The Beerhouse Act 1830
The Beerhouse Act 1830 was an Act of the Parliament of the United Kingdom, which liberalised the regulations governing the brewing and sale of beer. Sometimes known as the “Duke of Wellington Beer Act” as it was the Duke of Wellington’s government in situ at that time. It was modified by subsequent legislation and finally repealed in 1993.
The precursor to the Beerhouse Act was the Alehouse Act 1828, which established a general annual licensing meeting to be held in every city, town, division, county and riding, for the purposes of granting licences to inns, alehouses and victualling (i.e. provision of food) houses to sell excisable liquors to be drunk on the premises.
Enacted two years later, the Beerhouse Act enabled any rate-payer to brew and sell beer on payment of a licence costing two guineas (£2.10 in decimal currency, not adjusted for inflation). The intention was to increase competition between brewers; lowering prices and encouraging people to drink beer instead of strong spirits. It resulted in the opening of thousands of new public houses and breweries throughout the country, particularly in the rapidly expanding industrial centres of the north of England. The All Nations was one of these Brewhouses.
According to the Act, Parliament considered it was “expedient for the better supplying the public with Beer in England, to give greater facilities for the sale thereof, than was then afforded by licences to keepers of Inns, Alehouses, and Victualling Houses.”
The Act’s supporters hoped that by increasing competition in the brewing and sale of beer, and thus lowering its price, the population might be weaned off more alcoholic drinks such as gin. But it proved to be controversial, removing as it did the monopoly of local magistrates to lucratively regulate local trade in alcohol, and not applying retrospectively to those who already ran public houses. It was also denounced as promoting drunkenness.
By 1841 licences under the new law had been issued to 45,500 commercial brewers. One factor in the Act was the dismantling of provisions for detailed recording of licences, which were restored by subsequent regulatory legislation: the Wine and Beerhouse Act 1869.
The final remaining provisions of the Act were repealed on 11 November 1993. The passage of the Act during the reign of King William IV led to many taverns and public houses being named in his honour; he remains “the most popular monarch among pub names”. The second most popular at the time being “The Duke of Wellington” for the reasons given above.
Can we all raise a glass to the Duke of Wellington for his foresight and consummate wisdom as without him you would not be reading this with a pint in your hand in the All Nations today!