The 'Carlisle Experiment' (Background: Carlisle)

Gretna Tavern, Carlisle

With Carlisle’s pubs in mind, David Lloyd George declared in 1915 ‘We are fighting Germany, Austria and drink, and so far as I can see the greatest of these deadly foes is drink’.

During the First World War, excessive drinking by workers in the UK’s largest munitions factory at Gretna threatened the production of cordite (‘Devil’s Porridge’). Pubs in Carlisle benefitted from the munition workers’ patronage, but alcohol-fuelled disorder was an increasing problem in the city and absenteeism and poor productivity in the local cordite factory was compromising the military campaign.

To combat this, the British government forced closure of 53 of Carlisle’s 118 pubs and nationalised the remainder. Thereby, alcohol consumption could be strictly controlled and moderated. Britain’s first state public house, opened in July 1916, was the Gretna Tavern on Lowther Street (formerly the General Post Office and now a bank). Premises licensed under this scheme were also required to serve food and provide recreational facilities such as darts and dominoes. This initiative became known as ‘The Carlisle Experiment’. Its success led to similar measures in other areas involved in arms and munitions manufacture. The scheme continued until the early 1970s when it was abolished by the Licensing (Abolition of State Management) Act passed on 27 July 1971.

For further information see ‘Countering the ‘deadliest of foes’: public houses of the Central Control Board and the State Management Scheme, 1916-73’ by Clare Howard.

Click here for link to Clare Howard article


Text by James Underwood

Photo © Cumbria Image Bank