In early 1915, then Chancellor of the Exchequer, David Lloyd George declared in a speech that ‘drink is doing more damage in the war than all German submarines put together.’ So began the British government’s attempt to stamp out excessive drinking – a campaign which brought hardship to local breweries.
The introduction of the Central Control Board for liquor (CCB) in 1915 brought the sale of alcohol largely under the control of the government in order to curb what was considered the drinking ‘menace’, and a threat to the war effort. The ‘lure of drink’ was particularly seen as a problem in munitions areas – and a problem amongst the Munitionettes! In a bid to popularise abstinence, George V took a pledge that no alcohol would be consumed in the Royal household. Lord Kitchener took a similar pledge. Under the CCB, pub opening hours were slashed – to between 12pm and 2:30pm, and then between 6:30pm and 9:30pm. The buying of rounds was also banned, and tax on alcohol was increased. Similar controls were also put in place by governments across Europe.
There is evidence of commercial brewing in Mortlake since the 18th century. In 1903, Watney, Combe and Reid secured an 8 storey maltings along the riverside at Mortlake, Richmond. A leading brewing business in London, the firm used the slogan “What We Want is Watney’s” in their advertising campaigns. The conditions set out by the CCB understandably caused trouble for the brewery. In 1914, 89 million gallons of alcohol were consumed by the British. By 1918, this had fallen to 37 million gallons.
In response to these new controls, brewing was ceased at Watney’s. The premises were instead used to produce honey sugar – an alternative to jam – which was in short supply as a result of rationing. It was known as ‘Union Jack’ and was sold in what had been quart bottles.
In 1995 the brewery came under the control of Anheuser Busch, and Budweiser was made on the premises until it closed in 2015.
This blog was informed using research compiled by Patricia Moloney at Richmond upon Thames Local Studies Library and Archive
Featured image: Watney’s Beer Mat (C) Photography by Andy Johnson under a Creative Commons License