Friday, 15 April 2011

Barclay Perkins brewery in 1904

Thanks to Adrian Tierney Jones for passing this on to me. It's Baedeker's description of the Barclay Perkins brewery.

Southwark Street, which diverges to the right (W.) from Borough High Street a little farther on, leads to the Borough Market (p. 33). Redcross Street, which intersects Southwark Street, leads on the left to Redcross Hall, with paintings commemorating deeds of heroism in humble life, and on the right to Park Street, in which is situated Barclay, Perkins, and Co.'s Brewery (PI. R, 38; III). partly on the former site of the Globe Theatre. This is one of the most extensive establishments of the kind in London, and is well worthy of a visit, on account both of its great size and its admirable arrangements. It was founded more than 200 years age. The brewery covers an area of about 14 acres, forming a miniature town of houses, sheds, lofts, stables, streets, and courts. At the entrance stand the Offices, where visitors, who readily obtain an order to inspect the establishment on application by letter to the secretary, enter their names in a book. The guide who is assigned to the visitor on entering expects a fee of a shilling or so. In most of the rooms there is a somewhat oppressive and heady odour, particularly in the fermenting-rooms, where the carbonic acid gas lies about a foot deep over the fresh brew. Visitors are recommended to exercise caution in accepting the guide's invitation to inhale this gas.

In spite of tho vast dimensions of the coppers, vats (one of which has a capacity of 112,000 gallons, or more than twice that of the Great Tun of Heidelberg), fermenting 'squares', and other apparatus, none but the initiated will have any idea of the enormous quantity of liquor brewed here in the course of a year, amounting to nearly 20 million gallons. About 170,000 quarters of malt are annually consumed, and the yearly duty paid to government by the firm amounts to the immense sum of about 220,000L. One of the early owners of the brewery was Dr. Johnson's friend Thrale, after whose death it waa sold to Messrs. Barclay and Perkins. Dr. Johnson's words on the occasion of the sale, which he attended as an executor, though often quoted, are worthy of repetition: 'We are not here to sell a parcel of boilers and vats, but the potentiality of growing rich beyond the dreams of avarice.' Most of the water used in brewing is supplied by an artesian well, sunk on the premises. — The stables contain about 170 strong dray-horses, used for carting the beer in London and its suburbs.

The brewing-trade In London has become a great power within the last twenty or thirty years, and is felt to have a serious bearing upon the results of parliamentary mad municipal elections. It is no longer a merely manufacturing trade, but promotes the consumption of its own goods by the purchase or lease of public-houses, where its agents are installed to conduct the sale. These agents are nominal tenants and are possessed of votes, and their number and influence are so great, that the power of returning the candidate who favours the 'trade' is often in their hands. All the great brewers are now understood to be extensive proprietors of such 'tied houses.'
"Baedeker London and its Environs", 1904, pages 398 - 399.

The last paragraph is weird. Did breweries really have the power to influence elections? I don't think so. Sounds very much like temperance paranoia/propaganda. Especially as this is the period when parliament passed some legislation - like a structured reduction of pub licenses and increased taxation on beer - that most definitely weren't friendly to the brewing trade.

What the story does remind me of is the Czech writer Hašek (author of "The Good Soldier Švejk"). He was a candidte for the Austro-Hungarian parliament just before WW I. Candidates usually had a pub as their headquarters and held political meetings there. That's actually why he was a candidate. One of his mates fancied a landlord's daughter. As the political meetings brought in extra trade for the pub, they hatched a scheme of setting up a fake political party, just to get in the landlord's good books. Hašek made long, satirical speeches, punctuated only by toilet breaks.


Matt said...

The name Hašek and his mate chose always makes me smile, the Party of Moderate and Peaceful Progress Within the Limits of the Law.

Donnellski said...

Owners of businesses of a certain size were allowed multiple votes in elections well into the 20th C. I think that's what that last paragraph was on about.

Will said...

You wouldn't happen know of any good books on British or continental brewery architecture would you?

Ron Pattinson said...

Will, "British Breweries: an Architectural History" by Lynn Pearson.