Ancestry.com.au has launched the Birmingham Pub Blacklist, detailing the drunkards whose loutish behaviour saw them barred from the city’s pubs and clubs at the turn of the last century.
This information was compiled by the Watch Committee of the City of Birmingham, which was set up by the police to enforce the Licensing Act of 1902. The act was passed in an attempt to deal with public drunks, giving police the power to apprehend those found drunk in any public place and unable to take care of themselves.
The Black List provided licensed liquor sellers with photos and descriptions of ‘habitual drunkards’ who were not to be sold alcohol due to their reputation and past delinquencies.
These serial drunks were placed on the list after receiving four convictions under the Inebriates Act of 1898, which included being intoxicated to the point of complete incompetence and being found in a shebeen – an illicit bar that sold alcohol without a licence.
Other offenses included riding a horse whilst under the influence or drink-driving a steam engine (full list of offences available).
Each drunkard’s entry includes photographs (front and profile views), their name, alias, residence, employment, physical description, distinguishing marks, nature of conviction and the sentence received for booze-related crimes.
The detailed description also lists distinguishing marks such as tattoos and scars, and their unusual and sometimes ‘seedy’ professions, including prostitutes, ‘bedstead polishers’, ‘hawkers’, and even ‘grease merchants’. Interesting examples from the collection include:
The information was supplied by the Watch Committee to all local liquor sellers and this particular Black List was published by the Holt Brewery and would have been distributed to the 250 public houses the brewery controlled across Birmingham in the 1900s.
Similar lists were created for cities across the country and were commonly distributed by the area’s major brewery.
If it hadn’t been for the brewery, this collection may have disappeared from history as official inebriate records were not held. The Black List has now been published online for the first time, preserving it for future generations to explore and enjoy.
Anyone looking for a black sheep in the family could also find their ancestor within the England & Wales Criminal Registers 1791-1892, which feature registers for all 1.4 million criminal trials which took place in England and Wales from the late 18th to the late 19th centuries.
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