Generations of Barons

University Press

Heritage Museum

The Coal Trail

Airts Burns Society

Golfing Delights

Sporting Sponsorship
Fowlers Brewery

Our Battle in 1745


Picture Gallery

Barga Twin

Shop Online

News & Events

Site News

British Gothenburg Experiments



Date opened
Average Number of Men Employed
September, 1898

ONE of the most interesting of the experiments that have come under the personal observation of the present writers is that carried on by the Waterworks Committee of the Harrogate Corporation in connection with their works at Scargill, six miles from Harrogate. The experiment has much in common with the canteen established by the Birmingham Corporation at their works in the Elan Valley, Ehayader, but was started without knowledge of that experiment.

In beginning the construction of reservoirs at Scargill, nearly three years ago, the Waterworks Committee found themselves compelled to provide the men employed upon the works, numbering sometimes as many as five hundred, with facilities for purchasing beer. The nearest public-house was two and a half miles away, and the men refused to work unless nearer facilities were provided. It occurred to Alderman Fortune, the chairman of the Waterworks Committee, that the circumstances furnished a good opportunity for an experiment on the lines of the Gothenburg system, and, (lie Committee approving, a large canteen (with additional but separate accommodation for a general store) was accordingly erected, and a manager appointed to conduct the business on clearly defined lines.

The ends aimed at are : (1) to restrict as far as possible the sale of intoxicants, and (2) absolutely to eliminate private profit from such sale. Alderman Fortune, to whom the success as well as the inception of the experiment is chiefly due, has from the first strenuously set himself against any arrangement likely, directly or indirectly, to interfere with the full attainment of these ends. (It is a noteworthy illustration of the consistency with which these aims have been pursued, that when some months ago Alderman Fortune discovered that one of the brewers, acting in conformity with a trade custom, had given the manager of the canteen a Christmas present, he at once gave instructions that no further orders were to be sent to that brewer.)

Beer is the only intoxicant sold, spirits being expressly excluded. The manager receives no commission on the sale of beer, but is allowed to sell for his own profit all kinds of food, as well as tea, coffee, mineral waters, etc. In addition, he is paid a fixed salary and provided with a house, coal, and light. He is not allowed to purchase the beer nor to fix the price at which it is sold. It is invoiced to him at selling prices, a small allowance being made for waste.

The hours of sale are severely restricted. The canteen is open on the ordinary week-days from 9 a.m. to 9.30 a.m., 12 noon to 1 p.m., and from 5 p.m. to 8 p.m. On Saturdays the hours are from 9 a.m. to 9.30 a.m., 12 noon to 2.30 p.m., and from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. On Sundays it is open from 12.30 p.m. to 2.30 p.m. and from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. At first the final hour of closing on week-days was 10 p.m.; it was subsequently altered to 9 p.m., and is now 8 p.m. If circumstances appear to demand it, the manager is instructed to close still earlier. On " Mafeking" day, for example, the canteen was closed early in the afternoon, and kept closed for the remainder of the day. It is also kept closed after the annual dinner at Christmas. In this respect the management is closely modelled upon the practice of the Norwegian companies.

The manager is not allowed to serve beer at other than the recognised hours, nor is he, under any circumstances, permitted to send beer to the men at work; but he may send tea, mineral waters, and other temperance drinks. During a spell of hot weather last summer the men petitioned to be allowed to purchase beer during work hours. Alderman Fortune refused the petition, but gave instructions for oatmeal water to be freely supplied to men who desired it,

It is interesting as an indication of the extent to which temperance drinks are sold that the manager sells from forty to fifty pints of tea a day. At the time of our visit he was also selling a fair quantity of mineral waters, chiefly, however, in conjunction with beer. He stated that the sale of mineral waters could not be " pushed" to any considerable extent; the men " know what they want," and " resent being interfered with " in respect of their orders.

No one is served with beer who shows the least sign of drunkenness, and it is an interesting fact that so far not a single case of drunkenness has been traced to the canteen. There have been a few cases of drunkenness in the village, but inquiry has shown that these were always attributable to spirits purchased elsewhere.

The canteen itself is a somewhat rude wooden structure with a concrete floor and furnished with benches and tables. The bar proper is a plain compartment stretching across one end of the building, and is only used for supplying the orders. Liquor is not consumed at the bar.

There appears to be very little "off" sale, but what there is is carried on at a window in a separate part of the building, so that children or others fetching the beer have no contact with the bar. Women are not served in the canteen. The number of women and children at the colony is, however, small.

No credit is given, nor are any games allowed in the canteen. A small mission-hall has been erected by the Committee, and is used on week-evenings as a reading-room and institute for the men, and in the mornings as a school for the children. A missionary lives at the settlement, and one-third of his salary is paid by the Committee. The reading-room is supplied with daily and weekly newspapers and magazines, and a bagatelle-board and other games are provided. During the winter a fortnightly concert is given.

The balance-sheet of the canteen for the year ending March 25th, 1900, showed a gross profit of £826, and a net profit of £720. Last year (i.e. year ending March 25th, 1901) the gross profits were £886, and the net profits £799. The percentage of net profit on takings was, in the former year, 31 per cent., and in the latter 38 per cent. It should be noted, however, that nothing is charged against the canteen in respect of rent and lighting. The method of appropriating the profits is hardly satisfactory—too small a proportion, in the judgment of the present writers, being devoted to recreative agencies and other counter-attractions to the canteen. Some of the appropriations (as, for example, the £200 devoted last year to the payment of compensation for injuries received by workmen employed on the works, and the £82 spent on pensions to old servants) also partake too much of the character of relief to the ratepayers. But this is the only serious criticism to be urged against what is in the main an admirable and useful experiment. No better proof of its general success could be given than the fact that, although the works have been in progress for nearly three years, the services of a police officer have not yet been required. The absence of competition is, of course, an important factor in its success.




Back Back to top