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Gin Palaces in Regency England

'Gin Juggarnath or the Worship of the Great Spirit of the Age', 1835, G CruikshankWith the reduction of duties the consumption of domestic spirits more than doubled in England and Wales, rising from just under 3,700,000 gallons in 1825 to just over 7,400,000 in 1826. The number of licences to sell spirits also shot up and with them the number of gin palaces.

The combination – rising consumption and an explosion of outlets – fuelled the nascent temperance movement. Concerns about the effects of both surfaced shortly before the official launching of the British and Foreign Temperance Society in 1830. A great many people believed that the working poor were squandering both their money and time on cheap gin.

The new-style gin shops first came under sustained attack in autumn 1829 when the magistrates in Middlesex, who controlled the licensing of pubs across north London, urged their colleagues to withhold licences from speculators who were buying out old alehouses for the sole purpose of retailing spirits. The satirist George Cruikshank weighed in, publishing in 1829 a particularly macabre cartoon ‘The Gin Shop’ in Scraps and Sketches and the subsequent attention it received in the newspapers encouraged concerned citizens to voice their own complaints in letters to the Editor of The Times. – Read more here


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