The War-time Drinking Problem

Public houses on the Mile End Road

If you were walking along the Mile End Road a decade ago, you would have noted two public houses that, despite undergoing many drastic changes throghout the twentieth century, would still have been visible from the First World War. Sadly, this is no longer the case.

There were four named public houses on Mile End Road in the Post Office London Directory in 1919; Black Boy, Hayfield Tavern, the Old Globe, and the Old Three Mackrel. You are currently looking at the site of the Old Globe, now a bookmakers.
Public houses were essential to working class entertainment culture in the early twentieth century. Until the outbreak of the First World War, they were predominantly a masculine environment, where drinking was considered a part of the working day culture and not just for leisure time. Publicans were key members of the community as their maintained drinking customs in their establishments and provided a space for working class entertainment and interaction at low cost.

During the First World War, public houses changed due to the circumstances on the Home Front. Serving hours became shorter and the prices of alcohol began to increase. The clientele of the pubs began to change as well - more and more women, particularly young, single, working women, infiltrated what had been a traditionally masculine pastime. This caused a major moralistic panic amongst the upper middle classes, who worried that this mingling would lead to an increase in prostitution. The public house remained a central part of working class entertainment culture, shown by the fact that in 1917 a group of workers in the light engineering industries were able to convince a government commission that it was completely necessary to have access to alcohol in the workplace. Drinking remained a controversial pastime throughout the war, with some considering it a defiant enjoyment of traditional pleasures and others relating working class drinking to military failures. Despite this controversy, many pubs survived the war years and continued to flourish long afterwards.

The Hayfield Tavern and the Old Globe remained active pubs until 2009 and 2010 respectively, but have joined the Old Three Mackrel and the Black Boy as pieces of Mile End history.