Friday, 9 April 2021

Formby's brewing families

I'm finally done with Formby's two breweries. I could dig even deeper, but I've already spent a totally unreasonable amount of time on. Just as well I'm unemployed. 

It all kicked off with a little initial search, which revealed the following.

Richard Tyrer, owner of the Formby Brewery died in December 1864, aged 76. One of the trustees handling Tyrer's estate was a man called John Rimmer. in 1866, the brewery was up for auction following the death of John Rimmer, the owner. Over at the other brewer, Reciprocity, its owner, who died in 1903 was called Thomas. Were John and Thomas father and son? And why didn't Thomas inherit the brewery?

When I started investigating John Rimmer I couldn't find anyone who fitted the bill. There were several knocking around in Formby and the one who seemed the best fit had as occupation fisherman. Why would he be a trustee and why did he end up owning the brewery? Simple: John Rimmer was married to Richard Tyrer's eldest daughter, Margaret. A couple of years before Richard Tyrer died, who should be living at the Old Brewery with him but someone called Thomas Rimmer, described as both grandson and maltster. It seemed more and more odd that Thomas Rimmer didn't inherit the brewery.

Instead, a man named Edward Dickinson who ended up owning the brewery. I'm not sure he bought it at the auction. He did own it shortly afterwards, in 1871. He must have got hold of it either at the auction or shortly afterwards. On his death, sometime between 1881 and 1891, the brewery passed on to his two sons Thomas and William, and the company branded T & WR Dickinson. It was still called that when it closed in 1949.

This prompted some new questions, how did Edward Dickinson gain ownership of the brewery? Was he just a random bloke who wanted to get into brewing? Well, no.

It turns out Edward Dickinson was married to John Rimmer's daughter, another Margaret. Making Thomas Rimmer the uncle of Thomas and William Dickinson and brother-in-law of Edward Dickinson. The Rimmers are a nightmare to research. There are hordes of them. And it doesn't help that different families kept on giving their children the same names. And they're intermarried with everyone. As we'll see.

Where to start? Rimmers or Dickinsons? I think I'll continue on with the Dickinsons.

In 1861 Edward Dickinson was running the Railway Hotel - later to be a pub tied to the Old Brewery - along with his wife Margaret. Just to confuse matters, they had a lodger named John Rimmer. But not the one we're interested in. I told you there were loads of these Rimmers in Formby.

Ten years earlier Edward, then aged 19, was working on the farm of his father, Thomas. The addess is given as Cross House. I assumed that was the name of the farm house. Until I found this.

"The demolition of the old houses adjoining the Blundell Arms Hotel removes one of the ancient landmarks of Formby. Those old whitewashed buildings have stood there for a time beyond which the memory of the oldest inhabitant runs not to the contrary. They formerly represented the chief inn or hostelry of the place, being opposite the cross on Cross Green, and as the highroad from Liverpool to Formby, which was a place of note and resort before Southport had "a local habitation and a name." The inn was named the Cross House, and is best remembered by ancient cronies of Formby as the house and brewery of Mr. Thomas Dickinson, father of the late Mrs. Mary Neale, of the Lifeboat Inn, and grandfather of Mr. Wm. and the Misses Dickinson, of the Railway Hotel. The low beer-cellar, looking very much like an Esquimaux, but with its covering of whitewash (for it has lately been used as a cottager's larder) and the remains of the old Brewery buildings have formed the objects of some interest during the present week, whilst the houses have been undergoing the process of demolition by workmen in the employ of Messrs. Formby Bros. The houses were the property of Messrs. Thoroughgood, brewers, and owners of the Blundell Arms, the name given to the new hostel now occupied by Mr. Bolton, when it wan built to supersede the old structure. The old houses have been used us cottages for some time up to two years ago. The workmen have a few odd coins among the debris, including a copper halfpenny of George III, dated 1806 and a Macclesfield token, bearing date towards the close of the previous century, that is 1700."
Formby Times - Saturday 25 June 1904, page 6.

OS map from 1891

Not only was the Cross House a pub, not a farmhouse, it had once had a brewery attached. You can see 5 houses attached to the Weld Blundell Arms, which must be the ones being demolished and which had once been the Cross House. And some other buildings behind the pub which must be the remnants of the brewery. Thomas Dickinson wasn't just a farmer, he was a publican, too. And possibly a brewer. No wonder his son got into the pub trade. And bought a brewery.Or that his daughter got into the pub trade, too.

Note, too, that there's a Dickenson's Bridge. As the Dickensons sometimes spelled their name that way, there could be a connection.

I think that's enough for today. More Dickinson and Rimmer fun soon.

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