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Friday, 31 October 2014

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State Management pub trail boost for tourism in Carlisle

Tourism in Carlisle is to be boosted by a visionary project that will tell how the city’s pubs were nationalised for more than 50 years as part of a unique social experiment.

State management photo
The State Management Scheme ran until 1973

The State Management Scheme was introduced by the Government in 1916 in an attempt to curb binge drinking by munitions workers.

Drinking hours were restricted, and the buying of rounds was banned.

More than 100 pubs, from Silloth to Annan, were nationalised, with landlords obliged to sign the Official Secrets Act.

The experiment did not end until 1973.

Now members of the Carlisle City Business Group, who aim to promote and enhance the city centre, have been given a £10,000 Heritage Lottery Fund grant to pay for a history trail that will tell the story using 16 of the pubs involved in the scheme.

And they hope to get £100,000 more as they prepare to apply to another round of funding in three months’ time.

“This initial grant will get the project off the ground, but eventually we hope that the pubs involved will have museum-quality exhibits,” said the group’s chairman Steve Matthews, whose shop Bookcase is based in the Castle Street building that was once the State Management HQ.

The project will provide displays revealing how the scheme was an historic experiment in social engineering, changing the nature of traditional working class pubs.

Mr Matthews said: “Before World War One, there were either country pubs for the gentry or pubs that were places of spit and sawdust – rough and ready.

“They tried to re-conceptualise these pubs as places where women could go; where civilised games were encouraged. The new State Management pubs were designed with bowling greens to the rear.”

The State Management trail is likely to be operational within the next few months.

In the meantime, volunteers are working with the business group to gather stories and information about the State Management Scheme.

Yet more material will be provided by Mr Matthews and local historian Denis Perriam, as well as retired grocer and cafe owner Ashley Kendall and Carlisle magistrate and former environmental health boss, Richard Speirs.

Mr Matthews added: “The business group is constantly looking to improve on what Carlisle has to offer, and as business people we know the importance of promoting something unique and the State Management story is certainly that.

“But more importantly it is a fascinating story that is little known. It was an initial experiment that eventually lasted over 55 years and changed the social and drinking life of the whole country.”

Viv Dodd, secretary of the business group, said “We are thrilled to have received the support of the Heritage Lottery Fund. Our contacts in their Manchester office could not have been more helpful, and the team that we have got around us couldn’t be better – but what we really want now are stories from the people of Carlisle.”

In Carlisle, the only drinking establishment not bought for the State Management Scheme was the city’s prestigious Crown & Mitre.

Former Carlisle MP Eric Martlew has long advocated creating a museum to tell the story of the State Management Scheme.

He said: “It was unique to Carlisle and when you tell people from away about it they’re amazed.”

Anybody with stories to tell, or photos or memorabilia linked to the scheme, should contact Mr Dodd on 07714 896941.

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