Abstinence, the Olympics and the unemployed: a story for a summer’s day

Roger Protz, Britain’s leading writer on beer, has been getting angry about the poor quality stuff being sold to crowds at the Olympics. Real ale pumps are being torn out at cricket grounds, hoppy fragrance replaced by factory-produced sugar-water. But even the giant Heineken corporation is not getting its way at one venue.

Hadleigh Farm in Essex, home to the mountain biking competition, is famously ‘dry’. Hadleigh houses a rare breeds centre, a farm shop, and a conservation centre. It also runs a training programme for people with special educational needs in such subjects as IT skills, carpentry, and life skills. And it belongs to the Salvation Army, who opened it as a land and industrial colony in 1891.

To download a paper on British labour colonies and similar organisations before 1939, see: http://stir.academia.edu/JohnField/Papers/613868/Able_Bodies_Work_camps_and_the_training_of_the_unemployed_in_Britain_before_1939William Booth, the Army’s founder, intended Hadleigh to be the British pinnacle of his Darkest England scheme. It sat between the local social work that the Army’s activists carried out among the ‘submerged tenth’ and the network of land settlement schemes that it planned in Britain and overseas. It trained the unemployed and poor, with a view to turning them into sober farmers.

Hadleigh was a huge enterprise, occupying some 3,000 acres of farmland and mudflats on the Thames estuary. The recruits represented a cross-section of London’s casualised poor, some sent by poor law boards and others by local Salvation Army groups such as the Prison Gate Brigade. All were male, and most were relatively young. They slept in dormitories, worked the land, and on Sundays they were expected to pray. As Booth put it, a colonist was expected to learn ‘the elementary lesson of obedience’, while earning his own bread.

Alcohol was, of course, completely banned. The Salvation Army blamed much of London’s poverty on drink, and the colonists had to pledge to abstain while in the colony. As it was less than a mile to the nearest pub, it comes as no surprise that large numbers were dismissed for drunkenness.

Over the years, Hadleigh adapted to new circumstances. It participated in government programmes to export the unemployed to the white Dominions in the 1920s. In 1936, it accepted Basque refugee children, and in 1939 it took in Jewish refugees. It provided residential outdoor programmes for young offenders in the post-war years, and developed its contemporary training function during the 1990s.

But while Hadleigh’s role has changed and developed over the years, the ban on alcohol has remained. Given the alternative – a corporate monopoly – I think that the Campaign for Real Ale should be quietly satisfied. Pint of Copper Pippin anyone?

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One thought on “Abstinence, the Olympics and the unemployed: a story for a summer’s day

  1. Hi…I wonder if you can help. I am trying to trace my father’s journey to Australia. He travelled on the ss Esperance Bay 8th March 1939 and landed in Sydney 6th April 1939. His name was Henry Felton D.O.B. 11/8/1924. He travelled with his brother Peter Felton, Peter was 16 yrs old and my Father was 14 yrs old. I know they went with the Salvation Army land settlement scheme for youths to work on farms in Australia. I am trying to find records, I have the passenger list in a physical form (it survived) but I want to look at the list of names that should be recorded with Sally’s Army. Kind Regards Chris Griffiths

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