The State Management Scheme was the nationalisation of the brewing, distribution and sale of liquor which began in 1916. HM Factory Gretna, the largest cordite factory in WW1 had been built by navvies in only eight months. The factory stretched for 9 miles and had its own transport, power and water supply. They also built 2 wooden townships, at Gretna and Eastriggs, to house the workers.
The arrival of the factory workers however caused social problems. High wages meant they had money to spare, much of which was spent on drink in local pubs. The ensuing drunken behaviour upset local residents not only around Gretna but also in Carlisle, which was only a short train ride away. Hangovers and explosives were not a great combination when they went back to work and absenteeism led to lower productivity at the factory.
The authorities became very concerned about the whole situation and officials in Gretna tried to control their access to the pubs in Carlisle by restricting local train services. However, some workers then began taking the rather dangerous route, on foot, across the railway bridge!
The government’s response was to institute the State Management Scheme. The nationalisation of pubs and licensed premises began in Gretna & District, on the Scottish side of the Solway, but soon spread to Carlisle and the northern part of the Cumbrian coast as far as Silloth and Maryport.
They took over more than 400 pubs and off-licences but also the local breweries. The alcoholic content of beer was reduced, although prices were increased, and they tried to make pubs more social with bowling greens and restaurants.
People were limited to buying one drink at a time, during reduced opening hours, and even landlords were replaced by managers, paid a salary with no extra profits available from increased sales.
In redesigning the scheme’s pub interiors, Harry Redfern, the scheme’s chief architect, did away with parlours, snugs and smoking rooms and areas were opened up into larger communal areas and emphasis was put on food and entertainment, making them more family friendly. Advertising was removed from the outside of pubs and only simple name signs were allowed. The scheme was so successful in Carlisle that the Government decided, after the war, to keep the pubs in state ownership.
Food Taverns were opened, games such as dominoes and darts were promoted and women were urged to visit pubs in the belief that all these alterations would encourage sensible drinking and less drunkenness. In some of the new pubs, bowling greens were built. Gracie’s Banking in Annan had a beer hall, a green for bowling, quoits etc and a cinema.
State Management made a profit for the government every year and may partly explain why it lasted so long. Economic problems in the 20’s and 30’s and then WW2 were more important for the government than dealing with state management.
Hector Munro MP eventually brought the subject of discontinuing state management up in Parliament and State management finally ended in 1973.