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Bing-drinking at the parsonage

Bing-drinking at the parsonage – no, that’s not a typographical error.

“Bing-ale”, according to An Alphabet of Kenticisms by Samuel Pegge, the 18th-century vicar of Godmersham, Kent, was “the liquour which the fermor [farmer] of a parsonage [that is, the parson/farmer] gives to the fermours and to the servants, at two separate entertainments, servants first and masters afterwards, at the end of the year, when he has gathered their tythe.”

Undoubtedly the “bing-ale” given to the farmers of the parish by the parson in return for their handing over their tithes (the one-tenth of their produce due to the Church of England) was brewed at the parsonage, for this was still the age of domestic brewing.

Almost every farm, many rectories, vicarages and parsonages, most stately homes, and other country houses besides, from villa to cott, brewed ale and beer, for family and servants. So, too, did university colleges, schools, hospitals and poorhouses.

Until the very last decade of the 18th century six in every 10 pints of beer and ale drunk were brewed by private brewers. Only from 1790 did beer for sale creep above 50 per cent of consumption. Even in 1830 private brewers made one fifth of all the country’s beer.

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