Birth of the 'Teetotal' Movement
2017 marks the 185th anniversary of the birth of the Total Abstinence movement or what in time came to be known as Teetotalism.
In the early years of the 19th Century a rising tide of concern about the levels of alcohol consumption and associated problems led to the formation of a number of organisations which sought to advocate moderation in alcohol use, particularly abstaining from drinking strong spirits.
These ‘Temperance” Societies spread rapidly throughout Ireland, Scotland and then England and Wales.
A number of members of the new Temperance Societies quickly came to the conclusion that moderation could not adequately address the problems that excessive use was causing and contributing to and Total Abstinence from all alcohol was the solution.
The 19th Century was undoubtedly a period of change, progress and prosperity for some, for others it presented a series of challenges characterised by poor housing, poverty and social deprivation. It was in this context the Temperance reformers sought to encourage self-improvement by tackling alcohol use, not only in isolation, but also together with other intertwined social evils.
The development of Total Abstinence as an ideal proved a revolution in British society and from humble beginning grew into arguably the largest, and most influential, of 19th Century social movements.
The venue of these humble beginnings was Preston in Lancashire. It was here that in 1832 that members of the Preston Temperance Society came to the view that Total Abstinence was the only way forward. Central and inspirational to this story was a former hand-loom weaver and cheese-monger named Joseph Livesey.
In late August 1832 he firstly persuaded another member John King and then on 1st September 1832, a further five at a meeting at the “Preston Cockpit”, to sign the first ever Total Abstinence Pledge. They pledged “We agree to Abstain from all Liquors of an Intoxicating Quality, whether Ale, Porter, Wine and Ardent Spirits except as Medicine”.
These men became known as the “Seven Men of Preston” and would provide the Total Abstinence Movement with leadership and direction. The “Pledge” became an icon in the British psyche.
Another member – Dicky Turner, would contribute the name by which the movement would famously become known.
At a meeting in 1833 Turner declared, “I’ll be reet down out and t-t-total for ever” - a movement had found its impetus and name in that famous old Lancashire town of Preston.