Friday, 17 June 2011

Messrs. Salt and Co. (part four)

If you think I'd forgotten about the last part of my series about Messrs. Salt and Co. you'd be right. It completely slipped my mind. I've been getting too excited about Bolton.

There was more to the Pale Ale business than just brewing. The stuff had to be shipped all over the world. This required stores and places to bottle. Some of this was under the control of the brewers, others in the hands of third parties. There were independent bottlers and exporters, who bought Pale Ale in barrels, matured it, bottled and sold it. But that's not what we're looking tat here. This is Salt's own beer store and bottling plant.

"On arriving at St. Pancras from Burton, we had only to pass down a flight of stone steps, and walk a few yards to reach Messrs. Salt & Co.'s stores, which are situated immediately under the station, and face Pancras Road and King's Cross. The extensive frontage of these great stores is divided off into three large apartments, one for the manager's private room, and for the use of the partners when in town, an intermediate one for the collectors, and a larger one for the general office and counting-house, with a safe room, sample room and lavatories at the back.

As will be seen from our illustration, these stores occupy a great number of arhes under the terminus of the Midland Railway, and have been internally lined and fitted for the purpose. They have also been carefully ventilated, and are lighted throughout with gas.

In the absence of Mr. Leversage, the manager, we were most courteously shown over the place by Mr. Moody, who first took us to the manager's room, which is a very light and handsome apartment, the walls and ceiling being lined with polished pine. The furniture is of solid oak, and the cupboards and wall fittings correspond. Next in order comes the collectors' room similarly fitted, and after that, the counting-house, which is most conveniently furnished with rows of mahogany desks and brass rails over for ledgers; the walls  of the building being coloured pale blue. Passing from thence through a doorway we came to one of two sample rooms, the walls of which are lined throughout with white glazed tiles, and on one side is fixed a marble counter This room forms a lobby entrance to the stores for customers, and to the right of it there is an office and entering-room for the superintendent.

Leaving this department, we found ourselves in the largest of the stores stretching out right and left from the doorway as far as the eye could reach At the extreme corner is the stock sample room, where a cask of every gyle is kept for examination, and where the temperature is always maintained at 52° Fahr. Here customers come to sample the beer before they purchase it, and are thus able to ascertain its condition, strength and quality. These extensive stores, covering nearly half an acre, are divided by a double line of railway, in the centre of which is a turn-table for two waggons. This railway is in direct communication with the high level service, and a train laden with beer arrives from Burton daily.

The first division, which is called the No. 1 store, and will hold 20,000 barrels, is entered from the street by two spacious and lofty arches, which are used for loading out the beer. It measures 350 feet by 100 feet, the height is 16 feet, and the arches above are supported by no less than 126 massive iron columns. The premises, which are well ventilated, are paved with brick and drained by a thorough system of double trap drains. Walking to the north end of the No. 1 store we came to a large vaulted apartment, used as a bottling store by Messrs. Moody & Co., who bottle Messrs. Salt's ales in London, for the home and export trade. It is well arranged for the purpose, being fitted up with all the usual bottling appliances and machines. Extending in front of it there is a large space covered with casks of ale reserved for Messrs. Moody's use.

Leaving the bottling stores behind us, we crossed the railway track, and entered the second division referred to. At the entrance, numbers of workmen were busy unloading the trucks and rolling the casks of ale into the stores, whilst others were taking the numbers and re-marking the casks. This store is scarcely as large as the other, and has an exit on the opposite side into the Midland Road, so it will be seen that the two places take up the whole width of St Pancras Station. A short distance higher up the road, under some more arches of the railway, are the stables and dray sheds of the firm, where fifteen horses are stabled and seven vehicles housed. As most of the carting is done by contract, especially in distant parts of London, these horses are used principally for delivering ale in the immediate locality. Returning the office we refreshed ourselves with a glass of Messrs. Salt's best pale ale, and once more set out on our travels."
"Noted Breweries of Great Britain and Ireland, vol. 2", Alfred Barnard, 1889, pages 131 - 133.

As soon as I saw the illustration, I recognised where it was. And realised that the building still stands, built along one side of St. Pancras station. If you know little of Britain's railways, I'll explain why the stores were at St. Pancras: it was the London terminus of the Midland Railway, the company serving Burton.

20,000 barrels? That's a huge amount of beer. Presumably, in addition to beer intended for bottling, this also contained draught beer for sale in the London area. It's still an awful lot of beer. Shame Barnard doesn't supply any more details as to how long it rested there.

One last remark. Do you see what it says above the stores? "Salt and Company East India Pale and Burton Ale Stores" They're making a clear distinction again between Pale Ale and Burton Ale. Just thought I'd point that out.

1 comment:

Barbarrick said...

Most revealing as ever Ron. I always associated St Pancras ale storage with Bass. The use of, seemingly, the full width of the undercroft by Messrs Salt & Co. seems to show what a thriving Burton concern they were. Also, in trying to understand more about the day-to-day ale storage operations at St Pancras, does this suggest that Bass had vacated the area beneath the station platforms? Bass' "St Pancras stores" is a common phrase but they established an agency (offices, bottling operation etc) at "King's Road. N.W." (just north of St Pancras station). Indeed in a pricelist dated 1879/80, this is given as the address of their agency. Could it be that Bass began using the railway station itself then moved out to the King's Road warehouse? Anyone out there have any details on the chronology of Bass' residency in the St.Pancras area?