Monday, 14 July 2014

The Prince of Wales visits Truman (part two)

We're back with the Prince of Wales down Brick Lane. I wonder if he had a curry after he'd finished swanning around the brewery?

More evidence of the poor technical knowledge of the author, he seems to think that the malt and hops were mixed together at some point:

"While the Prince was looking at the wetting and mixing of the malt and hops, and the endless band with small buckets attached to it by which the malt is raised from below and carried to a height 40 feet, a small lever was touched by one of the partners. Instantly a bell rung, and within three or four seconds all the machinery in the brewery was at rest. This arrangement is provided in case of accident to any of the workmen, or of anythiug going wrong with the machinery in any of the departments. On a signal of "all right," pistons were again shooting up and down, fly wheels were spinning round, boiling water was being sprinkled over the malt, and malt and hops were being worked up like so much porridge, within as short a time as that required for the suspension of all this mechanical exertion."
Shoreditch Observer - Saturday 14 July 1866, page 3.
Nice they had an emergency stop mechanism. Still sounds a dangerous polace theough, with all that machinery whirring around. Having read lots of newspaper articles about horrible brewery accidents, I know that they weren't that rare. People getting their clothes caught in machinery and getting ground to a pulp. Disturbing stuff.

It's worth pointing out that in 1866 Truman was the largest in London, brewing almost 600,000 barrels a year, considerably more than closest rival Barclay Perkins 428,000 barrels*.
"Having ascended and descended narrow ladders, and heard explanations from the foreman as to the nature of the preliminary processes of the manufacture, the Prince entered the fermenting lofts. These form one of the most interesting portions of the establishment. As you pass along them you walk over acres of fermenting tons, while still larger tons rise in pyramids on each side of you. In one of them, which the Prince saw half full of fermenting malt yesterday, no less than 80 men sat down to dinner on one occasion. A windlass must have been provided to enable the company to reach their seats, and to bring them to the surface again, for to look down this monster vessel is like looking into a large pit lined with timber. There is a strong effluvium of carbonic acid gas from these vats, and, though a large section of the sides is removed so that some atmospheric air is constantly entering, the gas is so strong over the surface of the fermenting material as instantly to extinguish any light which is held inside. The Prince of Wales tried the experiment by setting fire to a match and introducing it when in full flame."
Shoreditch Observer - Saturday 14 July 1866, page 3.
The author also doesn't seem to know the cortrect spelling of "tun". I really don't get what he means by pyramids of larger tuns. From the context, I think he's referring to large Porter vats. If he'd dropped by a few years later, the prince probably wouldn't have found many or any large vats at Truman. Most Porter vats were ripped out in the 1879's.

It's all very well having a laugh with a match, but that's also a warning of how dangerous large volumes of fermenting beer could. Drop into that vat and you'd be dead within minutes.

"Passing across to another part of the brewery, his Royal Highness entered the cellars, in which there is stowage for nearly 100,000 barrels of beer, and which are five or six acres in extent. The scene that presented itself here was curious and picturesque. Leading from the door is a long avenue formed by beer casks in line piled one above the other. From the roof hung a number of lighted candles in three branch sconces. In front and along the sides of the passage stood a number of brewer's men — stalwart fellows, in white coats and red caps, each holding a candle on the end a portable bracket. One of these candles was handed to the Prince himself, who, preceded a body guard of the draymen, all holding their candles and marching in procession, made a circuit of the great storehouse. When he was about halfway through, the gentlemen of the firm drew his attention to an immense porter vat, called "the Prince of Wales," from the fact that it was finished and baptised on the 9th of November, 1841, the day his Royal Highness was born. While the Prince was in this part of the cellar, one of the men approached him with a large silver jug, and, pouring out a half pint measure of Truman and Co.'s stout, presented it to his Royal Highness. The Prince, having drunk some of it, the men waving their lights, and removing their red caps, gave three stentorian cheers for his Royal Highness, which were re-echoed again and again through the vaults."
Shoreditch Observer - Saturday 14 July 1866, page 3.
Those cellars must have been quite a sight wioth room for 100,000 casks. If you aren't aware, a red cap was a sort of brewers' uniform. Not sure when the custom finally died out. Probably in the early 20th century.

It seems a bit mean only serving the prince a half pint. Though, if you remember from the last post, it would have been at least 6.5% ABV.  The prince was still a young man at this point, not the fat, bearded, breathless bloke who was later king.

"Before leaving this part the brewery, the Prince witnessed the operation of loading a dray with barrels ready for delivery, which is effected by means of machinery worked by gas-engines. The barrels are taken up on couple of bent prongs, which carry them the top of an inclined plane, whence their own gravity carries them down to the level of the dray. The stables and stable-yard were next visited. As everyone knows, some of the finest' draught horses to be seen anywhere are those of the London brewers. Messrs. Truman keep 170 of these animals, which cost on an average some 70 guineas each. Notwithstanding the fine condition brewers' horses are always in, the work they do is very severe,: and experience has shown that they could not stand it long, except for the great care that taken of them. It is generally believed that their plump appearance is owing to their being fed principally on grains. This, however, a mistake. They never get grains, but are kept entirely upon hard food, Most of Messrs. Truman's horses were out at work when the Prince visited the stables; but there were - about 20 of them there, and his Royal Highness examined them with much interest, both in their stalls, and subsequently when they were brought out for his inspection in the yard. Inside the gates a large and very fine picture, by Mr. Watts, of a brewer's drayman with his dray and two horses. The man, whose portrait the artist has painted, happened to be in the yard when the Prince was looking at the picture. He was called forward and paid his respects to the Royal visitor."
Shoreditch Observer - Saturday 14 July 1866, page 3.

Brewers were very proud of their dray horses. With good reason. They were impressive beasts and cost a lot of money. 70 guineas represents more than a year's wage for most people. Not fed on grains? That's odd. Most breweries fed their horses oats. There were special rules for those grains: usually it was an offence to have any kind of unmalted grain in a brewery. Oats for feeding horses were the only exception.

And finally a topic dear to my heart: barrel washing.

"From the stables the Prince went to see the cleansing of the casks, which is done by steam machinery. Pieces of chain with bullet knobs on them are put with some liquid into the casks, which are then placed in a frame and turned about by an eccentric rotary motion. A great saving of time and money is effected through this cleansing by machinery compared with the old method hand washing; and the importance of such saving must be considerable in a brewery which has 93,965 casks in constant use. The brewery keeps nine steam engines and two gas engines at work, and consumes about 9,000 tons of coal annually, besides between 8,000 and 9,000 tons of spent hops. Before the Prince left the yard the men surrounded him at respectful distance, and raised a peal of hurrahs which must have been heard at a long distance from the brewery. The cheers were taken up by a dense crowd outside, who gave his Royal Highness an enthusiastic greeting as he appeared in the street. The Prince of Wales subsequently honoured the firm by his company at luncheon."
Shoreditch Observer - Saturday 14 July 1866, page 3.
A huge amount of capital was tied up in casks. As is still the case today. Keeping casks clean and in good repair was a big logistical effort. that number of casks, 93,965 is very specific. Did they really know that precisely? Then again, keeping track of casks was pretty important. Breweries put a lot of administrative effort into it.

Ah, so the prince got to eat in the canteen rather than have a curry. A missed opportunity.

* "The British Brewing Industry, 1830-1980" T. R. Gourvish & R.G. Wilson, pages 610-611.

1 comment:

Stuart said...

The Prince may have got a curry in the canteen!