Featured Image: Band of Hope Union

In Victorian Britain, local and national groups were founded to tackle the problem of excessive drinking in society. These organisations, with the backing of the Church of England, worked hard to highlight the destructive effects of alcohol on the body and mind of the drinker, on the individual's family and dependants, and on society as a whole in the form of drunken behaviour, crime and poverty. Reduced productivity, which campaigners argued was the inevitable result of drinking whilst working, was another concern and, with this in mind, the UK Band of Hope Union produced this image in 1893.

Portraying prosperity and productivity, the picture shows how life could be for reapers who ‘sign the pledge'. The men, surrounded by large bundles of wheat, bask in the bright sunshine of a summer's day looking healthy, happy and well-dressed. They drink cocoa, milk, oatmeal and water which ‘experience proves' is the best for supporting strength rather than beer or cider. This charming scene, promoting the benefits of teetotalism, is in stark contrast to the grim black and white illustrations produced by societies to show the negative consequences of drinking.

The workers are notable since the different positions of the men, one standing, one seated and one on the floor, are reminiscent of a pub scene, and also hints at the various stages of intoxication. However, while other images show men falling off chairs and sprawled on the ground, this scene is pleasant, calm and controlled, demonstrating that men are still able to enjoy the camaraderie and satisfaction of drinking without the alcohol itself.

This image, together with eleven similar diagrams aimed at workers of other professions, such as coal-mining and printing, forms just a small part of Lambeth's rich collection on the temperance movement. The wide range of material includes pledge books, badges, prizes, illustrated journals and an embroidered tablecloth, and provides a fascinating insight into a significant and widespread social movement in our history.