8 Nov. 2012: More on UEA seminar ‘Drunkenness and debt’

On Thursday 8 November 2012 Margaret Bird, the editor of Mary Hardy’s diary, will give a presentation at the University of East Anglia (UEA). The talk, on Norfolk public houses, will form part of the research seminar series of the Centre of East Anglian Studies.

Entitled ‘Drunkenness and debt: The struggles of Norfolk innkeepers under the brewer’s yoke 1770–1810‘ it is a study of the tensions between wholesalers and retailers as commercial brewers built up their portfolios of tied houses. The innkeepers lost their independence in the face of this onslaught, being bound by various forms of tie. Turnover was high. Innkeepers came and went with bewildering speed, and outlets were traded between brewers with increasing frequency.

The King’s Head, Letheringsett, shown at the banner as rebuilt in 1808, was unusually stable. It had only two innkeepers during the 36 years of Mary Hardy’s diary.

Debts owed by William Hardy jnr's innkeepers 1798-1804

One of the slides in the seminar. This graph illustrates the debts owed by the innkeepers to Mary Hardy’s son. The figures are in thousands of pounds. Such data is very rare for village breweries in this early period

Mary Hardy’s diary vividly illustrates these tensions. Even where there was no formal tie such as a lease, mortgage or bond, the large debts built up by the innkeepers formed a loose tie.

High levels of debt

The bar graph shown here is compiled from calculations made by the diarist’s son William in the years after he had taken over the business from his father. He totalled the debts owed by each innkeeper whom he supplied in any one year. The graph opens with £2800 in 1798, drops to £2100 in 1800, and closes with £3500 in 1804. An individual innkeeper might owe £250–£300 in rent and beer; some owed much less.

These figures were high, causing a strain for a small village brewer with annual production in 1797 of only 2100 barrels. On the handover of the business that year his father’s assets, including the house, 58 acres of farmland, maltings, brewery and 25 outlets with a formal tie had totalled only £16,300.

The CEAS research seminar will be held on the main UEA campus outside Norwich on 8 November in the Arts II building, Floor 2, Room 2.16 at 6.30 pm. All are welcome.

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Margaret Bird

Margaret Bird in 2016

The editor and author of the Mary Hardy volumes

You can read about the historian Margaret Bird on the link above

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