Temperance Movement

The Temperance Society was first founded in Bradford. Joseph Rowntree and his father wrote widely on temperance and opposed the consumption of alcohol, which they called ‘the drink misery’, although they acknowledged the reasons why people drank alcohol. Joseph Rowntree wrote The Temperance Problem and Social Reform (1899).

Another work, The British Gothenburg Experiments and the Public House Trusts, advocates the public control of pubs, and the removal of the profit principle from licensed houses. He was looking at the example of state monopoly of the liquor trade in Sweden that was started in the 1800s and is still in existence today. The equivalent experiment in England was known as the Carlisle experiment.

In 1916 the government acquired five breweries and 363 pubs over 300 square miles either side of the English-Scots border around the Solway Firth, where a huge munitions factory was being built. This experiment was part of a wartime measure in which other pubs were nationalised in handfuls elsewhere in the country. But the experiment in Carlisle continued right up until 1971, when the pubs were eventually re-privatised by Edward Heath.

Joseph Rowntree and Drink

Interestingly, Joseph Rowntree does not appear to have been a teetotaller himself, at least until 1880, and he is said to have owned his own wine cellar. He encouraged his children not to drink and it is possible that he changed his attitude to drink in the course of his life. Drinking chocolate was encouraged as a substitute for alcohol –this is one of the reasons why so many of the great chocolate barons were Quakers, such as Cadbury, and Fry, besides Rowntree.