Beer history

The National Society for the Promotion of Pure Beer

News clipping: the NSPPB

We only have two sources of information on the National Society for the Promotion of Pure Beer (NSPPB, according to their official crest): a 1961 Daily Mirror article (18 December, p.5) and various paraphrasings of the same United Press copy about ‘wacky British societies’ from 1963. And, as it happens, we’d guess the latter was cribbed from the former, so it’s next to useless.

What do we know? The NSPPB was founded in around 1923 by Mr E.D. La Touche of Sussex. Looking into birth records, he’s probably the Edmund Digges La Touche born in Kensington, London, in 1882. Although he’s coy about where he lives when asked by the Mirror journalist — “It’s somewhere in Sussex… I won’t say where because I’m a church sidesman. The congregation might get the wrong idea.” — he died in Chichester in 1980.

Mr La Touche’s Christmas address to the other members of the society boasted of 13,218 visits to pubs over the 38 years of its existence, all ‘in the cause of Better Beer’. Those gathered — all three of them, including La Touche’s son Peter — raised their pint glasses and cheered. (The other members, in case you’re interested, were Roland Jones and Dudley Lee.)

A couple of observations:

  1. If The Society for the Preservation of Beers from the Wood paved the way for CAMRA, could this even smaller ‘campaign’ group have in turn inspired the SPBW in some way?
  2. Campaigning for ‘pure beer’ is just one of several routes CAMRA could have gone down, and a theme they certainly flirted with. (Post to follow…)
  3. Mr La Touche lived to 98, while Becky Willeter made 90. Arthur Millard lived to 83. Could being obsessive about beer possibly be good for you?

12 replies on “The National Society for the Promotion of Pure Beer”

There was some agitation in agricultural circles through the 1920s for a “Pure Beer Act” that would stipulate that beer be made only of British malt, hops and sugar – I wonder if that’s what inspired Mr La Touche? (There were a couple of attempts to actually introduce a Pure Beer Act in Britain, in 1902 and 1906, but both failed …)

It should be noted that the Panacea Society, mentioned just below in the article, is still going, and still wondering why no one has opened Joanna Southcott’s box – and they are very, very wealthy indeed (though few in number). If only the National Society for the Promotion of Pure Beer had similarly invested in real estate, just think of their position now!

Members of the Panacea Society seem equally long-lived, which I believe they attribute to their Water of Life, but I imagine that doesn’t taste as good as a nice ale. I’ll go with La Touche on this one.

Here’s a bit more about the Digges La Touche family, courtesy of the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography: they were originally Huguenots, and David La Touche (1671–1745) had fled from France on on the revocation of the edict of Nantes and entered Caillemotte’s Huguenot regiment. He travelled to England with William of Orange, served at the battle of the Boyne, and settled in Dublin after his regiment was disbanded. Having first worked as a poplin maker, he became a successful banker, establishing the La Touche bank in 1715. He married twice and had two sons with his first wife, Martha Judith Biard, namely David La Touche (1704–1785), also a banker, and James Digges La Touche (1707-1763) (whose second wife was Matilda, daughter of William Thwaites, who was, I believe a Dublin brewer). By the 1780s La Touche’s was Ireland’s premier bank, and the La Touche family was among the country’s leading landed and political dynasties — six sat in the last Irish parliament and six sat in the British parliament up to 1820.

Where our Edmund fits in with that lot, I don’t know, but he had distinguished ancestors, clearly.

Thanks, Martyn. (Though I was really hoping that would say David La Touche had fled France in protest at the quality of the beer….)

Strangely, I believe there WERE two – the writer of Little Red House on the Hill is also referred to in some sources simply as Edmund La Touche, and I suspect he’s the same Edmund La Touche who pops up as a (very minor) actor in various newspaper reports in the 1920s and early 1930s.

On the subject of obscure or pioneering beer societies there was also the Pub Users Preservation Society founded c1946 mentioned by SPBW c1998 and the Ancient Order of Frothblowers c1920’s-1940’s keep up the good work

Comments are closed.