8 Nov. 2012: 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 (CEAS).

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.

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. (This loose form is classed in the slide illustrated here as ‘supply without tie’.) Defaulters could have their possessions seized by the brewer, or be sent to the debtors’ gaol in Norwich Castle.

Hardy public houses supplied from Letheringsett, slide

One of the slides in the talk at UEA: the location of the Hardys’ 66 outlets 1781–1809 across a large swathe of north Norfolk. The seven public houses they supplied at Holt are shown as an inset

At Coltishall the diarist’s husband supplied 31 public houses, of which 22 were tied. At his Letheringsett brewery, as shown on the slide, he and later his son supplied 66 outlets, of which 46 were tied public houses. William Hardy senior also had the beer contract for Weybourne military camp, which guarded the coast against the French.

The temptations of the trade

Mary Hardy, especially in the early years, had to cope with innkeepers turning up drunk. The presence of the brewery right by her house did not help; local fairs, where drink flowed, also proved an attraction. In this account of the Hardys’ innkeeper from Neatishead White Horse, on the Broads, ‘quite’ means totally. He arrived at 8 am on fair day:

Thomas Scrape came morning 8, stayed till 12, got almost drunk, went to Cakerow Fair, bought us a horse, came back evening 8 quite drunk, stayed an hour . . .  (Mary Hardy, 1775)

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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