1904 Licensing Act
If you have browsed the excellent Norfolk Pubs website (8) you may have noticed the large number of pubs "referred for compensation" and wondered what that means; it's all down to the 1904 Licensing Act. But to explain it we must go back further, to Roman times in fact. Pubs and intoxicating liquor have been part of English culture since then. The selling and consumption of alcohol was largely unregulated until the Alehouse Act 1552 when alehouses came under the control of local Justices of the Peace. They issued licenses and controlled the numbers of licensed premises. The 1830 Beer Act was pushed through parliament by the Duke of Wellington who was said to be concerned about the excess gin consumption of the hoi polloi. The effect of the Act was to allow anyone to brew and sell, beer and cider (not wines and spirits) merely on payment of the excise license and without reference to the Justices. This lead to a proliferation of 'beerhouses'. The other purpose of the Act was to bolster the flagging agricultural industry by increasing the demand for barley, which it did. By the end of the century the government was concerned about the alcohol consumption of the populace and set up the Peel Commission (1899). Peel decided that a reduction in the number of beerhouses was required and this lead to the 1904 Licensing Act. Under the Act beerhouses that closed would be compensated, the funds being provided by a levy on the owners of the premises (usually the brewers). So we see a decline in the number of pubs in Dereham, and throughout England from 1904 onwards.
Transfer of Licences
Another thing that you will have noticed on the Norfolk Pubs website is the transferring of licences between premises. The Justices controlled the number of licensed premises and were reluctant to grant new licenses, but the law allowed for the closing of a pub and transferring the licence to another. This happened in Dereham in 1954 when the Jolly Farmers closed and transferred it's full licence to the Railway Tavern which up until then only had a beer license.
Dereham Pubs referred for compensation and closed