Memories: The “wets” and the “drys” of 1920s Welwyn Garden City fight out the pub wars

PUBLISHED: 17:03 16 February 2018

The current Pear Tree Inn was built in 1938 to serve the growing local community - 11 years after the temperance debate. Picture: Google Streetview

The current Pear Tree Inn was built in 1938 to serve the growing local community - 11 years after the temperance debate. Picture: Google Streetview

Google Streetview

Pub chain Wetherspoons might be splitting opinion about setting up shop in Welwyn Garden City, but times haven’t changed much since the 1920s.

The comment writer in the Welwyn Times in 1927 loved a good pun as much as we do today. Picture: Mia JankowiczThe comment writer in the Welwyn Times in 1927 loved a good pun as much as we do today. Picture: Mia Jankowicz

On January 19, a Parish Council meeting noted that the town needed more than its two beerhouses and the Cherry Tree restaurant, and agreed to apply for a licence at the corner of Ludwick Way and Holwell Road.

Thanks to the construction of the Pear Tree estate, WGC had grown by over 5,000 people – all eager for social spaces.

The pages of the Welwyn Times – precursor to the WHTimes – show just how aware Welwyn Garden citizens were that they were part of a bigger social experiment about how best to live.

The debate between the “wets” and the “drys” raged through several issues of the paper that winter.

The Parish Council of 1927 applied for a licence for a pub to be built at the corner of Ludwick Way and Holwell Road. Picture: Google StreetviewThe Parish Council of 1927 applied for a licence for a pub to be built at the corner of Ludwick Way and Holwell Road. Picture: Google Streetview

As one pun-laden comment piece noted on 18 February, the ensuing debate about whether to follow America’s prohibition laws became as bitter as the proverbial pint.

“The “drys” in England refuse to take in any evidence unless it comes from the temperance spring, and the “wets” are partial only to what comes through the bunghole.

“Each side refuses to mix their drinks.”

By February 25, one Mr D.L. Webb had written a bullet-pointed missive to the paper fulminating against a new licence, ending with: “It is indeed strange to learn that the promoters of Garden Cities can do no better than to imitate those places whose evils have depressed the heart of men.”

But A.L. Micken of Ravenfield Road shot back on March 4: “We do not need more Webbs woven around us.”

He added: “This country will never submit, I hope, to a policy of prohibition that has failed elsewhere.”

He ended on a lyrical note, calling for a pub to “make the wheel of time proceed along more and more merrily.”

Things came to a head at a tumultuous Tenants’ Association meeting at the Pear Tree clubhouse (now Pear Tree primary school) in March.

“At one time,” reported the Welwyn Times, “It seemed as though everybody had a resolution to propose, but in effect only two actually relevant to the discussion were put to the meeting.”

But it was our correspondent Mr D.L. Webb who finally carried the vote with a compromise; that Pear Tree get a pub, but no others nearby should be considered.

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