper, distinct from the beerhouses were all owned by resident landowners, W C Casarnajor followed by North Mymms Place and by R W Gaussan, except for the Maypole of which the owner throughout the nineteenth century was Thomas Clutterbuck, brewer of Stanrnore.

The relationship in this case was financial one. Both publicans and farmers had in common the payment of rent to the landowner. It was not always a simple matter, as in the case of Gaussen v Charles Dawes to Eject in 1840. R W Gaussen of Brookmans had let to John Chuck Whitehead, two public houses in North Mymms, one of them the White Hart, on a yearly tenancy but then served him with notice to quit. This he could not do because he had sublet the White Hart to Charles Dawes at £21 per annum and he refused to move. Evidently Whitehead had driven a hard bargain for he retained for himself ‘the Brewhouse Store House, back cellar, Small Beer Cellar, half the Granary & malt house & the Malt Mill which is to remain in the room adjoining the Brewhouse; all the horses litter Dung in Stable Yard etc to be the property of Whitbread & can be moved ad lib; all Ale & Beer sold by Dawes he shall buy from Whitehead."

Since the publicans received their licences from the Justices of the Peace who were also landowners, one class controlled the other. The value of public houses. One of them, the Swan was described as follows some years earlier.

The Public House at Bell Bar
CALLED THE SWAN

Most eligibly situated by the side of the Great North Road, opposite to the 17 mile-stone, is a regular Station for the changing of Stage-Coach Horses, and otherwise a well-frequented House of good business; containing a good sized Parlour, Tap-Room. Bar, and small Parlour adjoining, all in front, a back Kitchen, Pantry and two Cellars, and five neat Bed-rooms and a Lumber Room.

This House is Brick and Tiled

The Out-buildings are as follows, viz:- A Stable for eight Horses brick and tiled, with Piggery adjoining; Wood Shed, posts and thatched; a range of Stabling, weather-boarded and tiled, containing one Stable with four stalls, and open Stable for five Horses, and another for four Horses, with Hen-house adjoining; an inclosed Chaise-house, and an open one.

5 - The Site of the above Buildings, with Yard and good Garden £0 1s 20d
4 - The Rick Yard behind the Garden now used with the Farm £0 1s 24d
16 - The Three Acres across the Road, adjoining the South side of Swan meadow - £3 0s 16d
Total quantity of Lot 7, all in the Parish of North Mimms £3 3s 20d

All Freehold. Appointment of Land-Tax, 3/-,The Timber, Saplings, and Pollards, on this Lot, to be paid for, are valued at 23/-. This is one of the most desirable Public House Properties that any Proprietor can possess.

The publicans were not always happy with the landowners’ terms. Charles Chatman gave up the Swan in its later years because he refused to pay an increase in rent; but that had been imposed by a later, less prudent Gaussen.

Their relationships with the labourers and the poor were more simple but sometimes more varied. This might arise because the publicans quite often had a second occupation. John Massey at the Maypole was blacksmith and farrier as well as licensee. That dual business was continued throughout the nineteenth century by generations of Masseys including Mrs Mary Ann Massey, in 1870. Andrew Bodger retailed beer at the Hope and Anchor but he also worked as a carpenter which linked him with a different set of people. At the Woodman the licensee George Dickens spread his interests as grocer. The sale of beer was not their only service to the labourers. Friendly or Benefit Societies often met in the public houses as did the Amicable Friendly Society at the Swan in the 1850s. One may speculate how much the relationship and behaviour was affected by a woman holding the licence. There were several of them. Mrs Eliza Blow of the Builders Arms in Little Heath, Mrs Hannah Bodger at the Hope & Anchor, Ann Small and Elizabeth White successively at the Swan and Mrs Harriett Dickens of the Woodman as well as Mrs Hannah Speary at the Sibthorp, all ruled the public house at different times during the nineteenth century. There is no record of their ever clashing with the law.

The law, as well as keeping an eye on the publicans, also called on their services. Occasionally Quarter and Petty Sessions met for a special purpose in a public house, The Justices held a special session at the White Hart in 1800 to consider the diversion of a road from Colney Heath via Shenley to Ridge Hill. More onerous was the liability to service as jurors. Among those who qualified for jury service by being assessed for the Poor Rate on a value of not less than £20 were the licensee at the White Hart, Robert Franklin, .James Welch of the Bell and John Massey, the farrier at the Maypole. Mixing with their fellow jurymen brought them into a wider community than the parish. Some publicans such as Edward Woolley of the Swan in the l880s also qualified as parish overseer and undertook that duty in the community. In that capacity he knew all about the values of the property and the rate assessments in the parish.

It seems that the publicans of North Mymms stood in well, for the most part, with farmers, labourers and landowners and with the law. There were, of course exceptions. The Hope & Anchor was fined in 1838 and the Bell two years after. Some forty years later the parish constable, William Cozens, was called out on three occasions to quell disturbances at the Swan. Their relations with that other great institution, the church. was another matter. A change began to take place in the mid nineteenth century as the temperance movement gathered strength.

Before that time there appears to have been no conflict between the drink trade and the church. The custom of paying a publican for beer for the church bell ringers went back to the eighteenth century and probably beyond. In 1762 the churchwardens paid Thomas Gurney of the Maypole £1 for four days’ ringing and in the following year £l 17s 6d. for eight days’ ringing. Perhaps that was to celebrate the victorious end of the Seven Years War with France. The Maypole continued to provide the church with this service. Mrs Chaffey, the licensee refreshed the ringers for eight days bell pulling in 1820 and 1821 and her successor John Massey carried on in the 1830s.

The year 1830 was a turning point in the dunk trade. A campaign to free the trade in beer, but not in spirits, from the control of the authorities culminated in the Beer Act of that year. It was also argued that if beer and spirits were sold separately and the duty on beer was removed, people would switch from gin to beer. Therefore there should be beer shops distinct from the existing public houses. The Bill was popular in Parliament and in the country; it passed the second reading by 245 votes to 29. The opposition came from the magistrates who were responsible for public order and the publicans who organised petitions against the Bill because their sale of beer would be open to competition. Colonel Sibthorp, opposing, expressed the prejudices of the country gentry. In effect, after 1830 any householder assessed to the poor rate could obtain a licence to sell beer on or off the premises simply by paying two guineas a year to the excise.

After the Act there was much criticism of its effect on law and order. The beershops, which proliferated throughout England, were said to be centres for poachers and poaching was not regarded as a crime by their customers. One drinking place for each village had been the custom but now the beershops outside the magistrates’ control had made it more difficult to supervise the labourers’ recreation. In North Mymms the first mention of one of them, the Woodman at Water End, where the Maypole had been long established as an inn, is in 1843 as a beerhouse with a blacksmith. Soon after it was in the hands of a resident brewer Robert Bradshaw. A second beersshop was by 1841 apparently conducted by James Mansfield in Welham Green. And at a third, also in Welham Green, James Hutson retailed beer. Thus Hannah Speary at the Duke of Leeds (later the Sibthorp Aims) had plenty of competition for the sale of beer and Welham Green probably had three beer sellers all to itself. The people of Roestock were not neglected; they could buy their beer from James Freeman.

The bell ringing connection with the church was transferred from the Maypole to James Hutson at the Hope & Ancbor, in 1849 - "Hutson for 6 days ringing £1 16s 0d." It was strengthened by his ability as organist for which service the churchwardens paid him £5 a year for some years. The connection of both kinds ended by 1852. It is a moot point whether this happened because Hutson gave up the beershop soon after, being over sixty five, or whether the growth of temperance views in the church was responsible. The evangelical group in the Church of England began to turn towards teetotalism. Thomas Cook had run his temperance excursion train in 1841. The Church of England Temperance Society started in 1862 and spread the message with its own magazine. By that time the Rev Horace Meyer had been vicar of North Mymms for seven years. His view was, "The public house is amongst the most formidable obstacles the Gospel has to contend with. The licensees and the beersellers perhaps reciprocated that sentiment. None of them were among the three hundred and fifty parishioners who signed the address to the parting vicar.

That conflict of interests grew sharper under Meyer’s successor, the Rev Arthur Latter, who established a branch of the United Kingdom Temperance Society in 1876. That summer he wrote in the parish magazine:

"The hay season, which is just beginning, will, of course, be a time of temptation to many engaged in it. The hard labour and the great exertion and fatigue, in what is often a very hot time of the year, make men require a larger amount of drink than they would ordinarily take. And our good friends the Farmers will be doing a real kindness to their labouring men, if they will provide for them an abundant supply of tea, with milk and sugar, which will quench the thirst, support the strength as well, and even better, than beer, and leave no injurious effect behind. Men do not get tipsy on tea; and they never feel after it the feverishness and inaptitude for work, with which many a man begins the day, when, on the previous night, his thirst has led him to take more beer than was really good for him. Several of our Farmers, and employers of labour, have in previous years supplied tea to their labourers in the hay field and always with good result."

If the plan could be invariably adopted of the wages being paid, not so much per week, and so much beer, but the wages all paid in money, adding to the weekly wage what would have been given in beer; and then, in addition, give an abundant supply of tea - both the employer and the labourer would find they had made a good bargain. The employer would have his work better done in every way; the labourer would have more money in his pocket, and would be a stronger and healthier man at the end of the hay time, than he would have been under the old system of satisfying, or rather trying to satisfy, his thirst with beer.’

A month before he had written a lesson for the publicans’ customers: "Money which should be spent in providing the necessaries of life for the family and good education for the children is now so often spent on selfish indulgence to the benefit only of the publican and the beershop." And the next year he foretold what he hoped would be the effect of the Band of Hope: "Some of these children if not all will enter on life with the idea fixed in them that money spent at the Public House is money lost to the home and spent away from, and to the injury of, wife and children."

The Temperance Society flourished and the vicar’s claim that nearly a quarter of his parishioners were total abstainers could hardly have been good news for the publicans. They must have had mixed feelings as the Rev Latter organised a petition to Parliament, "signed by every goodly number of persons here" in favour of the Sunday Closing Bill of 1879. This was not the first or the last attempt to close the public houses on Sunday. The debate was lively. Opponents argued that the Bill was class legislation but supporters claimed that the working class in the North was in favour. In Parliament the mover of the Bill compromised by agreeing only to reduce hours of opening from 12.30 to 2.30 p.m. and 6 to 10pm to 1 to 2 p.m. and 6 to 10pm. But that was not enough and as the vicar reported, "public opinion was hardly ripe for such a measure, though the adjournment was carried by a majority of only three. The vicar was satisfied. What the publicans thought of his argument that the publican will be allowed his one day’s rest from labour in seven as well as the other members of the community is not known.

The place of the publicans in the community became therefore a smaller one than before. If the Temperance Society could claim one hundred and eighty abstainers from drink (including the Rev Latter) as it did in 1883, the publicans must surely have suffered. Some of the Society members were women no doubt but that number of abstainers in an adult male population of about three hundred meant that the drinkers had much diminished. There was the example of William Marlborough, railway platelayer who told a meeting: "At one time on Sunday morning he was hankering after his beer and hanging about the public house, waiting until half past twelve for the doors to open; but now since he had been a teetotaller, he cleaned himself on Sunday morning and found his way down to church; and that money which used to be spent on beer now went to make his home comfortable and to pay for the clothing of his family."

The publicans still had a central role in the parish community, but the last word may be left with the crusading vicar: "Gradually but surely a good many of our labouring men we beginning to think there must be ‘something in it’ when one after another of their own neighbours and fellow workmen were beginning to tell them that they could work just as well, nay, even better without the beer’."

Peter Kingsford, 1989


Chapter 6 - North Mymms versus Ridge
Index - Victorian lives in North Mymms
Preface - Why Peter Kingsford wrote the book
Sources - Where Peter Kingsford researched the material for this book.
Photographs - The photographs reproduced by Peter Kingsford in his book

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