End of Whiskey Rationing!

Queues for whiskey at end of rationing

Queue for whiskey, 21 December 1918 (Misc Photos/WW1)

Whiskey came back on sale in Birmingham after World War One on 21 December 1918. Two enormous lines of thirsty punters formed outside this Dale End store, one stretching back towards the High Street, the other going around Henn’s Walk, a side street no longer there today.

Close-up showing entrance to E.H. James Ltd, Dale End

Close-up showing entrance to E.H. James Ltd, Dale End

The focus was the premises of Edward Hill James Limited, which appears in a 1918 trade directory as Wine and Spirit Merchants of 29, Dale End. The firm was established in 1861 and rebuilt in 1906. The business remained here until around 1965, when it moved to Fazeley Street. The expectant or cheerful faces of many in the queue suggest popular relief at the lifting of wartime restrictions on alcohol sales.

Attitudes to alcohol consumption in Britain have often been complex. The queue ironically passes the Birmingham Sunday School Union Bookroom. The Protestant Nonconformist figures that traditionally dominated this movement, many having lectured on the social ills of alcohol consumption, might have been appalled by such a gathering outside their shop!

Michael Hunkin
Digitisation & Outreach

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