Going For A Song…And A Beer

Following the Crown Inn at St Ewe’s special centenary celebration as a 100-year-old Brewery pub, regular Randolph Grimes found himself £244 richer, having correctly guessed the cost of the pub when the Brewery purchased it in 1917 from the Trewithen estate.

The competition, set up by landlord Ernie Heather, was just one of many fundraising activities which raised more than double that amount for local charities across the centenary weekend, but the result came as a shock to many pub-goers for whom the hospitality at the Crown has always been priceless!

The £244 price tag was a sign of the times, with both pubs and the brewing trade in general suffering as a result of the First World War. Not only had many of the pub’s regulars gone off to fight for King and Country but the Prime Minister of the time, David Lloyd George was a supporter of the Temperance movement, claiming that Britain was ‘fighting Germans, Austrians, and Drink, and as far as I can see the greatest of these foes is Drink’

As soon as war broke out in 1914, strict measures were brought in to reduce the sale of alcohol and pubs were allowed to open only during meal times, 12pm-2pm at lunchtime and 6.30pm-9.30pm in the evenings. It was even against the law to buy your mates a drink after 1915 when the ‘No Treating Order’ came in to stop the buying of rounds and drinks on credit. Failure to comply could cost you as much as 6 months in prison.

In war manufacturing centres, such as Carlisle, the government actually stepped in and took control of both pubs and breweries, closing down as much as 40% of the local watering holes.

Thankfully, such draconian measures did not reach Cornwall, though pub going certainly declined and many pubs were forced to close down, hence the relatively low cost it took to pick up a pub, even if maintaining it through the austere war years was no mean feat.

As soon as the boys returned home, a new thirst needed quenching which was reflected in the rising cost of pub purchases, such as the Sawles Arms in Carthew for well over £500 in 1919 and the Hawkins Arms in Probus for over £750 the same year, both comparable in size to the Crown.

Of course, World War 2, driven by Winston Churchill’s stern directive to get beer to the troops on the front line at all costs and as a priority, was an entirely different story: “Make sure that the beer – four pints a week – goes to the troops under fire before any of the parties in the rear get a drop.”

As Crown landlord Ernie Heather put it: “It’s amazing to think how little the pub cost in real terms back in the day, but the village wouldn’t be the same without it. We had a great night celebrating the centenary and the special Jewel in the Crown ale went down so well we’re looking at getting another brew going as soon as we can! A big thankyou to everyone who turned out to help us raise money for charity on the night.”