Licences for intoxicated liquor, then as now, was an emotive subject and was a subject for local courts. Every February the local businesses selling intoxicated liquor renewed their licences. Grandad Beck as Superintendent of the Bridport Division of Dorset Police Constabulary gave the annual report to the licencing committee for his area. Supt. Beck started each session by giving a report into the previous year, which was reported by the Bridport News.
In 1934 as in previous years Mr Roper on behalf of the Licenced Victuallers’ Association wanted Bridport Borough to grant an extension by half-hour during summer evening. Bridport Borough didn’t agree that they had to right to do this. Bridport Borough and Dorchester magistrates argued that they needed a change in the law but other areas including Beaminster, Lyme Regis and Weymouth granted the half hour extension. The hours are set by national government with local areas allowing extensions in their area for an individual or group of premises. There seems to be a confusion about what extensions to opening hours the local courts could allow.
The measure of Drunkenness as reported by the Bridport News indicated the number of prosecutions by the local courts. We can assume that there were many more incidents that didn’t lead to an appearance in court. From this, 1934 had been a good year with drunkenness down in both areas.
The licensing courts covered by Bridport Police division was split into two or three areas, Bridport Borough held their annual licencing session, while Bridport Petty Sessional Division was held at Beaminster. I have found reference to sessions in Lyme Regis in other years.
To give some idea of the areas covered by these courts, Bridport Division covered Bridport, Beaminster and Lyme Regis. Bridport Borough may have included parts of the parishes of Allington, Bradpole, Bothenhampton, Burton Bradstock and Symondsbury. In 1915 there were police stations at Beaminster, Bradpole, Bridport, Bridport Harbour, Birdsmoorgate, Broadwindsor, Burton Bradstock, Charmouth, Cheddington, Chideock, Corscombe, Hook, Lyme Regis, Netherbury, Powerstock, Thorncombe and Whitchurch Canonicorum.
Supt. Beck’s report of the Bridport Borough Magistrates annual licensing session, stated that “there are 32 fully licensed houses; six ‘on’ beerhouses; two ‘off’ beerhouses; and one ‘off’ wine and spirit license. In addition, six registered clubs and one excise wine and spirit license not granted by the Justices. The population at the last census was 5,917 so there is one ‘on’ license to approximately 156 of the inhabitants.” While at the Bridport Petty Sessional Division was held at Beaminster he reported 67 fully licensed houses, 9 “on” beerhouses and one grocer’s licence, the licensee of which also held an “off” beerhouse licence with limitations, making a total of 77. There were also five registered clubs in the division.
Permitted hours were week-days 10 am to 2 pm and 6pm to 10 pm, Sundays noon to 2pm and 7pm to 10 pm. On market days (Wednesdays), in Bridport, 22 houses had an extension from 2pm to 5pm.
At various time through the year, 1933, the Justices in Bridport had granted 70 extension of time including 26 granted for Christmas Eve, 3 occasional licenses and 3 transfers. Permanent concessions of time from 10pm to 11pm are in force for the sale and consumption of intoxicating liquors in respect of the Bridport Arms, Bull Hotel and Greyhound Hotels. While in the area covered by Beaminster court, 47 extension of time, 4 occasional licenses and 4 transfers. The Beaminster Justices had granted an extension during the months of June, July and August from 10-10.30pm, this is the extension that was controversial.
The summer extension was not granted at Bridport in the preceding year or for the current year. Mr Roper, representing the Licensed Victuallers’ Association renewed his application in the hope that there is a change of heart among members of the Bench. His argument was that there had been no increase in drunkenness in the area and that Beaminster had granted a similar request in 1933 and for the coming year. Supt. Beck added that the extra time had been granted in Lyme Regis and Weymouth last year without any increase in drunkenness but Dorchester had not granted this and there had an increase of drunkenness. Laughter was reported about this comment.
The Bridport Borough Magistrates held the view that they did not have the authority to grant an extension or variation of opening hours during a part of the year. Alderman W. G. F Cornick (the presiding Magistrate): “The bench are convinced that they have no power to grant the extension for which you ask.” After more augment Alderman Cornick told Mr Roper “The Bench are convinced that the better way would be to get the law altered. We are not the makers but simply the administrators of the law, and we believe we have no power to grant this application. That is our position.”
The Houses concerned in the application were King of Belgium, Bull, Packhorse, Greyhound, Seven Stars, Tiger, Railway Terminus, George, Cross Keys, Ship, Volunteer, Woodman, Star, Sun, Royal Oak, Lily, Mason’s Arms, Phoenix, Hope and Anchor, White Lion, Old Inn and the Plymouth.
Licences approved and deferred
Beck didn’t appose any renewals, outright, the both licensing committee renewed all of the licences except in Bridport. The White Lion and The Lily, where decision was deferred for a month to enable the owners to produce alterations in the sanitary arrangements. At Beaminster Supt. Beck stated that some of the licensed premises were in need of repair. Especially to walls and ceilings in some of the public rooms, which were black and badly needed attention.
Both areas showed a decline in drunkenness over the previous year. In Bridport 9 males and 1 female were convicted for drunkenness under the licensing laws and 2 males for being drunk when in charge of motor vehicles under the Road Traffic Act. Of these 12 persons only 2 resided in Bridport. Compared with last year these figures show a decrease of five in the number of persons prosecuted. The average number of convictions during the last ten years is approximately fourteen. In the area covered by Beaminster court one male was convicted of drunkenness and one male for being drunk in charge of a motor vehicle. Both were none residents. This showed a decrease of six in the number of prosecutions compared with 1932.
Supt. Beck said that he had been asked by the Chief Constable to mention to the Justices that a stage play licence had been taken out by the landlord of the Red Lion Hotel, Beaminster, in respect of one of the rooms at the hotel which was part of licensed premises. A theatrical company was coming to the town for a month.
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Ref: Bridport News – 9th February 1934
Bridport, in An Inventory of the Historical Monuments in Dorset, Volume 1, West (London, 1952), pp. 43-52 http://www.british-history.ac.uk/rchme/dorset/vol1/pp43-52