Cheap Beer

This rather wry announcement was printed in the Leighton Buzzard Observer, Tuesday 19th October 1869.

CHEAP BEER Mr. E. Garnett of No. 1, Stratford Road, Wolverton, having recently obtained a licence to sell beer of the premises. the Stratford town-crier paid Wolverton a visit on the morning of Saturday week, announcing that all persons who purchased ale from Mr. Garnett on that day, would receive a pint and a half as a pint, and those who ordered a quart would receive three pints, and so on in proportion. in consequence of this somewhat startling announcement a very great number of persons availed themselves of this very liberal offer.

Garnett was an auctioneer who had moved to this address some five years before. The house still stand, and its annex, which was later known as the Drum and Monkey. Since 1900, the address has been 44 Stratford Road, when a new numbering system, moved Number 1 to the east end – The Royal Engineer in this case.

Clearly Garnett was only too aware of the effectiveness of giveaway offers. He was not wrong. The Drum and Monkey lasted for 100 years.

Beer at Home

In 1955 the Davenport Brewery in Birmingham began a series of television advertisements offering home delivery of beer and other bottled products. I imagine that delivery only took place in the Birmingham area, but it was a revolutionary development in its time.
Before that there was the Off Licence which had been made possible by the 1872 Act – yet another government measure to control the consumption of alcohol. Most of the pubs had an off-sales area, often just inside the door, outside the public bars, with access to purchases through a hatch. Thus the purchase was not technically made on licensed premises.
Wolverton’s first Off Licence was at the Station Refreshment Rooms – that is the second station beside Glyn Square. It was known as “The Hole in the Wall” and is recorded as such on the 1880 OS Map. When the station moved a few years later it closed down.
The second Off Licence was also a literal hole in the wall and could be found at the back of the Stratford Road house by the Cambridge Street back alley. The house is now numbered 44. At the time it was on the very western edge of town and was number 1. The building at the back was always a separate building and was first operated by a man named Sinfield who ran his off licence there for many years. It continued to run as a going concern in the twentieth century until changes in the licensing laws allowing supermarkets and convenience store to sell alcohol made such places redundant. It was always known as The Drum and Monkey. I have no idea where this name originated.
The only other off licence in Wolverton could be found at the corner of Oxford Street and Green Lane. It is still there, a single storey building with an entrance on the corner.
Off Licences were only open in the evenings. You could buy draught beer in both places but you had to bring your own container, usually a white enamel jug, and take home a pint or a quart of beer to consume of an evening. I doubt if health and safety regulations would allow this practice today.
My sense is (and it’s only a guess) that there was not a lot of drinking at home prior to the coming of television. Pubs were not that expensive and most men would go to the pub or the club for the middle part of the evening. Some of the wives might get a jug of ale or a bottle of stout from the off licence, or send their husbands or one of their older children out to buy an evening’s supply.
Davenport was a far-sighted man. In 1955 it was not immediately evident that men would spend more time at home and less time in the pub, but so it has proved to be.