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Lend me ten pounds and I'll buy you a drink...

Lend me ten pounds and I'll buy you a drink...

For many people January is the season of moderation, and some particularly hardy souls (I’m told) even contemplate abstinence. Certain strands of the British media have coined and attempted to popularise the toe-curlingly awful term ‘Janopause’ to describe this practice, and if that’s not enough to have one reaching for a corkscrew I don’t know what is. Anyway, it seems like the perfect time to cover maps about pubs. Actually, Charles Booth’s map of London at the turn of the Twentieth Century lumps in churches and schools as well, but the truly innovative element of the map is the detailed treatment of the licensed premises, sub divided into five carefully defined categories:

And here’s the map, London 1899-1900:

Booth’s pioneering sociological work Life and Labour of the People in London is justly famous for its colour-coded ‘poverty maps’, illustrating the ‘general condition’ of Londoners on a street by street basis, from the wealthiest members of society (coloured a reassuring yellow) to those categorised by Booth as the ‘vicious, semi-criminal’ poor (coloured black). However, I find this map, tucked into a pocket in the last volume of the third series (‘religious influences’, published in 1902) to be just as interesting. Pubs do appear on earlier maps, mostly as landmarks, but despite the growth of various temperance societies in the mid nineteenth-century I’m not aware of any earlier systematic treatment of the subject on this scale. Here’s a detail of the West End - enough of the pubs, thickly clustered though they are, are still there today:

And, by way of contrast, here are the licensed premises in York in 1902:

Booth wasn’t a temperance man himself. He believed in “self control and good sense” and was critical of the “unreasonableness” of those for whom “the whole trade is an abomination”, which he felt had made it more difficult to deal with the proliferation of licensed premises in a constructive manner: “Some, and I count myself among the number, would make it their first object to improve the character of the places where alcohol is sold. They recognise wide differences for good or evil in the various forms, as well as circumstances, in which alcohol may be taken”. Pretty sound, a century later. As it happens, I’m rather a fan of Victorian temperance tracts.A Bowl of Cherries is about a working man whose wife and children never had enough to eat because he spent his wages in his local. One day there was a bowl of ripe cherries on the bar, but when he asked if he could take one the landlady slapped his hand away. He never drank again. That night, to the amazement of his family, there was fresh bread and meat on the table. He became sober and reliable and was promoted to foreman, and eventually he was able to buy a little cottage. It’s a lovely story. I’m also fond of Owen’s Hobby, about an annoying old servant (the titular Owen, whose ‘hobby’ is, of course, temperance) who is unable to save his young masters and mistresses from terrible drink-related fates - in one instance driving a carriage over a cliff after drinking off a glass of beer. Owen is generally on hand to shake his venerable head sadly. I’ve often thought I should collect these properly.

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