The task of searching the Quarter Sessions records for earlier recognizances is progressing.
Sadly, coverage is very patchy after 1804, with no further recognizances coming to light. It appears that the recognizances were not kept as part of the QS records from 1804 onwards, and their whereabouts are presently unknown. However, the good news is that there is a complete run up to 1804. Carnarvon licensing records have been discovered in the Porth yr Aur Papers at the University of Wales, Bangor. It is not yet known exactly what is contained in these papers, but hopefully there may be some recognizances amongst them. These records date from 1808 - 1833.
Note: The survival rate for 1787 & 1788 is poor compared with those for other years. There is also some confusion with the 1803 survivors as some have no town name included.
Alehouse Recognizances were early public house licences. The licensee, together with those who stood surety for them, appeared before the licensing justices each year, where they would pay a £20 "bond" as a guarantee of their good behaviour. Any breach of the conditions would mean the forfeiture of the money and their licence. By 1823 the fee had risen to what appears to be £50, even though some record a fee of up to £70.
Unfortunately, the name of the individual public houses were not included in many of the earlier recognizances, and we are left with only a list of names, although with the aid of other sources it is possible in most cases to match the licensee with his tavern.
The history of the Alehouse Recognizance is a long one. They were first instituted under legislation passed under Henry VII, in 1495, whereby any two justices of the peace were empowered "to reject and put away common ale selling in towns and places where they should think convenient, and to take sureties of keepers of ale-houses in their good behaving."
The end of the Recognizance came with the Ale House Act of 1828, which consolidated all the existing statutes relating to licensed premises and repealed those which were no longer required. Under the Act the justices were only given control over full publican's licenses which carried the right to sell any type of intoxicating liquor. In return for the grant of an annual licence the publican was no longer required to lodge a bond as guarantee of good behaviour.
Further legislation came in the form of the Beer House Act of 1830, which allowed pretty much anyone to sell beer and cider "for the better supplying of the public with beer in England to give greater facilities for the sale thereof than are at present afforded by licences to keepers of inns, ale-houses and victualling houses". The new licence was to cost two guineas per annum, and was intended to discourage the drinking of spirits, but in fact the Act merely led to many thousands of disorderly drinking-shops (nicknamed 'Tom-and-jerry' shops) appearing all over the country, as can be evidenced by the sharp rise in the number of drinking establishments in Carnarvon at the time. In consequence, spirit consumption hardly dropped.
In an attempt to deal with this newly created problem another Beer House Act was introduced in 1834. This time a distinction was made between an 'on' and 'off' licence. An 'on' licence was to cost three guineas a year, whereas an 'off' licence would be one guinea. The new class of beer 'on' licence was not subject to the grant of the licensing justices although the applicant was required to produce a certificate of good behaviour to the Excise Officer signed by six ratepayers.
In 1840 another Beer House Act came into force, this time the Act ensured that the applicant would not be issued with a licence unless they were resident holder and occupier of the premises. This again cut out the worst class of beer shops, or "Swankey" shops as they were sometimes called.
A perusal of the local Trade Directories will reveal the result of all this legislating activity, with a sharp increase in the number of "Beer Retailers/Sellers" in the years immediately following the 1830 Act, while the 1840 Act resulted in many of these Beer Houses consolidating themselves by becoming far more "respectable" and turning into proper public houses holding a 'full' licence.
Licensing Acts facts & figures were sourced from:
"A History of English Ale & Beer" by H. A. Monckton. (Bodley Head, 1966)
© K. Morris 2004 - 2006