To be or not to be (a traveller) - that is the question

Hertfordshire Mercury, 19th February 1916


At Ware Petty Sessions on Tuesday, David Miles, landlord of the Spread Eagle Inn, Amwell End, Ware, was charged with keeping his premises open during prohibited hours.

Police Sergeant Herring said that, on 6th February, at 6.25am, he had been on duty in Amwell End when he had seen the lights on in the defendant’s premises. He had also seen the defendant come out of the premises, look around, fix the door open, and go back into the premises. At 7:00am, a train from London had come into Ware Station. Two passengers from the train were seen entering the defendant’s premises. The sergeant went into the inn, with a Constable, entered the bar, found 4 men in the bar, saw a glass being filled with beer, saw 1 shilling on the counter, and said “What’s this mean then?” The licensee said that the men had been working all night and had thought that they needed a drink. The Sergeant told him that the men were not travellers, and that if they had wanted refreshment they had their homes to go to.

The Constable had said that he knew of the four men, and that they were all from Ware, to which comment the four men all agreed. The four men left the premises.

The licensee said “You did not see me serve them”, but the Sergeant said “No, but I had seen you filling the glass, and there was a shilling on the counter”. The defendant said that he had not seen the shilling on the counter. Mr Windsor, appearing for the defendant, said that there was no disputing the facts. The defendant admitted that he had opened the public house and that the men had been inside for the purpose of being served intoxicating liquor.

The Bench placed no weight on the fact that the defendant had come out of his property, had looked about, and had even fastened open his door. They advised that the case depended on whether or not the defendant could satisfy the Bench that the men were travellers. There was no doubt that the defendant was entitled to open his property for accommodating bona fide travellers, but the Clerk advised the Bench that, by definition, a person is not a traveller unless the place at which he had lodged the previous night was at least 3 miles away. The men had been working at a munitions factory in Enfield, but Supt Handley said “You cannot call a munitions factory a place of rest or a habitation”.

Mr Windsor said that, in his view, “a lodge does not mean where a man is necessarily a lodger. These men were away all night in a factory and I submit that it was their temporary habitation and that, whilst not sleeping, they lodged there”. He went on to say that the defendant, believing the men to have come from the train as they did, were in fact travellers, rightly or wrongly. He said that the defendant believed the men to have been bona fide travellers, but Supt Handley said that the defendant had not taken reasonable precautions to determine this. Mr Windsor said he accepted the fact that the door had been open for anybody to walk in and that the men had entered without the defendant actually knowing whether or not they had come off the train.

The Magistrates retired to consider the facts and, on return, concluded that the defendant had broken the law. He was fined 9 shillings.

The men from the bar did not answer their summons to attend the court, saying that absence from their work could have severe consequences. The men were fined 1 shilling each.


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