Monday, 12 March 2012

T & J Bernard's Old Edinburgh Brewery

It's been a while since we last walked side-by-side with Alfred Barnard through a long-vanished brewery. Time to put that right as we follow him inside T & J Bernard's old Edinburgh Brewery.

Barnard's selection of Scottish breweries is a little odd. Two of the biggest and most important - Tennent and William McEwan - don't appear. While some less significant ones do. Maybe they wouldn't let him in Tennent and McEwan. Who knows.

Like many Edinburgh brewers, T & J Bernard outgrew their cramped inner-city site and had to built new premises on the edge of town. Their old brewery sounds particularly picturesque:

"The old mansion and houses which now comprise the brewhouse, malt stores, and fermenting rooms, are erected around an oblong open court, from the upper floors and galleries of which the inmates in olden times could almost shake hands with each other. It is hard to conjecture what these buildings were originally used for, as some of them date back to the 15th century. One of the newest bears a tablet taken out of the old building which it displaced, on which is deeply cut a heart, initials, and the figures 1679, of which the following is a copy.

Some parts of the houses at the back are built into recesses cut out of the solid rock upon which is built the Calton Gaol, which overshadows the buildings upwards of 100 feet above the roofs.

Whatever may have been the uses for which they were intended, the position and extent of these antique structures made them easily convertible into a brewery, and many thousands of barrels of ale have been delivered from its portals to the cellars of the nobles and their retainers, who, until the beginning of this century, thronged the neighbourhood of Holyrood and Canongate. It was in the year 1840 that the old "Edinburgh Brewery" was acquired by the father of the present proprietors, and since that time it has undergone considerable additions and improvements, to meet the rapid extension of the business. During the last two or three years Bernard's Edinburgh Ale has been in such great demand that the firm found it absolutely necessary to build this year the other and larger brewery at Gorgie to which reference has already been made."
"Noted Breweries of Great Britain and Ireland, vol. 3", Alfred Barnard, 1890, page 109 -110.

It took me a while, but I've managed to work out which brewery was Bernard's. It's not as easy as it might sound, the area was littered with them. There were two at the foot of Calton Hill. From the descriptions later in Barnard's text I've been able to positively identify it. Here you go:

You can see that the brewery was built right into the slope of the hill.

What's left now? Not a trace. There are no longer any buildings at the foot of the hill. Just a road, railway line and some scrappy looking bits of ground. It's incredible how little remains of the breweries which used to crowd this part of Edinburgh.

1 comment:

half_man_half_pint said...

The building with then turret was
Bernard's (new) brewery offices.
The site was turned into maltings.
Recently replaced by flats.

Caledonian Brewery is about 200m along the road.