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Nostalgia: Bid to stop drinking in Romford fell on deaf ears

Romford Brewery yard around the 1890s. Picture London Borough of Havering Local Studies Romford Brewery yard around the 1890s. Picture London Borough of Havering Local Studies

Sunday, April 13, 2014
7:00 AM

In 1881, Romford Brewery covered more than 20 acres of the town, and employed around 800 staff.

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The Brewery in Romford in the 1980s before it was redeveloped into a shopping centre. Picture: London Borough of Havering Local StudiesThe Brewery in Romford in the 1980s before it was redeveloped into a shopping centre. Picture: London Borough of Havering Local Studies

Ind Coope and Co’s beer was drunk all over the world, even on polar expeditions.

However, the company’s success did not please everyone. In the 19th century, Britain experienced a revival of traditional Christian values such as charity and clean living. Many people now saw alcohol as one of the great social evils, leading to the formation of temperance associations.

Many charitable organisations such as the Salvation Army adopted temperance as a key principle.

In February 1881, the Salvationists marched into Romford for the first time – to a frosty reception. Their journal The War Cry branded Romford a “brewery-blighted town”, and reported that whilst a few residents were persuaded to give up alcohol, “the people generally are hard and unbelieving”.

Matthew AbelMatthew Abel

The situation soon worsened. On February 16, the Salvationists were marching through Market Place and found their way blocked by a crowd watching a Punch and Judy show outside the Lamb pub.

The crowd hissed at the parade, and refused to move.

A fight then broke out, and local carpenter Job Durrant was pushed into the mud. The parade leader “Captain” John Wood was found guilty of assault at Romford Petty Sessions, and fined 20 shillings plus 18s 6d costs.

Despite their hostile welcome to Romford, the Salvation Army established a church, known as a “corps”, in North Street in October 1881. The November issue of The War Cry shows how the Salvationists believed alcohol was corrupting Romford: “The respectable church and chapel-going man, with wife, dressed in silks, furs, and feathers on one side, going to worship could not even get there without passing, every few yards, a mother with unwashed face and uncombed hair, surrounded by several little shoeless children, the father slowly strolling away, with his short pipe and unlaced boots, to the back way of the nearest public house.”

Today the Romford Salvation Army corps is located in High Street, just a few metres away from where the brewery once stood.

For more information on the Romford Brewery exhibition call 01708 766 571 or email exhibitions@haveringmuseum.org.uk.

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