Friday, 2 March 2012

Recognition for a Chartist pub

It is strange to think that what must have been a very basic spit-and-sawdust beerhouse when it opened to serve settlers on the Chartist land colony at O’Connorville back in the 1840s is now considered one of Britain’s best public houses.
The wonderfully named Land of Liberty, Peace and Plenty at Heronsgate in Hertfordshire did not win Camra’s pub of the year competition at the weekend, but managed to finish in the top four.
The judges commended it on its "Fine selection of well kept ales. Relaxing, utterly pleasant pub. Friendly staff. Perfect really."
All a far cry, it would seem, from its early days. Then, the names of 30 Chartists who had subscribed to the Chartist Land Company were selected by ballot and each was provided with two, three or four acres and a cottage.
The colony itself was dry – the teetotal and temperance movement was well represented within Chartism – so it seems likely that the Land of Liberty, Peace and Plenty was opened by someone with a good eye for a business opportunity rather than as an officially sanctioned place of recreation.
For many of the smallholders life on the land proved even harsher than the factory work which many had abandoned.
There were, however, also reports of idyllic new lives in the country for some, and when the land company foundered financially few of the smallholders were keen to leave their plots and return to the towns and cities of industrial Britain.