Monday 24 November 2014

Gin Palaces

"What," asks my reader, "is that immense looking house, the front of which displays, in all its architectural magnificence, pillars of the Corinthian order? It has, also, a large illuminated clock, and a lamp, of gigantic proportions, suspected over the entrance!" This, gentle reader, is a gin-shop; or, in more classically elegant language, a Gin Palace! While the rich man is sipping his claret in one of the splendid apartments of his princely club, the poor man is enjoying his gin in a room, the fittings-up of which, cost several thousand pounds. Refinement has made such rapid progress in every direction, that the beggar who sweeps the crossing thinks it vulgar to be seen in a common tap-room; and so he oes to the gin-palace and gets drunk in style, at the expense of three-halfpence farthing. I will tell my readers how these things are managed; and how it is that the proprietors of Gin Palaces make their immense fortune in three or four years: - In some obscure part of town, upon an unoccupied piece of ground, several houses of the smallest kind are built. One of these, the retailer of gin purchases as soon as it is erected, fits it up as a small distillery, and there secretly manufactures an immense quantity of illicit spirit, which is conveyed by his agents into the gin palace. By defrauding his majesty of the duties, he is enabled to undersell others in the trade!

Some gin-sellers, however, are more honest. The purchase the raw spirit from the distiller, paying all the duties; then they adulterate it more than one half with the most poisonous materials. They do not cheat the King's revenue, they only destroy the King's subjects! The profit arises from the extent to which they can adulterate the raw spirit, or procure an illicit distillation, and from the immense quantity drunk by the lower orders! With the money thus obtained, a 'Palace' is opened, and the liquid poison, being sold in twenty times greater quantities than before, makes the villainous proprietor a noble fortune. These places cause the deaths of hundreds of thousands annually.

Kidd's London Directory, Vol. 3 (1836)

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