Aberystwyth Auxiliary Temperance Society minute book

Reference: NLW MS 8323B

NLW MS 8323B is composed of papers relating to the Aberystwyth Auxiliary Temperance Society, which was formed in 1835. It includes a minutes book, a list of subscribers, rules and a membership card.

By the beginning of the nineteenth century heavy drinking was common in Wales. The situation deteriorated in 1830 when the Beer Law was passed that allowed any taxpayer who paid two guineas a year to open a beer house. This led to a significant increase in the number of public houses, especially in the towns and industrial areas.

The public houses were increasingly opposed by many people for a number of different reasons: wives worrying about their husband's heavy drinking, chapel goers worrying about moral standards and industrial masters worrying about absence from work. Consequently, the forming of temperance societies, bodies that originated in the United States, was welcomed. By 1835 there were 25 temperance societies in Wales, including one in Aberystwyth.

At the beginning the emphasis was placed on moderation. We can see that the members of Aberystwyth Auxiliary Temperance Society agreed to abstain from spirits except for medicinal purposes and to drink other alcoholic drinks, e.g. beer, in moderation. Later, under the influence of the chapels, the teetotal societies became increasingly popular.

As well as the society's minutes, there is also a list of rules dealing with a sickness insurance scheme arranged by the society and a list of arrangements for the funerals of members. Offering additional services such as these helped the temperance societies earn their place as one of the cornerstones of Welsh society during the second half of the nineteenth century. They had their own magazines, songs, ceremonies and even their own hotels.

Further reading

  • John Davies. Hanes Cymru. London: Penguin Books, 1992.
  • W.R. Lambert. Drink and Sobriety in Victorian Wales. Cardiff : University of Wales Press, 1983.
  • Islwyn Jones. 'Gwell yw Dŵr i Gylla Dyn' bras-olwg ar hanes dirwest yng Nghymru yn y bedwaredd ganrif ar bymtheg. Caerdydd : Amgueddfa Werin Cymru, 1986.

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