Old School

“Schools for Licensees and Barmaids”

“Poets are the unacknowledged legislators of the world”, wrote Percy Bysshe Shelley in his (1840) A Defence of Poetry. This profound statement applies not just to poets but those from many backgrounds who influence society permanently.

Shelley’s statement applies especially to ideas at odds with received notions, but that win acceptance over time.

In a three-part examination last year (starts here) I discussed the career of the English padre Basil Jellicoe. In today’s terms he was a social justice advocate, active in the interwar period. He campaigned among other work to reform pubs, hence, and most unusually, under church auspices. One of his ideas was to create a “College for Publicans”.

Jellicoe envisioned, in other words, a school to teach pub landlords how to conduct responsibly their trade. As reported by the press in 1929, he remarked, in a statement capable of provoking even today:

“We ought to make the publican’s profession great, noble and honorable,” says Mr Jellicoe. “I advocate the establishment of a publican’s college where men can be trained as social workers and subsequently, as first class publicans.”

In that period there was no organized system to train people how to run a pub. Jellicoe’s audacious plan was received with a range of reactions, from incredulity to mockery. A crude example is demonstrated by an Australian cartoon in 1929 (again via Trove Historical Newspapers):



Father Jellicoe died young in the 1930s, with his plans mostly not realized. Two or three pubs were launched under his scheme but they did not meet financial expectations, and reverted essentially to a standard operating model.

Yet, only three years after World War II, a 12-week course was offered in London to train prospective publicans and servers, much as the padre envisioned except without a religious component. The course was described in Tit-Bits, a long-running, general interest magazine today considered a forerunner to the Daily Mail and similar media.

The article was reprinted in the Australian press – ever interested to report on the English pub as I have discussed earlier in these pages.

The piece, published in 1948, shows the training covered a surprising range of topics, with visits to an operating pub and brewery included. The writer, Trevor Allen, employed a lapidary, rapid-fire, knowing style, almost like Dickens. Despite some levity, to a degree reflecting the times, he acknowledged the worth of the program.

The course was offered by the Distributive Trades’ Technical Institute (DTTI) headquartered then on Charing Cross Road. Allen described his visit to an unnamed brewery in Mile End, probably Charrington & Co. He also inspected the bar and cellars at The Three Nuns pub in Aldgate. That pub was next to Aldgate Underground Station in a hotel and no longer exists; in the 1970s the site was cleared for redevelopment.

Allen states that beer glasses were unusually valuable as they were regularly stolen – too many smashed in the latter day bombing, I imagine. He investigates how draught beer was dispensed, and noted too how brewers were producing fewer types than before the war.

And spirits were still short, three years after the war’s end. Allen is mildly discomfited not to get an actual drink during the course tour but was mollified with the prospect of a whisky tasting, to compare single malt with grain or patent still whisky.

An example of Allen’s wit:

The [brewery] men, mostly young, have that confident, expansive look common to those intimately associated with beer (I’ve noted it on almost every face, passing through the brewery, and it makes me think of Falstaff, Merrie England and All That – even in the Mile End road). Then there are the women, all smart and alert – the ace bar-ladies of tomorrow. One I find, is already a manager’s wife – starting at the top and working down to the cellar. The lecturer – mellow, smiling, like a glass of clear ale in sun or lamplight – starts by knocking down all our illusions about ‘Drawn from the Wood’.

Allen’s envoi:

So now you have the layout. Twelve weeks of it – very earnest, scientific and helpful – and no heeltaps. Bill, the embryo-manager, bursting with data; Beattie the barmaid knowing a thing or two – as if barmaids didn’t, anyway!

Based on Allen’s report it seems the DTTI syllabus, innovative for its time, covered pretty much what today’s hotel and bar-training courses offer, and maybe then some. The brewery-sponsored PEAT scheme is a modern example of such training in the UK.

Today, through a series of school mergers the DTTI forms part of University of Arts London.

Envoi of my own: Father Basil Jellicoe was such a legislator as Shelley had in mind, and is remembered in Britain, especially London, to this day.






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