Temperance Inns

In a post last month, I tried somewhat flippantly to question what exactly a pub was by presenting a hotel bar called London Pub (fig. 54). It seems, however, that there may be more examples of when a pub is not really a pub, namely the temperance inn.

The Lord Roberts (Upper Woodcote CR8), now closed
Figure 63. The Lord Roberts (Upper Woodcote CR8), now closed.

Temperance societies first sprang up in the United States in the early-19th century, finding their way soon after to Britain. The movement faltered in the middle of the century, but regained strength by the end with such groups as the Sons of Temperance Friendly Society (still in existence — its grand headquarters can be seen in London on Blackfriars Road) pushing a message that had developed from one of mere moderation to the outright prohibition of alcohol.1

One of the effects of these pressures on pubs (and on licensing magistrates) was the creation of larger, grander, apparently more cultured environments utilising the kind of decoration that can be seen in my previous post. More pubs during the early-20th century became family-friendly, offering food and games in addition to alcoholic beverages. However, at the same time, there was some pressure to create pub-like environments which dispensed with alcohol altogether. The “coffee tavern” and “temperance inn” were two such forms of this, though even at the height of the temperance movement in the early-20th century, there were never more than several hundred throughout the country.2

In London, there are still a few notable surviving buildings, such as The Lord Roberts (Upper Woodcote CR8, fig. 63), on a grand estate created by a local surveyor, William Webb. Opening in 1907, the Lord Roberts takes the form of a pub, it has a pub’s name and hanging sign, and it once offered food and drink to the residents of this suburban development. However, of course, it sold no alcohol. The fact that it has long since become a post office and small store suggests that the temperance cause was not greatly profitable in this area (where, one imagines, the wealthy residents hardly had need of a tavern anyway).3

Another former temperance venue is The Walmer Castle (Marylebone W1, fig. 64), originally listed as a “coffee tavern” and later a “temperance hotel” in the historical directories. A blue plaque on this building records it as the former residence of Emma Cons, a prominent suffragist and social reformer of the 19th century, who was also responsible for reopening the Royal Victorian Theatre near Waterloo as a “Coffee and Music Hall” in 1880 (it soon after became known as the Old Vic).4

The Walmer Castle (Marylebone W1), now closed
Figure 64. The Walmer Castle (Marylebone W1), now closed.

Beyond these examples, there’s little evidence of the continued effectiveness of temperance at such an overt level,5 though of course political pressure continues to be exerted on what is perceived as the spectre of excessive drinking. The temperance movement may scarcely exist anymore, but it seems sometimes that it hardly needs to offer its own alternative venues, as pubs close in ever greater numbers. Still, that hasn’t stopped pubs like The Temperance (Fulham SW6) from honouring the concept in name without skimping on the alcohol.


[1] Even commercial interests became aware of this public feeling, and exploited it with “temperance ales” being brewed and sold on a promise of relieving drunkenness and ruin, as seen on this poster from the National Archives.
[2] There’s good discussion of the temperance movements in G. Brandwood, A. Davison and M. Slaughter, Licensed to Sell: The History and Heritage of the Public House (London: English Heritage, 2004), pp. 31-39.
[3] More about the history of the Webb Estate in Upper Woodcote can be found on the London Borough of Croydon‘s website.
[4] As ever, one can find out more information from the Wikipedia entry.
[5] Only one temperance inn appears to survive in the United Kingdom (the Cross Keys in Cumbria).

4 responses to “Temperance Inns

  1. hey! Emma Cons founded Morley College too (starting with penny lectures in the dressing rooms of the old vic), our main hall is named after her.

  2. That’s true. I note that Morley also took over a former pub to house their gallery, clearly keeping up Ms Cons’ good work.

  3. There was a temperance bar next door to the barber’s my dad used to take me to in Eccles, Lancashire, in the early 1960s. We even had a glass of sarsparilla or dandelion and burdock in there from time to time.

    Not much of a surprise in such a hotbed of Methodism, I guess…

  4. Dominic Pinto

    Can I commend the Ossington, in Newark, Nottinghamshire, as a grand example of a Temperance Hotel?


    It appears to now be a restaurant http://www.newark-sherwooddc.gov.uk/ppimageupload/Image78478.PDF

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