Brewers call for end to “wash” beer in 1919, while gravediggers struggle to cope... the news from 100 years ago

Dateline: January 1919... What made the headlines on this day 100 years ago? Well, one which ran in the Yorkshire Evening Post read ‘More Beer Promised’, with the strapline ‘Higher Quality Wanted As Well as Quantity’.

Sunday, 27th January 2019, 10:56 am
Updated Monday, 28th January 2019, 9:03 am

The story beneath it related how the War Office had “got over the difficulty with the United States”, which was objecting to supplying the UK with extra grain if it would be used for brewing. Brewers meanwhile, who had long laboured under restrictions on the strength of beer, were calling for a relaxation of the rules, to allow them to make stronger beers. The weaker beer was known as “wash” and was, in general, disliked.

Another headline ran: ‘Coffin Exposed To View After 13 Weeks’, with the strapline ‘An Overworked Staff At A Leeds Cemetery’. It related the unfortunate tale of a baby’s coffin, which was somehow exposed some weeks after interment.

A letter from the baby’s mother, Mrs Wright, of Lennox Road, Milford Place, Leeds, said: “I laid my little girl to rest 13 weeks ago and on Sunday I sent her sister to see her grave. She came back and told me that she could see the coffin. The make sure I went myself and I found that it had not been covered over. I saw the gravedigger and he told me that he was sorry. I wish to place this in your paper so that others will not suffer the same as myself.”

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Further investigations revealed an overworked and “melancholy” staff who were still struggling to overcome the demands of a recent outbreak of influenza, which saw many deaths in the city and beyond.

The superintendant of Woodhouse Cemetery said he had 55 burials in one week, 200 in a month and only six gravediggers to do the work, mostly by candlelight. He even enlisted his two sons to help dig graves.