The 1830 Beer Act: Information in Bexley By Jim Packer

Beer The 1830 Beer Act came into effect on 10th October 1830 where upon payment of 2gns to the Excise you could retail Beer Ale Porter Cyder & Perry, without recourse to the Licensing Justices.

Petty Sessions Minutes for the Hundred of Blackheath and of Little & Lesnes are held at Greenwich Heritage Centre. This covers part of what is now the London Borough of Bexley which I research, and also the whole of the L B Greenwich.  From the minutes we learn the following:-

At the beginning of April 1831 the Clerk to the Lord Lieutenant of Kent forwarded to the local magistrates bench a copy of a letter received from Lord Melbourne.

Whitehall March 29 1831
My Lord
Having lately received from various quarters strong Representations of the effects produced in the county by the numerous Shops opened for the Sale of Beer under the provisions of the 1st Will4th Cap 51, and being desirous of ascertaining how far such representations are well founded or otherwise. I have to request that your Lordship will assist me as far as possible, by procuring for me the fullest and most impartial Information upon the Subject, from the most experienced Magistrates of the County of Kent, as well as from others who your Lordship’s local knowledge may suggest to you as the most competent to afford such Information.

I have the Honour to be My Lord,
Your Lordship’s very obedient Servant


To The Lord Lieutenant of the County of Kent

The Magistrates directed that a circular to be sent to the Minister & Churchwardens in the 14 parishes that were in the Division. Nine parishes reported back within the week and were minuted on 14th April thus

St Paul Deptford: That the Beer Shops have not been productive of Injurious Effects to any Classes but the Licenced Victuallers in the Town;

St Nicholas Deptford: That the 11 Beer Shops opened in the Parish with the exception of two, which have been summoned before the Magistrates, are well conducted;

Lewisham: That a Complaint has been made against one House but no injurious Consequences have arisen from the Beer Shops there;

Charlton: That no injurious Effects have resulted;
Woolwich: That no peculier Results have followed from the Establishment of Beer Shops either injurious or otherwise;

Lee: that six Beer Shops have been opened there, and that the effect has been attended with injurious results to the Morals of the people;

Eltham: That the Effects have been injurious to the morals of the people and have tended to the Encouragement of Drunkenness;

Erith: That the results have been injurious by offering Shelter to bad Characters;

Kidbroke That there is no Beer Shop established there;

A reply was sent to the Lord Lieutenant stating that of 5 parishes there…

“was no complaint of any moment, and that in another 3 being small villages the reports are very unfavourable and seem to have produced some evil effects and are certainly not producing any good result. But that few convictions in the division generally have taken place before the Justices of persons keeping Beer Shops for offences against the Act”

The missing parishes reported in the next two meetings:-

East Wickham: that the beer Shops are injurious to the Morals of the People and annoying to the respectable Inhabitants;

Plumstead: That no peculier results have followed the Establishment of beer Shops;

Mottingham: That no Beer Shops have been established.

Greenwich: With one exception found to be well conducted;

Crayford: That the Beer shops had an injurious tendency;

On 2nd June 1831 they minuted a report from the Collector of Excise for the Rochester District of the number of retail beer shops established in the short period to 31st May 1831.

41: Woolwich
38: Greenwich
32: St Paul Deptford
21: Lewisham
11: St Nicholas Deptford
  7: Plumstead
  6: Lee
  5: Eltham
  4: Crayford
  3: Erith
  2: East Wickham
   1: Charlton
  0: Mottingham
  0:  Kidbrook
Total    171

On 1st September 1831 the Clerk put before the justices an up to date list of the Beerhouses supplied by the Supervisor of Excise at Rochester but the details were not minuted.

Are there any other reports from Kent? Did Lord Melbourne enquire of other Lord Lieutenants and if so are the results known. Surviving records for 1830 -1840 numbers of beerhouses and especially their names seem very rare.

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