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1905 Purge on Licensed Premises

From Historical Hastings

In 1905, following the introduction of the 1904 Licensing Act, the Licensing authorities in the town felt there were too many licensed premises in the town - apparently one per every 370 persons. As a result twenty four premises were nominated by the Chief Constable as being 'no longer required'. Reading the reporting of the proceedings gives a feeling for the criteria applied to many licensing applications in the past within the town. As a result of this, the series of articles is transcribed below.

The Hastings & St. Leonards Observer had the following report of the objections to the proposed closure of twenty four premises at the Sessions Court on the 21st of February, 1905[1]:-

Congested Public House Areas

A special session of the Hastings Licensing Justices opened at the Sessions Court on Tuesday morning for the purpose of hearing abjections to the renewal of the first batch of the 24 licences which the Chief Constable was instructed to oppose at the annual Brewster Sessions held a fortnight since.

The Justices present were: Mr. S. T, P. Vores (chairman), Mr. Geo. Osborn, Councillor, Dr. Gray, Alderman, E. Bradnam, Mr. J. Macer Wright, and Councillor Captain Colvile.

Prominently exhibited in front of the jury box was a large map of the borough, upon which the various licensed houses were denoted, a different colour representing full licences, beer on and off licences, grocers’ licences, wine licences, strong beer dealers' licences, chemists’ licences, etc. Two learned counsel, Mr. Boxall, K.C., and Mr. E. Humphrys, together with a number of solicitors, sat at the table. A good many brewers, brewer's agents, and publicans were also present.

The Chief Constable, (Mr. C. F. Baker) opened the proceedings with an ably-delivered explanatory address. He reminded the Bench that he appeared before them at their desire to oppose the renewal of certain licences. With their permission, he would like to offer one or two observations of a general character with regard to matters which were to come before them. There was comprised In the borough of Hastings an area of 4,769 acres, with a population of 65,528. It would be within the knowledge of the Bench that in connection with the acreage a considerable part of the area was represented by open spaces and agricultural land. There were 137 ale-houses or full licences, and 40 on-beer licences — 177 licences for the sale of liquor by retail for consumption on the premises. The proportion of licensed houses to the population was


This was a very high rate indeed, especially when they remembered that these figures included beside women and children, that very considerable section of the community whose habits and circumstances were such that they had no use for a public-house. There was one aspect of the question in regard to the licences with which they were dealing that day upon which he would like to address them at once. Up to the present time the Justices had possessed absolute discretion, and the fact that from time to time these licences had been renewed might he said to really amount to a finding that these. houses were necessary for the public convenience. No doubt this was a contention which stated the law and the position with technical accuracy, but he would venture to remark that it was a contention which entirely overlooked the difficulties and responsibility of the Justices in the discharge of their duty in dealing with renewals. He would not be regarded as being guilty of violating official confidence when he said that for some few years it had been apparent to those who administered the licensing laws that the number of licensed houses in existence was in excess of the necessities of the public. The great obstacle which, of course, had stood in the way hitherto of any practical reform had been the difficulty, which he knew their Worships appreciated, of


of the licence holders and the owners. In the present day it might be fairly said that the holders had acquired their property during a period when it had been the practice to renew licences in respect to which there was no serious ground of complaint. Throughout the country this had become an established custom, and it had formed the basis of the estimated value of licensed houses in changing hands, and for which they had come to be regarded in the light of a substantial security. The difficulty of the Justices had been increased by the state of the law under which, whilst they had absolute discretion as to full licences, this discretion was denied them in regard to what were known as the ante-1869 beer-houses. The Justices in the past had been animated by a reluctance to deal with property in a manner that would involve those interested in heavy financial loss. In 1903, under the instructions of the Bench, notice of opposition was given to the licensees of the Lord Nelson, the Shipwright's Arms, and the Ship, and on the day of hearing application was made by counsel, and acceded to by the Justices, that these licences should be renewed for another year to enable those interested to formulate a scheme for the surrender of some licences in the congested area, The Bench were aware that this proposal came to nothing. He could not complain of this, because they knew that the question which the licence holders had to consider was at that time beset with difficulties. Still, he contended it amounted to an acknowledgment by the trade that the number of licences existing in the borough was such as demanded the attention of the Licensing Justices. To the great bulk of statute laws relating to licensing matters there was now added


under which the Justices had absolute discretion to refuse renewals in specified cases only, and every other case was subject to the payment of certain compensation It was in this altered state of the law he had to bring before them the 24 houses, every one of which he believed could be usefully extinguished in the interest of the public. He would like to embrace the opportunity of saying in regard to the law that he did not desire it to be understood that it represented the full extent of the reduction of licences which in his judgment was necessary. Although their power to refuse renewals was unlimited in theory it was limited in practice by the amount of money which the operation of the statute placed at their disposal for the payment of compensation. He did not anticipate that more than a proportion of the licences would be refused on that occasion. The list was brought before them as a selection, from what had become known as the congested, districts — in the west end, in the locality of the Memorial, and in the east end in the Old Town. He had decided in bringing the cases before them to limit his evidence to that of police officers of superior rank and long service who had opportunities of ascertaining facts and forming opinions.

The objections were then proceeded with in the following order.


This house, situate in Nelson-passage, Bourne-street, was the first case called.

The Chief Constable explained the situation of the Lord Nelson. He said this was a licence granted many years ago, and which had been renewed from time to time. Making special reference to the year 1903, he mentioned circumstances which he contended showed that there was no value in the goodwill. The house was closed for several months, and a notice in the window announced that the premises, as a free house, were to let, at a rental of £24. He submitted there was no trade and no goodwill which could be transferred to any person.

Inspector Clapson said he had been in the force 24 years, and knew the Lord Nelson very well. There were five fully-licensed houses and four beerhouses within 100 paces of the Lord Nelson; his paces were rather less than a yard. In 200 yards there were 14 full licences and seven beerhouses, and in 400 yards there were 22 full licences and 17 beerhouses.

Cross-examined by Mr. Davenport Jones — He did not know the house was leased to Messrs. Burfield up to 1902. He did not know why the house was closed in 1902.

Mr. Jones — Your view is that there is no necessity for any licences?

Witness - I don’t say that.

You are a total abstainer? - Yes.

And your principles are that there should be no licences at all? — I should not say so. I would have some licences.

In reply to a further question, the Inspector said he was not aware that the Lord Nelson had never belonged to a brewer.

Inspector Bradford also gave evidence. As at present managed, he had no complaint against the house as to the way it was conducted. There was very little trade to the house.

In reply to Mr. Jones, witness said he judged there was very little trade because he never saw people coming out or going in.

Stephen Bumstead (assistant clerk to the Guardians) produced an extract from the valuation list, which showed that the gross rateable value of the Lord Nelson was £35, and the nett £28.

Mr. Jones addressed the Bench, and explained that the house was leased to brewers up to 1903, and that it formed part of some trust property. In February, 1903, a tenant was found, and the house was carried on as an entirely free house. The present rent was £24, but it was evident that the Assessment Committee thought this was insufficient, as they fixed the value at £8 more than the actual rent paid., He also pointed out that the house was situated in a very thickly populated neighbourhood, and that the present tenant was getting a living, a fact which he submitted showed that the house was wanted.

Harry Bateson, the landlord, gave evidence.

He purchased the lease in September, paying £300. He made inquiries, and thought the payment of this premium justified. There was no loan from brewers, and the house was entirely free. Witness put down on paper the amount of his gross takings, and this was handed up to the Bench. As a free house, the profit was 50 per cent. If he took £100, he calculated that £50 would be profit.

The Clerk (Mr. F. G. Langham) said this meant 100 per cent, or he was a Dutchman!

Mr. Jones said half profits was meant.

The Chief Constable cross-examined to show the distance of numerous adjacent houses. Witness said he had not brought receipts to prove his payments to brewer and distiller.

The Bench decided that they should hear the whole of the cases before giving their decision.


The Chief Constable opposed the renewal of the licence of the Shipwright's Arms, a fully licensed house, situate in Winding street.

Mr. Boxall, KC, was counsel for the owners of the house.

Considerable discussion ensued as to the right of the Chief Constable to quote particulars in open court as to business done, etc., from the register of the court. Mr. Boxall, Mr. E. B. Humphrys and Mr. B. Redford (legal gentlemen) objected, but the particulars were allowed to be given.

Inspector Clapson said there were seven fully licensed houses and four beer houses within 100 yards of the Shipwright’s; 15 fully licensed houses and ten beer-houses within 200 yards, and 26 fully licensed houses and 15 beer-houses within 400 yards. The house was used by fishermen, labourers, and persons following a precarious living. The house appeared to do little trade, and he was of opinion it was not required for the necessities of the neighbourhood.

In cross-examination, witness gave the names of the licensed houses in the locality. He knew Stace kept the house many years: he was not sure he was there twelve years. Stace had a “milk walk,” but he didn’t think the possession of a milk business caused the public-house to, be neglected. There had been two tenants in 20 years, and now a man named Tichband had the house. Tichhand formally kept the Dolphin. He did not suggest that the house was not roomy and well built.

The Chairman observed that the Bench knew the whole of the houses.

Inspector Bradford had had frequent opportunities of seeing the house. There was not much trade. He made measurements of the bar, which was 18 feet long with two small compartments.

Cross-examined — The house was quieter now than was previously the case. Some quiet and respectable people frequented the house.

Mr. Bumstead said the horse was assessed at £40 gross, and rateable £32.

Mr. Boxall called witnesses before making his address.

James Tichband, the licensee, said he took the house in January, 1903. Previously he kept the Dolphin for eight years; he gave up the house in consequence of his wife’s health. Then he tried bricklaying, which was his trade, but by medical advice he retired from this occupation and again took a licensed house. He had ample, accommodation, and let to visitors in the summer. Whilst he had had the house the trade had improved. fishermen were well known to him, and consequently used his house. He had never had any complaint against the house. He never had any bother with his customers.

The Chief Constable — You don’t have many customers?

Witness — Yes, a nice few, and all respectable people.

In reply to further questions, witness handed in a paper upon which he had written the amount of his average takings. He reckoned that about half the takings was profit.

Mr. Boxall, addressing the court, said that, b​road​ly speaking, the Licensing Justices had no power to reject licences, but they had the power of referring the question of licences to the Quarter Sessions, together with a report containing their recommendations, and to which due weights would be given. Before referring licences to the Quarter Sessions, he urged that the Justices should carefully consider each individual case ypon its merits, and not the question as a whole. He pointed out the expense caused by appeals to the Quarter Sessions, and urged that it. was the duty of the Magistrates to consider not only the needs of the public but also the licence-holders and those who had invested their capital in the trade. Upon that occasion they were asked to deal in a wholesale way with licences, and at a time when there had been no decision from which they could judge how the provisions of compensation would work out. At the present time they had nothing to pay compensation with; indeed, it did not appear to have been considered. It might be said that they might decide to borrow money, but he could analy think that the Licensing Committee would start a crusade upon borrowed money. If they anticipated taking action he thought they should have made provision for compensation at the beginning of the year. He submitted that it was premature to come and ask for a wholesale dealing with the matter. Referring to the particular case under consideration, he said the Shipwright's had been licensed for over 50 years, and was the freehold of Messrs. Burfield, who were brewers and carried on their industry in the town. The house appeared to, be exceptionally well built, and well adapted for the business carried on. He argued that there was no legitimate reason for taking away this licence, and referring to the figures quoted by the Chief Constable, reminded the Bench that in addition to the ordinary population there were numbers of other people constantly coming into the town as visitors and for the purpose of following their occupation.


The Chief Constable next opposed the renewal of the licence to the Ship Inn, Bourne-street, and explained that the property belonged to the Southdown and East Grinstead Brewery Company, who were also the proprietors of the goodwill of the business, the licensee being their paid servant. He cited how the house had frequently changed hands in recent years.

Mr. E. Bedford appeared on behalf of the owners.

In this case evidence was given that there were 5 fully-licensed houses and 3 beerhouses within 100 yards of the Ship, 15 fully licensed houses and 9 beerhouses within 200 yards. and 22 fully-licensed houses and 18 beerhouses within 400 yards. — Inspector Clapson said it was his belief that the Ship did very little trade, and that it filled no public requirement.

In reply to Mr. Bedford, Inspector Clapson said he was not aware the Ship was a licensed house in 1824. Structurally concerned, the Ship was superior to the Beehive, which adjoined a common lodging house, and was kept by an Italian. The police had not objected to the Beehive. He did not know one of the last tenants, Boleno, was a lunatic.

Mr. Bedford — According to the police he must have been a lunatic to have taken it. (Laughter.)

Inspector Bradford said the Ship did a low class trade, and it was frequented by bad characters and men who been convicted. In January, 1903, the Ship was closed for two days. The tenant told him he had no money to pay for stock, and the brewers had stopped his credit. The man also said he had “told the brewers straight ” he could not do anything with the house, but they had promised to pay some of his debts if he remained till after the Brewster Sessions.

Cross-examined — He thought the Beehive necessary: it was well conducted. The Ship was better conducted under the present tenant. The Beehive could be better supervised by the police than the Ship. The Beehive had no bottle and jug department; he did not believe they did any bottle or jug trade. He admitted the Eagle was no better than the Ship.

Mr. Bedford — Is the King’s Head wanted?

Witness — We must have some. (Laughter.)

Mr. Bedford — It is next door to the police station ? — Yes.

Mr. Bedford — Undoubtedly it is wanted. (Laughter.)

Replying, to further questions, witness said Boleno had to be sent to an asylum. Boleno did all he could to hit the trade on the head. The Ship was not used as a common lodging-house at the present time.

Mr. Bumstead said the gross rateable value of the Ship was £50, and the rateable £40.

Alfred Thomas Sorrell, in occupation of the house, said he held the licence of the Admiral Napier (Brighton) for six years, and before that he was a cab proprietor. He took the house when Boleno left. This was on the 14th November; there was no trade then, but things had continued to greatly improve. He now sold more than two barrels of beer a week, and he also did a fair trade in spirits. At present he was only manager, but from. his experience of the house he was willing to become tenant,

By the Chief Constable — He was paid £1 a week as manager. The whole of the takings went to the brewers.

Mr. Bedford, addressing the Bench, said in view of the notice served on the owners, the house had been placed under management awaiting the decision of the Magistrates. He pointed out that the Ship was one of about eight licensed houses existing in Hastings in 1824, and argued that some special consideration should be given his clients on those grounds.


The Chief Constable said this beerhouse. situate in All Saints street, belonged to Messrs. Leney, and the tenant was a labourer, who went out to work during the day. Lodgings were let on the common lodging-house principle,

Evidence was given by Inspector Clapson as to the number of licences in force in the immediate district. The neighbourhood was a very poor one. Lodgers were taken at the Alma either nightly or by the week. The charge for a bed was 6d. a night. The licensee worked for the Corporation, and in his absence, a woman managed the house.

In reply to Mr. Jones, who appeared for Messrs. Leney, witness said that district was closely inhabited.

By the Chief Constable - It was not his experience that many of the population patronised the Alma.

Inspector Bradford said it was his opinion that the Alma did very little trade. He passed the house six or seven times a day, and frequently the tavern was empty,

Mr. Bumstead said the Alma was rated at £35 gross and £24 rateable.

Addressing the Bench, Mr. Jones said that Messrs. Leney recently acquired the house for £1,500. The house had a good record, and an excellent trade was done.

Frank Eastland, the licensee, said he had been at the Alma 4½ years. He purchased from the last tenant, who had been there since 1894. He now held the house on a yearly tenancy, His rent being £9 10s. a quarter.

By the Chief Constable - He, had been in the employ of the Corporation for two years, He went to work to help him as he had to maintain his mother-in-law. The trade of the house would maintain him, but he “liked to work.”

Alfred Charles Leney, of the firm of A. Leney and Co., said his firm purchased the house ten months ago for £1,500. He handed in a statement from the ledgers showing the trade done. The profit on a barrel of beer should be 14s or 15s. Therefore the tenant should be getting a very good living. The trade was equal to about 4½ barrels a week.


The Chief Constable objected to the renewal of the Eagle Tavern beer-house in Bourne-street. He said the house did an exceptionally low-class trade and mentioned circumstances which he contended made the house a difficult one for police supervision. He also stated that the licensee (Mrs. Yielding) was convicted for allowing drunkenness in 1903.

Mr. Boxall, for the owners of the house, objected that this was a matter which could not be gone into.

The Bench overruled the objection.

The Chief Constable proceeded to say that upon the occasion to which he referred every male person on the premises had been convicted again and again for drunkenness, and some for more serious offences, and females using the house were known as women of bad or doubtful character. The house was rated at £16, and the landlady told the Justices when they visited the premises that she paid the brewers 8s. a week, and that they paid the rates and taxes. He submitted there was no trade, and no good will to this house.

Evidence was given by police officers. Inspector Bradford said the house was used by people of bad character, men and women.

Replying to Mr. Boxall, witness said there were no prosecutions in respect to prostitutes as they didn’t stay long—only sufficient time to obtain refreshments.

P.C. Ford gave evidence in detail as to the state of the Eagle on the occasion of the prosecution of the landlady for permitting drunkenness.

Mrs, Yielding stated that she had been licensee of the Eagle for four years. The trade had considerably increased since she had been there. She was not in charge of the bar at the time of the alleged drunkenness, in respect to which she was fined.

Jesse Gower, managing clerk to Messrs. Burfield, owners of the house, gave evidence to the quantity of beer supplied to the Eagle during the last 15 years. The trade had increased. One tenant was at the house for 18 years.


In reference to this case, the Chief Constable explained that this beer-house, situate in All Saints’-street, belonged to Messrs. Watney and Co. He mentioned that when the Justices visited the house the licensee said that his trade was about a barrel and a half a week.

Inspector Clapson said the house was chiefly used by fishermen and labourers. A previous tenant (Woolven) told him several times, “Trade is very quiet. I am doing hardly “anything.” In his opinion there was no necessity for the house.

Mr. Humphrys (counsel for Messrs. Watney and Co.,) cross-examined witness, who suggested that Woolven stayed in the house three years because he couldn’t get out of it. He knew nothing about barrels, and only judged the house was not wanted by the few people he saw using it.

Inspector Bradford produced a record showing that the house had continually changed hands till Woolven had it.

Mr. Bumstead said the gross rateable value was £43, and the nett value £34 5s.

William Clifford, the tenant, said he had only been in occupation for three months. The trade had much increased since he had been tenant. Ho could say he was getting a very fair living. The takings averaged between £5 and £6 a week.

Mr. Morris, local manager to Messrs, Watney and Co., gave the result of an examination of the ledger, which showed that since last June £171 was paid to the firm for beer. In the last three months 35 barrels of beer had been supplied to Mr. Clifford.

In reply to the Chief Constable witness said there were various reasons why some of the tenants had left after such short tenancies. They had all been able to pay up before leaving.

Mr. Humphrys briefly addressed the Bench, and submitted that under the circumstances the licence should be renewed.


The Chief Constable, in opposing this All Saints-street beerhouse licence, said. that whilst he had nothing to say against the landlord, the trade was of a very low class, and the customers wore rough and noisy.

Inspector Bradford, in his evidence, said that lodgers were taken in at the New Moon. In some bedrooms there were several beds. Sixpence per night was charged. There was a common kitchen next to the bar. Apart from the business of a lodging-house he did not think the house supplied a want.

In reply to Mr. Humphrys, who appeared for the Owner, witness said the Old House at Home was next door to the New Moon. He could not tell why the Old House at Home should be left and the New Moon taken, He believed the New Moon had the biggest frontage. The present tenant had been in the House more than ten years.

Mr. Humphrys — You can take it from me the present tenant has been there for 13 years, and there has never been any complaint.

Mr. Bumstead said that the gross rateable value was £35 and the nett £28.

William J, Morgan said he had kept the New Moon for 13 fears. He paid £98 rent to Watney and Co.; also the rates and taxes and the licence. On an average his payments were about £300 a year for beer. He only let to respectable lodgers, and he had never had any complaint from the police. His customers were chiefly respectable working-men, He had been able to pay his way since he had been in the house.

Cross-examined by the Chief Constable — Since an inspector came round he had not had six beds in one room, He now had four beds in one and three in another. Ho believed he could get a sufficient living even if he did not take in lodgers. He could take in twelve lodgers a night.

By Mr. Humphrys — He never had more than one ledger in one bed.

Mr. Morris, local manager to Messrs. Watney, said the trade at the New Moon averaged four barrels a week.

Cross-examined - He was not aware that some Justices had refused licenses to premises where common lodging-houses were carried on.

By Mr, Humphrys — The New Moon was really a poor man’s hotel. The house was kept clean.

Mr. Humphrys argued that there was no difference between this house and an ordinary hotel except that a different class of people were catered for.


The Chief Constable objected to a renewal of this All Saints-street fully - licensed house, belonging to Messrs. Hewitt. A common lodging house was also carried on in connection with the house. He argued that it was not desirable that people in a precarious state of life should be encouraged to live on licensed premises.

Police evidence was given respecting the number of existing licences in the neighbourhood. The landlord was a hawker, who went into the country. Apart from the lodgings there was no public necessity served hy the house.

Mr. Boxall, K.C., said the licence had been in existence for 200 years.

The gross rateable value of the Cinque Ports was stated by Mr. Bumstead to be £45, and the nett rateable value £35.

Luther Parris the licensee, said he had had the house for twelve years. He had a yearly agreement. Before last year he had a common lodging-house adjoining the yard, but at the suggestion of the authorities a high wall had been built. He had no nightly lodgers, but regular weekly lodgers. One lodger had had a room there for five years. As near as he could say, he paid his brewers £28 or £30 a week.

By the Chief Constable - He was the registered proprietor of the previous lodging-house at the rear of the house where the Wall had been built. The beds in the house proper he let at 3s. 6d. a week.

By Mr. Boxall — He would give an undertaking that his house would not be used as a common lodging house.

Mr. Boxall having briefly addressed the Justices, the court rose for the day.

The Second Day

References & Notes