Wednesday, 29 May 2013

War damage (part two)

Southwark on the south bank of the river in London was badly hit by air raids in 1940. The damage they caused had a big impact on the brewing industry, mostly indirectly.

Southwark was home to two large breweries, Barclay Perkins and Courage, and several smaller ones. In September, right at the start of the bombing campaign against London, The Barclay Perkins brewery was hit several times, causing considerable damage to brewing equipment. These entries are found on the first page of the brewing book then in use:

Sept. 11th 1940 Bomb in Park St. outside Engineers Office. Boiler House closed. No Liquor.
Sept. 16th/17th 1940 Bomb through Porter Side No. 1 ?? M.T.
Sept. 29th/30th 1940 Bomb through Ale Side No.'s 3, 4, 5 & 6 M.T.s, No's 3, 4, & 5 Cop., Ale side Hop Back all destroyed.
Source: Barclay Perkins brewing record held at the London Metropolitan Archives, document number ACC/2305/01/623.
M.T. presumably stands for mash tun and Cop for copper. Which means on September 29th/30th 1940 3 mash tuns, 3 coppers and a hop back were destroyed. They must have been both difficult and expensive to replace.

So much for direct damage. Southwark's role in the hop trade led to the most indirect impact of the bombing on brewing. It was the centre of hop trading and a large percentage of the Kent crop was warehoused there. Why were the hops stored in London when it was known that it was liable to attack? As the following quote shows, there was no other realistic option at the time:

"Great efforts were made to distribute the pockets of the 1940 crop which had been sent to London and stocks of brewers hops which were lying in London, but so many obstacles stood in the way that a comparatively small quantity was despatched to the breweries and many were destroyed by enemy raids which culminated in the great attack on 29th December, 1940. It is calculated that over 60,000 pockets of the new crop, that is, over a third of the crop, were destroyed. In addition, large quantities of hops of all dates waiting order in London shared the same fate. Moreover, some hops were destroyed in the breweries that were bombed. Naturally, there was great indignation against the powers-that-be for allowing so many pockets to be brought up to London. In fairness to them it should be stated that the only place where a large quantity of hops could be properly dealt with was London. There, only, were to be found adequate warehouses, warehouse staffs, showrooms and office staffs who have been trained for the work."
Journal of the Institute of Brewing, Volume 48, Issue 1, January-February 1942, Page 13.
A hop pocket weighs between 1.5 and 3 cwts, making the quantity destroyed 90,000 - 120,000 cwt. In 1940 the British harvest was 270,500 cwts.*, meaning there really was at least a third of the crop destroyed. Coupled with a ban on the importation of hops, this left a huge shortfall in the supply of hops.

But not every brewery was affected. What followed was the type of cooperation that typified Britain's war effort:

"The loss of hops fell unevenly, some brewers did not lose a single pocket, others in varying degrees had hops on which they had the call, destroyed. Some brewers had only a few weeks stock left. To deal with this situation the Brewers' Society, on the 27th January, issued a form at the request of the Minister of Food requiring brewers to make a return of hops held by them or at their disposal, on the 1st February. On the returns submitted a redistribution of stocks was made. Brewers with over twelve months stock were asked to give up hops to those who were short, so that everyone would have enough to carry on until 31st December, 1941. The most needy brewers were dealt with first. No less than 9,207 pockets were transferred and the whole transfer was carried out by the Brewers' Society in an excellent manner. Special thanks are due to those brewers who gave up part of their valued stocks to help those who had suffered."
Journal of the Institute of Brewing, Volume 48, Issue 1, January-February 1942, Page 13.

This is just one example of how breweries cooperated to ease wartime difficulties. The pooling of beer - supplying the pubs of rival brewers - is another. This helped save on transport by sending beer shorter distances.

* Brewers' Almanack 1955, page 63.


Anonymous said...

Why the ban on importation?

Ron Pattinson said...


I assume that they wanted to reserve shipping space for more essential items.