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British Gothenburg Experiments




The Fox & The Pelican
Date opened
Estimated Population of Village
August, 1899

THE experiment made in 1898 by the Grayshott and District Refreshment Association, Limited, of which Sir Frederick Pollock, Bart., is the president, marked in some respects a new departure in the attempt to apply the principles of the Gothenburg system to the management of the liquor traffic in this country. In all previous attempts a benevolent despotism had been present to assist either in the promotion or the management of the undertaking, the owner of the estate or the local clergyman being responsible for the licence. The Grayshott experiment began on strictly co-operative lines, the villagers themselves taking up many of the shares. It was also the first house in England (The Hill of Beath tavern in Fifeshire was an earlier instance. The Elan village canteen, although established much earlier than the Grayshott experiment, was not an ordinary public-house.) to receive a new licence for the express purpose of an experiment on Gothenburg lines.

The history of the experiment is clearly set forth in a statement issued by the Committee of the Grayshott Association in 1899, from which a few facts may be quoted. In the winter of 1897-8 the rapid growth of the village of Grayshott and the surrounding district forced upon the attention of residents much interested in its welfare the question of public-house accommodation, as it was felt that very soon application would be made, from one quarter or another, far permission to open a fully licensed house. Some time previously, when the place was much smaller, an off-licence had been granted, but it seemed to the large majority of those interested that, if a fully licensed house were to be opened in the village, it would be in every way desirable that it should be one in which no prominence should be given to the sale of alcoholic drinks, but rather a refreshment-house in which alcoholic liquors of the best quality should always be obtainable, but where food and non-alcoholic beverages of good quality and at moderate prices should also be freely provided and their consumption encouraged.

" Preliminary meetings were therefore held, information from various quarters procured, the assistance of the People's Refreshment-House Association enlisted, and, as a first practical step, the purchase of the plot of land on which the "Fox and Pelican" stands secured. Subsequently the Grayshott and District Refreshment Association, Limited, was registered under the Industrial and Provident Societies Act, 1893, with a capital of £2,500, and subscriptions solicited.

" So sympathetic was the feeling as to the importance of the project that liberal applications for shares were speedily received, and, in preparation for the licensing sessions of the Alton Bench of magistrates in September, 1898, plans of a house suitable for the business contemplated were prepared. At those sessions, on September 6th, the application was heard, preceded by an application by an Alton firm of brewers for a similar licence for a house to be erected on a plot of land adjacent to that belonging to the Association. The magistrates, after hearing evidence in support of both applications, decided to grant a licence to the Association and to refuse one to the Alton firm, and in due course the licence was confirmed by the County Licensing Committee.

"Thereupon building operations were proceeded with as speedily as possible, and early in July, 1899, the building was practically ready for occupation. After some slight delays incidental to the starting of a new business, the house was formally declared open by Mrs. Eandall Davidson (in the unavoidable absence of the Bishop of the Diocese), at an afternoon reception on Wednesday, August 23rd, 1899, and on Monday, the 28th, business commenced."

The whole of the capital (£2,500) was subscribed either locally or by friends of residents, and the full amount has been practically absorbed by the purchase of land, erection of house and stables, furnishing, etc. The Articles of Association expressly provide that no dividend exceeding 4 per cent, per annum shall be paid to shareholders, and that, while making provision for a reserve fund not exceeding in amount 25 per cent, of the Company's capital, the balance of profit shall be applied to such charitable, educational, or other legal purposes as the shareholders at a general meeting may from time to time decide upon.

The house is artistically designed and thoroughly well built, and is fitted and furnished throughout in excellent taste. In addition to the bar (the passage of which is said to get crowded at night) there are several good rooms, including a tap-room, smoke-room, coffee-room, and (upstairs) a well-furnished ladies' sitting-room. The tap-room is a comparatively plain room, about 18 ft. by 16 ft., furnished with fixed wall-benches and a table. The smoke-room is about the same size as the tap-room, but with superior appointments and fittings. Draughts and dominoes are provided, and there is also a good library. Only the better-class liquors are served in this room- The coffee-room, which has a separate entrance, is a fine room, 33 ft. by 15 ft. in size, and well and tastefully furnished. It is chiefly used by cyclists and tourists. The rooms as a whole entirely justify the claim made by the Association that " the accommodation provided for all classes is the result of much thought and care on the part of the architects and committee."

The principles upon which the house is conducted are very similar to those adopted by the Bishop of Chester's Association, upon which, indeed, they are avowedly based. The manager is paid a fixed salary, and receives no commission upon the sale of intoxicants. He is, however, allowed the whole of the profits on food and one-half of the profits on mineral waters, in addition to all profits on tobacco and cigarettes. The proportion of food sold is small, and is much less at the present time than it was under a former manager, who was accustomed to sell as many as twenty sixpenny dinners a day in the tap-room. The sale of non-alcoholic beverages is also comparatively small, although those responsible for the management of the house are clearly eager to encourage the sale of such drinks. It is probable that in these respects the experiment has suffered from the frequent changes in management, which have prevented strict continuity of policy. The " off" sales are also .small, and development in this direction is evidently discouraged. No credit is given, and no provision is made for clubs, etc. It is also an interesting circumstance that the committee have been able to introduce a lighter beer than that sold in other houses in the district. Indoor games, such as draughts, dominoes, etc., are encouraged, but they are not used to any great extent. A few newspapers are also provided. In connection with this feature of the management it should be pointed out that there is at present no reading-room or social institute in the village; but a village hall is about to be built, and this, when ready, will make such provision on the part of the Refreshment-House Association as unnecessary, as, in the judgment of the present writers, it is undesirable. In view of the efforts needed to break what has become a dangerous and tyrannous national habit, the association of games and other recreations with the sale of intoxicants is surely to be deprecated and discouraged.

No effort is made to establish bye-laws in advance of the present statutory regulations, although an attempt was originally made to reduce the Sunday hours by closing at 8 p.m. This effort, however, was resented by a portion of the population, and the new rule was quickly abandoned. Similarly, a tentative experiment was made some time back to establish a " Black List" (i.e. a list of persons of notoriously drunken habits), but it was not found to answer in practice, and was therefore discontinued. There are, however, a few persons whom the manager is instructed not to serve. The general position assumed in reference to these and similar reforms by those responsible for the house is that, where, as in Grayshott, the liquor influence is strong and active, and everything in the nature of an innovation is eagerly seized upon and used to arouse prejudice and hostility against the movement, it is risking too much to impose regulations in advance of the licence law. It is necessary to remember that the Association has not a complete monopoly of the local traffic, but only of the " on " trade (The nearest fully licensed house is a mile away). In addition to the " Fox and Pelican " there is an " off " beer-house in the village, as well as two grocers' licences, while it is a not unimportant fact that the site adjoining the " Fox and Pelican," for which a full licence was sought by a firm of brewers at the time the Association was formed, still remains in the possession of the brewers who applied for the licence.

These facts, together with the additional fact that the district appears to contain a somewhat unusual proportion of lawless spirits in its population, must be carefully borne in mind in estimating the success of the Grayshott experiment. That it has not realised all the expectations of its promoters they themselves freely acknowledge. The experiment has been handicapped throughout by a not always scrupulous opposition on the part of the least reputable portion of the inhabitants; and the committee has, moreover, been singularly unfortunate in its managers. But the intention that underlies and governs the experiment is unquestionably single and sincere, and when all limitations and imperfections are allowed for, it is incontrovertible that the interests of temperance in the district are much more securely safeguarded than they could have been if an ordinary public-house had been allowed to be established in the village.

The situation is well expressed in a letter which the Rev. J. M. Jeakes, a member of the committee, addressed to one of the present writers in May, 1901. Mr. Jeakes " I am very glad that you have seen the " Fox and Pelican." The conditions under which this experiment is made are, I think, exceptionally difficult; but the difficulties we have passed through do not at all alter my conviction that we are, in the main, on the right track, and that we did the best we could do under the circumstances, in view of the great probability of a tied house entirely out of our control." Looked at from this point of view simply, the efforts of Sir Frederick Pollock and his colleagues are completely justified.

On its commercial side the experiment has been entirely successful. The financial statement for the first thirteen months (i.e. August 28th, 1899, to September 30th, 1900) showed a balance of profit on trading account of £213 11s. 3d Of this sum £99 14s. Id. was set aside for depreciation of furniture and buildings and one-third share of preliminary expenses, leaving a net balance of £113 17s. 2d. Of this amount £99 9s. 7d. was absorbed in payment of a dividend of 4 per cent, on the paid-up capital of the company, leaving a final balance of £14 7s. 7d. to be carried forward to next account.


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