Tuesday, 24 September 2013

Eldridge Pope's bottlery in 1934

It's an odd but true fact that brewers are inordinately proud of their bottling machines. Not sure why. Maybe it's that most brewers are men and men like big, fancy machines. Then again. I could just be talking out of my arse.

Eldridge Pope were certainly proud of their bottling line. So proud that they printed a neat little booklet about it. It's richly illustrated with photographs, so couldn't have come cheap.  But it needs to be put into context. With bottled beer taking a large percentage of sales, it was financially important for a brewery to get it right.

"It was recently my privilege to visit this brewery and its bottling store, and the bottlery in particular would excite the envy of many of my London friends. Everything possible has been included to obtain a maximum output with the minimum expenditure of energy on the part of the operators. Their comfort has been studied to the minutest degree. The operators are all men and boys, and no girls are employed in the bottlery at all. Mr. A. C. R. Pope, who is a busy director of the firm, has found time to take this department under his personal control, and it speaks volumes for his efforts when one sees the smooth and efficient manner with which the whole installation operates.
When the store was rebuilt after an extensive fire, Mr. Pope collaborated with the National Institute of Industrial Psychology in reference to the most suitable lighting conditions and the proper height at which the operators should work. Mr. Pope believes they were the first brewery to collaborate with this Institute, and although all the recommendations were not carried out their report formed the basis of the present working arrangements."
"A Modern West Country Brewery" by H.C. Vickery, 1934, pages 3 and 5.

That Mr. Pope himself personally supervised the bottlery is a good indication of the operations importance. And there was a lot to supervise. A large number of different pieces of equipment were needed for bottling. Most of them with loads of moving parts which would need to be maintained. In comparison, the brewing side of the operation was relatively simple, with little in the way of complex machinery.

The author seems oddly proud that no women were employed, just boys. I've another source that greatly praised women over boys, as being stronger and cheaper. Can you believe that an 18 year old woman earned less than a 14 year old boy?

Before the advent of bottling, breweries were almost 100% a male domain. Bottling departments were the first to employ women on any scale. Maybe it was somehow seen as a domestic activity. Or that a large amount of labour was required and employing men would be too expensive.

"The bottlery is immediately opposite the brewery—in fact, just across the yard—and the beer is conducted by gravitation to the stores through an overhead pipe-line.

Situated below the ground-level are the brine tanks, compressors, and pulp washers. The brine tanks are interesting from the lagging point of view. After numerous experiments it was found that wood shavings tightly packed were just as efficient as any other form of lagging, and the saving in cost must have been quite appreciable. The compressors are by Pontifex, and the motors were by The Lancashire Dynamo and Crypto Co. Ltd. All the units in the bottlery, including the pulp washers, are driven individually, so there is no danger of a complete stoppage in any department by a failure in overhead shafting.
"A Modern West Country Brewery" by H.C. Vickery, 1934, pages 5 - 6.

Bottling stores seem to have almost always been ain a building separate from the brewhouse. I can think of a good explanation for this: it was usually a later addition, built long after the brewhouse.

Next time we'll be taking a look in more detail at some of the many exciting machines Eldridge Pope had in their bottling department.


Phil said...

Perhaps the train of thought was that women were a cheap substitute for men and consequently must be inferior - you get what you pay for, kind of thing. Not that sexism doesn't exist any more, but it is hard to think yourself into a mindset where such extreme sexism is so normal.

Anonymous said...

What is a pulp washer? And lagging? What are the brine tanks for and what kind of compressors are they talking about (refrigerant? Air?)?

Anonymous said...

It was more a division of labour.Men were the breadwinners and women were the homemakers.Women didn't work as a rule once married (there were some exceptions),it was felt that with not enough jobs to go round there need not be two earners in the family.Men's wages were higher because of this.

Ron Pattinson said...


the pulp washer was for washing the pulp used in the filters. I assume the compressor was for the refrigeration unit. I assume the brine tanks held the brine used in the attemperators and wort refrigerator. The brine would have been cooled by the refrigeration unit. Lagging is just the insulation.