Sunday, August 15, 2010

The Brewery

There was no Brewery in Wolverton. I hadn't given this much thought until now but Wolverton may be unique as the only town of its size in England without a brewery in the 19th century.
Beer doesn't (or at least didn't) travel well and until the invention of motorized vehicles could only be delivered by horse-drawn dray. So speeds of 5 to 8 miles per hour were a serious restriction on the range of delivery, so I imagine that access to Northampton or Bedford beers were out of the question in the 19th century, unless the railway was used.
Traditionally, ale houses brewed their own beer. Malt (the tricky ingredient) was obtained from a Maltster and from there on the fermentation process was fairly straightforward. I assume the quality of the product was highly variable. Breweries began to develop in the larger cities in the early 18th century and gradually spread to the provinces. There was a brewery in Newport Pagnell dating from 1780. It was not apparently very successful, undergoing a series of bankruptcies, but limped along through a series of different owners until it was bought by Charles Wells of Bedford in the 1920s, largely for the pubs associated with it, and closed down.
There was a brewery in Stony Stratford that was purchased by the Phillips family in the 1850s and then known as The Britannia Brewery. The Phillips family had extensive brewing interests in Bicester, Monmouth, Coventry and Northampton (the Northampton Brewery Company). I cannot find any reference to a Brewery in Stony Stratford in the 1839 Trade Directory, although there are two Maltsters, William Golby on the High Street and Thomas Ward on Horse fair Green.  In the 1842 Pigot Trade Directory, Thomas Carter of the High Street is listed as a Brewer. In 1854 the brewery is in the ownership of Revill and Thorn. There was also a Maltster and Brewer in Cosgrove, and it would have been possible (although I have no evidence of this) for barrels to be delivered by canal, even as far as the Black Horse.
It is most likely that the Stony Stratford brewery supplied Wolverton's needs.
In the 20th century, improved and faster road delivery meant that the larger town breweries could expand their empires. As far as Wolverton, Stony Stratford and New Bradwell were concerned this meant the Northampton Breweries and Charles Wells Brewery at Bedford. By the mid century Phipps, Northampton Brewery Company (NBC) and the Abington Brewery Company (ABC) - all from Northampton - were supplying most of the pubs. Charles Wells supplied The New Inn, which may at the time have been the outer limit of its delivery route.
Beer was still supplied in wooden barrels and the beer was unfiltered to help extend its "shelf life". This meant that after being rolled around and shaken up the barrels had two rest on the stills for a couple of days so that the sediment could settle before serving. The life of a barrel of beer was about a week.
The quality of beer was variable from pub to pub. Thus a pint of Phipps bitter could taste quite different from one pub to another, depending very much on the care of the landlord.
The invention of the pressurized metal keg in the early 1970s changed this. Filtered beer, with a longer shelf life, could be delivered direct from the brewery, served immediately, and required no special tending by the landlord. The only problem was the quality of the flavour.

2 comments:

Anonymous said...

I am really interested in this as I am descendant of the Phillips family who lived in Stony Stratford. I am trying to find the death of Richard Phillps.
They are an intriguing family

Anonymous said...

I too am a relative. I have just discovered that Richard Phillips, my ancestor died here in 1864. He was a member of the brewing Phillips family.
Jools