Catalogue reference: HO 185/238

E. McG.  


This report is from observations made in Woolwich, North Woolwich, Plumstead, Eltham, and Shooters Hill from April 4th to May 1st, 1918.

The weather for the most part was cold and wet.

The district is a large one and contains about 153 public houses and beer houses, and 22 wine shops.

The public house hours are from 12 to 2.30, and from 6.30 to 9.30 during the week, and from 7 to 9 o'clock on Sunday nights.
Spirits may not be sold in bottles from the shops on Saturdays.
These restricted hours for the sale of spirits, wines, and beer must be taken into account, as well as the quantities and qualities of liquor on sale. Many of the smaller public houses and those away from the main streets of Woolwich, are forced to remain closed for lack of supplies, or these are so limited that they are quickly sold out.

Friday, Saturday and Sunday nights are always the busiest, as in pre-war days. Some public houses only open for these nights when wages are so plentiful.

Public houses vary very much in the class of customers they attract. At some it is the quality of the beer sold, at others the social attractions, at others, mere locality.

The three largest public houses situated in Beresford Square - the centre of Woolwich life - are the most popular houses, with the "Green Man" and the "Prince of Orange" in the Plumstead High Street. But at the present time, in the whole District under observation there is a complete absence of brawling and excitement.

The areas of drunkenness are extremely few, and the women and men in the many bars we have been in are very goodtempered, taking the crushing and waiting to get served quite cheerfully and there is little spilling of liquor.

They have always been ready to direct us to an open house when we have arrived at a closed one, or to tell us where we could obtain spirits, if all where they were, were sold out.

The present dilution of liquor no doubt accounts for this general good behaviour in all public houses.

Compared with other towns the people in the public houses are very well dressed - there are so few of the squalid-bedraggled type, and the numbers of babies and small children waiting outside public houses are very few indeed.

The greater the numbers of women drinking in all the bars are from 35 to 50 years of age.

They are the best customers at Plaisted's wine shop in High Street, and at Rose's whiskey stores in Here Street. They also compose the queues waiting outside Forster's shop in Hare Street, for bottles of spirits on Fridays and Mondays. On these days we have seen such scrambles for the limited supply of bottles, that until the women tore off the wrappers from the bottles, they did not know whether they had 10/6 for gin, whiskey, or rum. Women and girls pay 6d, 9d, and 1/- for small quantities of port and spirits in glasses.

There are many notions in the bars about the disappearance of glasses, and from a remark made by a woman we got a hint why the glasses disappeared, "9d for this drop" she said holding up a little port in a glass, "the only way to get your own back is to keep the glass".

It is difficult to say how much the additional cost of liquor deters drinking - money is so freely spent - a woman paying 12/6 for a bottle of spirits said "its price goes up and up - but we have to have it". A good deal of drinking can be put down to war conditions.

"Four years ago I could'nt (sic) have believed I'd be doing this" said a well dressed woman in the crush at Plaidsted's, then with a laugh "well! it's war time". - Other women are anxious and lonely, an old Irish woman said "you see my dear it's cold and wet, my landlady is hard and won't give me a fire, I'm that worried about my poor boy in France, and it's warm and comfortable here. It's poor stuff this beer they give us now, but a poor soul must have something." It hardly seems possible for the publicans to limit the amount of drink allowed to each person. There is a great deal of passing from one bar to another in the same public house, or going on to another house for it. "If they refuse you, just dodge round to the other bar, you can always get it if you want it" a woman told me.

A great many smartly dressed Woolwich girls throng the Beresford Square houses after 8 o'clock, drifting from house to house, and consuming port and spirits.

In the present diluted state they seem little worse for this form of amusement, but it is a habit they have acquired, the danger of which will be all too evident should liquor after the war return to its old strength, and the hours of sale be unrestricted.

This we consider by far the most important conclusion of our observations.

Treating is not easy to detect, we have repeatedly seen glasses with liquor brought out to the passages of public houses, and given to friends or relatives waiting there.

Often the money to pay is sent in by these waiting people.

Notices are up forbidding drinking in the passages, but when the bars are crowded people do drink outside the bars.

We have watched several shifts of munition girls coming in and out at noon, and early evening, and a very few of these call at any of the public houses, and then only get a glass of stout.

We have seen one or two bus conductresses in public houses at the termini of the bus routes, but not other rest room or café is provided for them.

The following lists show the numbers of women and girls counted in the public houses at various times.

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