As the United Kingdom geared up for war, the Defence of the Realm Act (DORA) was passed which gave the government sweeping powers. It was realized early on that a workforce that nipped into the pub before the start of its shift to top up what was imbibed from the night before, would not be very productive. One of the first laws passed in 1914 put the authority over opening hours in the hands of military and naval authorities if the pub was in the neighbourhood of a defended harbour. That encompassed many would pubs, including those in London. With the new laws, London pubs were closed at 11:00 pm bringing relative quiet to the streets.
It wasn’t only the opening hours that were regulated, usual pub practices such as the “long pull” which gave patrons an extra measure were made illegal as was the treating of patrons, no one could buy a drink for anyone else and publicans could not extend credit to their customers – if you couldn’t buy for yourself, you couldn’t drink.
As the war years dragged on, beer supply became so restricted that pubs in urban areas were receiving delivery of only one barrel of beer per week. Patrons couldn’t rely on their pub remaining open every day because of lack of supply. On top of that, opening hours in dock districts were cut back even further so that closing time became 9:00.
The Hearts of Oak was close to the St Katherine Docks so would have been affected by the new restricted hours. Were the difficulties of running the pub in wartime the reason that Ellen’s new husband joined the navy in June of 1917?
Jennings, Paul. The Local: A History of the English Pub. Tempus Publishing Limited, Stroud, Gloucestershire, 2007
Monckton, H.A. A History of the English Public House. The Bodley Head Ltd., London, 1969