Monday, 2 January 2017

Whitbread’s brewery in 1960 (part one)

I just found this wonderful article about Whitbread’s Chiswell Street brewery, published in 1960.

I must admit to never having heard of the publication, The Sphere. It was an illustrated magazine apparently aimed at British citizens living in the colonies. Though by the time this edition was published most of colonies had gone. The Sphere ceased publication in 1964.

The article is a combination of photographs and text. As I’m feeling lazy, you’re getting mostly the former. The wordy things I’ll save for next time.

They’d set up quite an impressive visitors’ centre:

“At Whitbread's Brewery in Chiswell Street, running along the boundary of the City of London, part of the cellars has been transformed into a reception centre for the entertainment of visitors. In the exhibition room, the exhibits include inn signs, photographs and paintings which help to trace the history of the Company and of its public-houses. Other features of the City cellars include a bar, restaurant, and a cinema to seat 66 people. The reception rooms were opened in February of this year and so far more than 4,000 visitors have been entertained in the centre.”
The Sphere - Saturday 23 July 1960, page 32.

“Hops, which have been dried and pressed, are thrown into copper-domed vessels to be boiled with "wort" (the malt extract from the mash tuns). Normally there are four brews a day.”
The Sphere - Saturday 23 July 1960, page 32.

I particularly like this photo. I’d long wondered what adding the hops looked like at a big London brewery. What with the huge quantities being used. You can see that they’re throwing in the hops by the pocket. (That’s what those big sacks are called. Harvey’s still get their hops delivered in pockets.) It looks a pretty messy process as you can see hops have been spilt all over the stage.

Note that the hops are from Whitbread’s own hop gardens. And that they are Mid Kent. Which is more than they usually tell you in the brewing records. And that the coppers are of the domed London type, favoured by Porter brewers.


aaron said...

I wonder if the second photo is staged, given the way the printing on the hop sack is so carefully turned to the camera. Which then leads me to wonder if the mess is not the natural state of affairs, either created to make the photo look more interesting or else the result of having people not usually doing the job in the photo. Would workers on the line usually be dressed like that?

Ron Pattinson said...


it doesn't look staged to me. It's far too messy looking. And they're clearly lobbing bug clumps of hops into the copper. And why is only one of the pockets the right way around to show the writing? If you were staging it, surely both would be writing side up. You'd be amazed how poshly people dressed in the early 1960's.

Aaron said...

I will of course step aside to your much greater knowledge of this subject. At any rate, it seems interesting to me that the older gentleman on the right seems to be doing a much neater job than his younger coworker. He seems to have placed the mouth of his sack closer to the door of the vessel, which would mean less work and less space for spilling.