Monday, 4 February 2008

Carlisle State Pubs

I also picked this up in Carlisle, and felt it warranted a post of it's own. No-one I spoke to while I was up there seemed to know anything about it, but Carlisle and the surrounding area had been subject to a 50 year experimental nationalisation of all their pubs and breweries.
In 1916 the measure was taken - compulsory purchase then 'disinterested management' of public houses created a sudden radical change from intensive and widespread bingedrinking squalor, to a non-profit scheme which encouraged restraint, eating before drinking, and playing a little pool to make your pint last longer. It wasn't quite rationing, but you couldn't buy a round in case you were hoarding beer for yourself.
The scheme initially aimed to tackle the problem of drunken itinerant Irish workers who laboured in the nearby munitions factory, but even when they moved on after the war and the problem disappeared, the decision was made to continue the experiment. By 1971, when the scheme finally ended, Carlisle was actually very proud of it's modernised pubs, excellent whisky and high quality beer. Local nationalised breweries pioneered pasteurising their bottled beer, resulting in the first clear and sparkling brew, as opposed to the bottle-fermented beer with deposits in the bottom.
In the 40's plans were drawn up to extend the scheme to various new towns, which could have led to an eventual full nationalisation of drinking! I find it incredible that we had this essentially communist or Soviet idea running so successfully for so long.
I struggled finding a nice pub in the city centre though.


fabtoons said...

My, you have been busy. Fascinating stuff.I just got back from Paris or I would have replied sooner but let's definitely link blogs - I've added you already.

steve said...

hi jim.
i notice you've signed up for the web and mini comix thing- it'll be good to meet you at last, looking forward to it.

Jim Medway said...

from an email from my Dad -
There was quite a bit of communist/socialist stuff in England until Thatcher's time. Free public libraries was a nice example. Bradford libraries were fantastic (and Bradford was a pioneer in school building, good schools for working-class kids in the '30s and free school meals, including breakfast). And of course the 1945 Labour
government (and the wartime government before it) nationalised railways, steel, coal, even road transport (my first lift as a hitchhiker was from a British Road Services lorry).

When I was in Carlisle in the early 80s (on TVEI) I remember hearing that the State beer was exceptionally good because they'd brought back one of the best brewers from his post brewing India Pale Ale for the army in India. Also anecdotes about landlords being summoned to London to government offices and told off because they were selling too much beer -- the idea, as you say, was to limit consumption.