Alcohol could not be purchased in Britain on Sundays mornings (during divine services) from 1848 and opening hours on Sundays were reduced in 1854 and changed in 1855. These were among many proposals to ban all sales of alcohol in Britain on Sundays. An Act had been passed in 1853 to ban the sale of alcohol in Scotland on Sundays and similar Acts closed pubs in Ireland on Sunday from 1878 and in Wales from 1881. However, those who had travelled more than three miles on a Sunday were permitted to purchase alcohol in pubs which had seven-day licences. This is said to have led to people travelling by train from Aberystwyth to Borth (9 miles) on Sundays to purchase drinks there. As a result, he three-mile limit was abolished in 1890, and travellers had to prove that they were taking a journey for a reason other than getting a drink.
(Lambert, W.R., 'The Welsh Sunday Closing Act, 1881'. Welsh History Review
, 6/2, 1972, 161-189).
Clubs and similar organisations were allowed to sell alcohol to their members on Sundays.
The Act for Wales was repealed in 1961, after which counties, then districts, could vote in favour of remaining ‘dry’ or going ‘wet’. (see below)
The coming of the railways in the 1860s created a tension between Sabbatarians, some of whom wanted to restrict travel and other activities other than to attend place of worship and the railway companies who ran special excursion trains on Sundays - the only day that many of the working classes could visit the seaside. Research needs to be carried out on the extent to which pubs in seaside towns such as Aberystwyth and Aberaeron stayed open on Sundays to satisfy the needs of excursionists. Pubs were granted 6 or 7 day licences, to exclude or include Sundays.
Llanbadarn Fawr Petty Sessions
Mr J. J. W. Bonsall remarked that publicans would now have license to sell for six days only, but if they applied for a seven days' license they could supply bona fide travellers on Sunday, but the holders of six day's licenses could not supply anyone on Sunday.
The Cambrian News and Merionethshire Standard, 1st September 1882
Of the 294 pubs listed in 1905, nearly two-thirds (192) had 6 day licences.
|Place ||number of day’s licence|
| ||6 ||7 |
|Aberaeron ||11 ||7|
|Aberystwyth ||26 ||25 |
|Borth ||2 ||3|
|Cardigan ||28 ||5|
|Lampeter ||9 ||7|
|Llandysul ||1 ||7|
|New Quay ||9 ||1|
|Tregaron ||11 ||2|
In 1885 a report stated that in England, Sunday is treated as a day of recreation as well as rest while in Wales, owing to the arduous nature of religious exercises, Sunday is neither a day of rest nor recreation and as a result, the Aberystwyth Wednesday half-holiday was supported.
Cambrian News 25.9.1885
In 1889, the Aberystwyth Corporation passed the following motion:
‘In the opinion of the Council, the Welsh Sunday Closing Act has been a decided success in the town and district, and in order to make it still more effective, the distance limit for the bona fide traveller should be increased from three to ten miles, or the distance all together eliminated and that all premises where intoxicating liquors are sold should be brought under the control of the police’.
Aberystwyth Town Council Minutes, 21.10.1889 Ceredigion Archives
The fact that the campaign to restrict the sale of intoxicating drinks on Sundays continued after 1881 showed that there were ways around the law. Locals had various methods of purchasing drinks on Sundays, particularly at local clubs. In 1894, the Aberystwyth branch of the British Women's Temperance Association urged the Corporation to consider reducing the sale of alcohol on their properties (including many of the public houses leased by them to licensees). As a result, the Corporation requested the County Licensing Committee to refuse applications for the sale of intoxicating liquour on Constitution Hill when plans for its development were being considered. (Town Council minutes. 19.6.1894; 16.10.1894)
Clubs were eligible for licences under the 1881 Sunday Closing Wales Act but those in Aberaeron were not granted licences until the 1960s
Aeron Coast Caravan Park
Rugby Club (from 1988)
Pengloyn, Tabernacle Street (Ken and Nancy Swetman) Closed in the 1970s
Hirondelle 21 Market Street (John Thomas) Closed 1994
(Mair Lloyd Evans and Mair Harrison, The Ins and Outs of the Inns of Aberayron, 2013)
Ceredigion remained dry (that is, the public houses were closed) on Sundays from 1881 until the inhabitants of the county voted in favour of becoming wet in 1989. Ceredigion was the last but one district in Britain to allow alcohol to be sold in Public Houses on Sundays. The public could vote on the matter every seven years from 1961 but as early as 1957 the Town Council voted 10-2 in favour of revising the Welsh licensing laws (Cambrian News 29.11.1957). In 1982 the district voted to stay dry by a very small margin (10,882 to 10,125) (44% turnout) (Western Mail 8.11.1982) but in 1989 there was a similar margin in favour of going wet (10,961 to 10,133) (41% turnout) (Cardigan and Teifiside Advertiser17.11.1989)
Votes to open public houses in Wales
|year ||against ||in favour|
|1961 ||8 ||5 |
|1968 ||5 ||8|
|1975 ||6 ||31|
|1982 ||2 (Ceredigion and Dwyfor) ||35|
|1989 ||1 (Dwyfor) ||26|
|1996 ||1 (Dwyfor)|
2003 no more referenda under the 2003 licensing act
'Enough is enough' leaflet campaigning for a 'No' vote in the 1989 referendum on Sunday opening of public houses in Ceredigion.(Ceredigion Archives ADX/944)