Sunday, 10 April 2016

Doing the business of running Eltham from a pub and charging the ratepayers for the drinks

The old Greyhound and other buildings, 1909
Pubs and inns have always been more than just places to drink and relax, like the posh coffeehouses of the 17th century they were also venues for political debate and business.

More recently during the 19th century they were the place where workmen were often paid at the end of the working day or the working week and in rural areas were where inquests were held.

So the murder of Mary Moore on her way home from the Manchester markets was held at the Red Lion in Withington while the murder of Francis Deakin in a beer shop in Chorlton-cum-Hardy was held at the Horse and Jockey on the green along with local cases of infanticide.

And at least one meeting of the committee which ran the township retreated to the Bowling Green Hotel on being unable to get into the school hall.

So I wasn’t at all surprised to discover that back in Eltham much parish and local government business was undertaken in one of the three inns.  According to the parish records during the early 19th century the favoured places were the Crown, the Castle, and the Greyhound.  “At the Easter vestry meeting of 1812 it was reported that the refreshment item of the past year had reached the sum of £39 12s 10d”*

But before we cry shocking I suspect like Chorlton and Withington there was no where large enough to accommodate the group.  The vestry room of the church would be too small and I suspect would so the vicarage but that doesn’t preclude the church itself.

The Old Castle, 1909
But pubs have always been an alternative place for meetings, ranging from trade union branch meetings to political groups and the sick and burial clubs which were a feature of the 19th century.

So that £39.12s 10d, was made up by
"1811, Easter Monday, Paid at the Castle inn, £10.10s.

31st May. Paid at the Crown on making a rate, £6 9s. 2d; paid at the Greyhound on taking the population, £4.8s. 4d.

2nd November.  Paid at the Castle Inn on putting out two apprentices, one to Mr.Pattenden and to Mr Nightingale, £2 1s. Paid at the Greyhound Inn in making a new rate, £6 8s. 6d.
Paid at the Greyhound Inn on making a new rate, £6 8s 6d; expenses of different meetings held at inns respecting the Militia, £3.13s

30th December.  Expenses at the Crown at a meeting to consider what plan to take respecting Groombridge, £16 10s.  Paid at the Greyhound Inn at binding two apprentices, one to Mr. Rolfe, Eltham, one to Mr Ward at the Greyhoundon the Militia business 11s.

January, 1812.  Paid expenses at the Greyhound, 5s and at the Castle, 6s 6d., respecting Groombridge.  Paid expenses at the Greyhound Inn, binding Thomas Rolf, £1 1s. 4d.

March.  Paid at the Greyhound Inn in setting rates, “£1.2d.  Paid at the Castle Inn, 12s.”

Now I have nothing against a drink but there is something a little surprising at the extent of the socialising, given that the Vestry records for Chorlton show only one such pub meeting and no where do the records show a bar bill.

The old Greyhound
But maybe we are just not comparing like for like.  For the Eltham records cover the early 19th century added to which Mr Gregory only quotes the one year while those for Chorlton stretch from 1838 through to the 1860s and were during the period after the creation of the New Poor Law when all was more serious and more cost conscious.

Perhaps I shall have to trawl for the earlier records for Chorlton, and in the meantime will reflect that for tomorrow we shall be in the old King’s Arms with William Goodwin who was pulling pints and dispensing bar room conversation from at least 1822 through to 1871.

Location; Eltham, London

*R.R.C.Gregory, the Story of Royal Eltham, 1909

Pictures; the Old Castle Inn and the Greyhound, 1909, from The story of Royal Eltham, R.R.C. Gregory, 1909 and published on The story of Royal Eltham, by Roy Ayers, 

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