Ale and Hearty context

As a town which has historically been linked with the brewing trade through companies such as Tamplin & Sons, and Harvey’s, a photographic exhibition is timely.

‘Lewes is famous for having its own brewer, Harvey’s, which has been open since 1790 and still continues to make beer today. Still run by the Harvey family, the brewery is the last of the town’s original 19th Century breweries’. These breweries were the Southdown Brewery, Lyells, Beards Brewery, Harvey’s, Verralls, Ballards, and the Bear Yard Brewery.

Lewes to a great extent was built on a brewing heritage and made its fortune through the creation of ale. There is a rich ale drinking tradition in the town with many independent public houses, to the extent that when a national brewery Greene King attempted to remove a local guest ale from one of its popular local hostelries, the tavern was subject to a two year local boycott until it rescinded this rule.

Brewing originated as an everyday domestic activity needed to produce a liquid that was most people’s staple drink ‘small beer’. In the medieval era, brewing on the largest scale was carried out in monasteries such as in Lewes Priory. By the18th century the more formal, purpose-built brewhouse had become an integral part of the offices typically found at the large country house. Country house breweries (such as Beards Brewery), were still being built in the mid 19th century, and this type of brewing carried on regularly until the early years of the 20th century.

This industry was created by a robust rural agricultural trade, that of growing hops, barley and brewing malt, locally in ‘The Maltings’ building. Lewes wasn’t an important industrial centre, its inhabitants being largely concerned with agriculture. But the vogue of Lewes as a residential and marketing centre made brewing a profitable industry and led to the establishment of a good many breweries and inns. Of these in 1765 the chief were The Star and The White Hart, but the White Horse, Dog, White Lion, Ship, Castle, Dolphin, Crown, and Lewes Arms.

Harveys Brewery Flood 1909

Related industry resulting from this trade locally included Blacksmith trades, Coopers, Malthouse workers, coppersmiths, brewery engineers, brewery architects, and local agricultural workers. There is a strong affection for local brewing shown through CAMRA membership, regional beer and ale festivals and a side effect of membership of the towns many Bonfire societies who all have ‘home’ pubs for meetings and tradition’s sake.

This is a subject rich in potential archive material which reflects national as well as local trends. It gives a profound insight to the changes in society from the time of the industrial revolution to the present day. This pilot project supports and facilitates the archival and contextualisation of material related to the social history of brewing.

The study of brewing in Lewes enhances the social history of the town and highlights its industrial archaeology as well as creating an understanding of social change, bringing to life some vibrant personalities of a bygone age. It also creates an historical understanding of alcohol in society and the evolution of public houses and their changing community roles.

In terms of official recognition of heritage, Harvey’s Brewery is a Grade II* listed building. Harveys Brewery in Lewes is the oldest brewery in Sussex, dating back to 1790. Its rich heritage is passionately carried through to the present day. Beard’s Brewery is a Grade II listed building, and Beard’s Brewery Store is also a Grade II listed property in Lewes. In addition the Old Brewery House is Grade II listed. East Sussex Records Office, a partnership organisation for this project is based in The Maltings building in Lewes, itself a Grade II listed building.

With thanks to: All our tireless project volunteers, the Ale and Hearty Steering Group, Lewes Library and staff, East Sussex Records Office, Dr Sam Carroll, Cath Tajima Powell, Isilda Almeida Harvey, Kirsty Pattrick and Fay Barker, Miles Jenner and all at Harveys Brewery, Sussex Past, Access to Archives, and all other interviewees and resources accessed by organisations mentioned for this exhibition.

Brewing on the Bridge Wharf – Harveys, a company history

Many a local brewer would not have survived the 1950’s were it not for their tied estate and, if the future of the firm was to be assured, it was essential that this should be increased to match the extended production capacity of the brewery.  Between 1970-1989, a total of ten new pubs were purchased and the freeholds of two previously leased pubs were acquired, giving the firm a solid foundation upon which to build.  In addition a large area of land at the rear of the brewery had been purchased in 1977, ensuring that we would not become ‘land-locked’ and giving us much needed yard space and warehousing.  The full production potential of the brewery could now be realised.

The name of Harvey has long been associated with the supply of beers, wines and spirits in Sussex.  The family originated from London, but records of the 1790’s recall the delivery of Old Red Port, Sherry and Claret in Lewes and its surrounding villages.

It was under the management of John Harvey (1783-1862) that the Bridge Wharf Brewery was established on its present site by the River Ouse, overlooking Cliffe Bridge, Lewes. Harvey, in common with many merchants at this time, diversified his business interests but, by 1810, he was trading as a Wine and Spirit Merchant in Cliffe High Street.  Beer was a natural extension of this trade and, in addition to purchasing inns, Harvey brewed at Thomas Wood’s Brewery in Lewes.

Bear Yard Brewery (with thanks to East Sussex Record Office)

Bear Yard Brewery (with thanks to East Sussex Record Office)

Oral history interview with David Hitchin

 It was in 1839 that Tamplin and Wood gave up the brewery and it was bought by Edward Monk. It became Monk’s Brewery and interestingly enough the Monk’s were perhaps the only two slave owners in Lewes.

Certainly in the records of compensation paid to former slave owners compensation was paid to the Monk brothers and is quite possible that the £800 8s 7d that they got as compensation for the loss of 55 slaves went to the purchase of the Bear. 

Now we come to the Rickman family. The Rickman’s were farmers at Herstmonceux. In the mid 1700s John Rickman, who had married Elizabeth Peters, came to Lewes. He bought a malt house and later on he became a brewer and the freehold of the Bear Inn in the Cliffe. He lived in the house in Bear Yard. Now Bear Yard is just to the east of the bridge where Argos is now. That was land which had belonged to a previous Quaker, Ambrose Galloway, in the 1730s. It had become a brewery and we know that John became active in the Bear Inn and the Bear Brewery from the 1750s and in 1766 he bought them.

Now at that time Cliffe wasn’t a part of Lewes proper. It had its own administration and the Bear Inn was in practice the Town Hall as well as the social centre and in particular the centre of the wool trade. Quakers had no difficulty about going into pubs to trade although they were warned that they shouldn’t stay after trading drinking further and it seems that John Rickman was the freeholder but no actually the landlord or the manager because a number of quite un-Quakely things went on at that time. In 1775 Margaret Morgan, who was a midget, only 31 inches high at the age of 17 years, was put on show there and in 1780 there was a performance of the Beggar’s Opera. Now the Quakers objected to stage plays because of the immorality. They objected to music quite often because of what they thought were indecent words and it seems to me that the Beggar’s Opera is objectionable on both so clearly he allowed things to go on in which he would have had no part.

 In 1787 he built a new brew house, in 1808 he owned a malt house in Foundry Lane, and he died in 1801 leaving the estate, including more than 10 properties in Lewes, Fletching and Barcombe, worth five and a half thousand pounds. He was succeeded by his eldest son Richard Peters Rickman who was not just an innkeeper and brewer but later became a banker. He was a bit of a tearaway as a young lad. It seems that he was spending time with one of the young Verrall’s, Elizabeth Verrall, and suddenly they rushed off to the parish church to get married, there was a reason for it. Now the objection to Quakers was that Quakers didn’t recognise Anglican priests. According to law at that time marriages were only valid in Anglican churches or between two Quakers or between two Jews.  

Now the problem was that Richard Peters Rickman was a Quaker, Mary Verrall wasn’t, so the only place where they could legally marry was the Anglican church. Because he had recognised the Anglican priest he was in trouble with the Quakers and later when they realised that she was pregnant that caused even more trouble and so he was disowned but within only a few months he apologised extremely profusely, wrote a letter of condemnation condemning his actions, was allowed back and for the rest of his life he seems to have been about as boring as the rest of the Quakers at that time, a very efficient businessman, very conscientious within the meeting otherwise nothing at all outstanding.

Oral history interview with Rev Godfrey Broster

 I first came into contact with brewing in 1975, the 1st August to be precise, which was the day I walked into the Excise Office at Faversham in Kent and my first job was to go to Shepherd Neame brewers where I was to be their Excise Officer and in those days Excise duty was collected on the strength of the beer measured by its original gravity times the amount collected at the end of each day. So, because of that, the department taught us how to brew and we were sent on various courses. So at the end of the day, I could rule off, sign my name and I could be absolutely certain, as far as I could be, that the brewery were not pulling a fast one and hiding beer away in some secret chamber where they could brew it and not pay duty.

How did I fund this 11/2 barrel brew plant? Quite simply, I sent letters to all the people I knew in the parish and asked if they wanted to become shareholders and so they did and we were very successful in the first couple of years, far too successful for my liking but that’s the way it went. And I then… it was then suggested to me that we should increase the barrellege to have a 5 barrel brew plant and so I wrote to lots more people and so we now have 105 shareholders, and we have a 5 barrel brew plant and that’s up on the South Downs, at Streat Hill farm. The actual brew plant is actually in the parish of Streat but the actual barrels live in the parish of Plumpton.

Well, don’t forget that, in days gone by, a lot of the ale houses were owned by women because they were the brewers anyway and, as you know, the sign of a good ale house with good beer was a broom attached to outside the door and they had somebody going round testing all this ale that was brewed. But certainly in the late 17th/18th Century most of the domestic brewers were women and most of the people who owned alehouses were women because they brewed. A fearsome race. [LAUGHS] And I mean even when you have a look at Lewes today, there are a large number of lady publicans who run very good houses.

Hop growing; family holidays, farms and agriculture

Hopping and World War II

This excerpt is from page 95 from the Book Brewing for Victory by Brian Glover  published by the Lutterworth Press:

pg 94 hop picking Brewing for Victory Colin Brent
pg 95 hop shortage Brewing for Victory Colin Brent




Modern Methods of hop picking

Hop pickers in Kent

The children especially reflected the mood of happiness. It is quite certain among that they would behave differently back in London: in the hop-fields they were children sometimed boisterous and sometimes remarkably quiet for town-bred children, but they always appeared happy, relaxed and fascinated by their new environment. They ran in and out of the avenues teasing each other and annoying the parents, and quite frequently one heard a mother’s harsh cockney voice ringing across the field: ‘What the bloody ‘ell do yer think this is – a playground?!(The answer is that they did: the mother’s voice represented for inv. the pinched and ugly town-mind, and the defiance of the children the spontaneous struggle of the child-spirit to break free from this).

But there was no beating or really cruel scolding, for the atmosphere in general was far too friendly to allow of that, and everyone-especially the children-was far too happy. But inv. came across an example of profound contentment among there town-children which was more illustrative than all the rompings and shouts of glee. There was merely a group of seven or eight childrenseated at the side of the hop– field, each clasping a sour plum stolen from the neighboring orchard: they must have sat there for quite a quarter of an hour, extremely quiet and unobtrusive, looking for all the world as if they had never known the bustle and the smoke of the town. Parents enjoyed this in their children and many would maintain that they were visiting Kent primarily for their children’s sakes-which appeared true enough: “You can see what a kick they get out of it – and its healthy too; said f 35 d from the East End.

hop picking

‘I like to see the kids enjoying themselves; said m 40 d hop-picking for the week only. General This air of contentment which prevailed among children and adults alike could Friendlin- never have arisen without the capacity for making life easier for the neighbour -ess. which so many of these people had cultivated to an art. Social intercourse took place wherever possible, and a genuine air of friendliness prevailed. One group of hop-pickers would always know the names and not a little of the private business of neighboring groups. Strangers discussed the amount each ‘got in’ during the day – with freedom and humor. With few exceptions these people were bright and quick-witted (especially the children): they were swift in summing up a person and never slow in answering a question.

File Report 37-72 Hop-picking in Kent Ref Image 6&7

Reasons for hop picking

…the fact of increased numbers is reducible to two causes: the blitz and its
psychological effect, mostly upon women and children; and, more important, the higher prices and the opportunity hoppicking affords for earning more.

The blitz. There is no doubt that the bombing raids produced in many (especially women) a very often violent dislike of the town. One noticed how in the minds of so many women the word ‘town’ or ‘London’ had become associated with ‘noise; ‘smoke’ fear and restlessness. There was the case of f 45 d from Bermondsey: ‘;I was bombed out and bombed crazy!’ She agreed that this more than anything else had made her decide to take a hoppicking holiday – to which she was new. She regarded it as a relief which was necessary after such a long period of anxiety – for although she enjoyed London-life before the blitz she now found it unendurable:
‘I came down to get the air too!

Robert Wallace (Brewer)– Oral history

 RW: Yeah, unless you find… the only beer, well… Signature, which was our second brew, has never been changed because it’s quite surprising, Signature, it’s something that you couldn’t achieve. What we do do is, we get the chemist analysis, a lot of small brewers don’t do, that I know they don’t do, because they’re putting the same quantities in, but we don’t do that.

We look at the alpha ratings on the hops when they come in, we get a sheet from the chemist, which will tell us. Although we buy Burwash hops we do buy some locally and bring them over in a hop pocket, but if we, we’ve then got their numbers at Charles Farham the hop people that actually shrink-wrap them and put them in shrinked packs for us at 5 kilos, yeah. They keep and we keep them in a cold store down there. So they keep, but they give us an analysis of what the alpha rating and that can go up by sort of 4 points, you could be 12 on admiral one year, and it could be 16 the next, you know, because it’s an actual product.

RS: Is that a measure of the bitterness?

RW: That’s the measure of the bitterness, yeah. So, you need…

RS: So, one crop, year-to-year, could be completely…

RW: Won’t be the same, no. And if you…

RS: So, you brew, you brew using those ingredients, and the ingredients have changed.


BREWING ON THE BRIDGE WHARF – A Company History – Harveys Brewery

The 1880’s had a completely transformed brewing at Harveys.  In addition to the new developments on the Bridge Wharf, the nation had seen the enactment of the Inland Revenue Act of 1880 which had abolished the Malt Tax and established the present system of excise regulations in brewing.  The transition in Lewes was marked by an event which Barrett clearly felt was worthy of posterity.  Accordingly he wrote,

 “Just before the Malt Duty was taken off by Mr. Gladstone and put on beer, Mr. Brand, the Excise officer, came into the office when I was very busy in the afternoon about 5 o’clock, Mr. Smith and Mr. Gosling being out, and as he was fond of whiskey, I said : ‘You can help yourself’ as the chimney piece was full of sample bottles containing spirits etc.  Until 6 o’clock I was making out the invoices for next day, when I noticed that Mr. Brand had nearly emptied the bottle of Scotch Whiskey.  I was tired and my head ached, so I said to Mr. Brand after closing : ‘Let us go for     a row on the river, fresh air will do us good.’  We got into the boat ‘Violet’ and the tide being high, we rowed down the river.  On returning, Mr. Brand caught a crab and fell off the thwart to the bottom of the boat.  I could not get him up, so rowed back to the wharf, where fortunately there was a man, who helped me to get Mr. Brand out of the boat.  We went across to the Bear Hotel, ordered a cab and I took Mr. B. home, saw his wife, said he was not very well and left him in her charge!”

In 1968, the quality of Harvey’s beers received widespread publicity when the brewery was awarded six prizes at The International Brewer’s Exhibition at Earls Court, London.  This was the highest number of total awards made to a brewery by the judges of this exhibition.  Three went to our traditional draught beers, the other three to our bottled beers including the Championship Gold Medal.

“I attribute our success to a number of factors” Mr. Jenner announced to a steady stream of reporters.  “We have extremely good water as our brewing liquor, obtained from our own spring-fed well, and we use first-class malted barley, choice Kent and Sussex hops and yeast which has remained unchanged in the brewery for eleven years.  This, together with a dedicated and enthusiastic staff, goes to make good beer.”

Within the enhanced brew house, additional plant comprising a grist case, mash tun, hop back, under backs, liquor tanks and heat exchangers had effectively doubled the production capacity of the brewery while giving us infinite scope for flexibility and maintenance of plant.  The new brewery tower was opened by the Earl De La Warr in 1986 and was the recipient of a Civic Trust Commendation with a citation which read:

“At first sight it is difficult to realise that this new extension virtually doubles the capacity of the brewery, so convincing and assured is the result.  This has been achieved by adopting the same Victorian industrial style of the existing building, and applying it in a direct and inventive manner.  The effect of the massing is to give a visually stronger, more formal appearance to this historic and popular landmark, which dominates the lower part of Lewes.  A meticulous attention to the design of details, and matching or complementary materials, including new cast-iron windows, underlie the convincing quality of this scheme.  A further measure of its success is evidenced by the recent Grade II Listing.”

Malthouses in Sussex

Sussex is not really considered as a “malting county” but a certain amount of malt was produced. There were a number of malthouses in Lewes in the 18th century. The 19th century records show a gradual reduction in the number of maltings during the century. There was a continued retraction of the industry during the 20th century, with production continuing until at least 1969 when the malthouse at Kingston-by-Sea closed.

One example is at Lewes in the Castle Precincts (Listed Grade II) is built of flint with brick banding and has been converted to the Record Office. Another survival with kiln, also in Lewes, is in Station Street (Listed Grade II). It is constructed of brick.

The malthouses of Sussex were often built of brick or flint with brick banding. Early roofs would have been of tile and later ones of slate.

Number of listed malthouses in the county: 25 – Copyright English Heritage – ‘Maltings in England’

Harveys brewing vat
Harveys brewing vat

Robert Wallace – oral history

 So we use Warminster Maltings, which was recommended as being the… one of the only two floor malting maltsters in the country, they’re old fashioned and particularly good… we weren’t looking for price when we did this, we were looking for best quality really and we also were looking for Sussex barley, which we did get to start with, because Sussex barley tends to get bought by distillers and because it’s the best barley basically and it’s the most reliable as well. So a lot of the fields around here are actually under contract, on a five-year roll-on contract. Across at Bodium in East Sussex, which is quite close, is where Guinness get their barley from. So, it’s quite… it’s quite unique in this part of the country that the barley here is sought after, and it’s the most expensive of course as well.

 So, we decided to go down that line with marisota, we chose, as our main barley and we’d have other, alternative barleys to change the recipe and rye and different kinds of barleys that would change the flavour of the product.We hadn’t done this before and so we did… we probably spent about 18 months research on this before we had our first brew as well. So we did quite a lot and we saw Hollingbury’s over at Burwash, which is quite close again, and that’s where we got quite a lot of our hops from. We do get other hops from Kent as well, because we use East Kent Goldings as well, but predominantly, like the Bramley cross come from Burwash, which is quite… the other thing was, we was trying to make a local product. We even had… they even planted a field of barley for us, so we could get it, but it unfortunately didn’t work out and it went off to animal feed, so there you go, you’ve got to get a quality thing, really. You could have gone up to, further up the country, and got cheap, much cheaper barley, actually, about a good 20% less, so, but that wasn’t the object, it was to see how well we could do it.

Oral history with Rev Godfrey Broster

 I sourced them in a number of ways. First of all, I joined CIBA and they had the monthly magazine in those days, now it’s once a quarter. And I also joined the IBD, the main brewers organisation. And of course, they have adverts in the back and so basically, I picked out certain firms and I went to them, I approached them, I went and saw them, I visited them. So, I began… I went up to Wimbledon and I went to a firm called Lupofresh, which is a hop firm, and I went and talked to them about hops, and about requirement and what have you. They then got their agent in Horsmonden, in Kent, to ring me. So I went over to their oast house, to have a look and to talk about what I wanted.

Yeast, I had a dried yeast in those days, and I went to DCL, because it’s the biggest, largest yeast firm in, you know, if not in the world, certainly in this country, and they were just bringing a new dried yeast for brewing on the market, so I test… I was one of the test places and it worked very well, and when I brew at Streat Hill Farm that’s the yeast I use there. Malt, I went to Monktons because it was a name I knew. They’re based in East Anglia. I certainly believe that I am a local brewer and that I’m a local micro-brewer and that I try to source as much of my raw materials as local as possible.

Oral history interview with Godfrey Broster

 I sourced them in a number of ways. First of all, I joined CIBA and they had the monthly magazine in those days, now it’s once a quarter. And I also joined the IBD, the main brewers organisation. And of course, they have adverts in the back and so basically, I picked out certain firms and I went to them, I approached them, I went and saw them, I visited them. So, I began… I went up to Wimbledon and I went to a firm called Lupofresh, which is a hop firm, and I went and talked to them about hops, and about requirement and what have you. They then got their agent in Horsmonden, in Kent, to ring me. So I went over to their oast house, to have a look and to talk about what I wanted.

Yeast, I had a dried yeast in those days, and I went to DCL, because it’s the biggest, largest yeast firm in, you know, if not in the world, certainly in this country, and they were just bringing a new dried yeast for brewing on the market, so I test… I was one of the test places and it worked very well, and when I brew at Streat Hill Farm that’s the yeast I use there. Malt, I went to Monktons because it was a name I knew. They’re based in East Anglia. I certainly believe that I am a local brewer and that I’m a local micro-brewer and that I try to source as much of my raw materials as local as possible.

Beer delivery

We distribute in two ways. Either I distribute them myself, or I get Harveys of Lewes to deliver it with their Harveys order to that particular pub. Most of the pubs that I deliver to are… well, they’re all free-houses, but they all have Harveys, and they all have deliveries from Harveys, so we marry the two together. And Harveys have been very, very good in helping me out in that way.

The equipment, my first lot of equipment I bought through [Viga Vineyards] which is is a firm down in Honniton. When we went up to the 5 barrel brew plant, I actually went and saw a friend of mine who, at that point, ran the Hand-in-Hand pub in Kemptown. He ran the Kemptown Brewery and he put me in touch with a friend of his who runs Banks and Taylor at [Shefford] and so I met him, explained what I wanted, what I wanted to build and he said “Oh, I know exactly where”. So I went up to Bedford, met him at Bedford and he drove me out to a field near Kettering and it was full of brewery vessels, which had originated from one of the Bass breweries in Sheffield, which had been pulled down and it was in a reclaimed tyre business and the father of the people who run the business had taken early retirement and bought all this equipment because he wanted to run… he’d always wanted to run a large micro-brewery. He unfortunately had a massive heart attack and died just after he bought this equipment, which was very sad, and so they were left with all this equipment. So I bought all the equipment that I use, all my beautiful stainless steel tanks, from them at a knock-down price.

So, really, my, my brewery up at Streat Hill Farm is an amalgam of very many different breweries throughout the land. I’ve got pieces from Ruddles, I’ve got some from, whichever Bass brewery it was, I’ve got some from Whitbread Cheltenham, I’ve got some equipment from Harveys of Lewes, I’ve got some from Swale Brewery, as well as brand new stainless steel pipework.


 The equipment that I bought consisted of five, 5 barrel cellar tanks. These probably had been either used in the brewery for storage or had come from some of their pubs which had had bulk deliveries of beer, because it was all keg up there. I bought five of those, three of them became fermenters, one became the cold/hot liquor tank, and one was cut down to make the mash tun, and then I bought a beautiful conditioning tank, which became the copper. I mean the stainless is beautiful, it really is, it’s first rate. I think it was probably a collection vessel rather than… probably was a collection vessel. So that was either part of the [Burton Union] system, or probably, it probably collected caramel or something like that, priming sugars. But that’s where all the equipment came from.

Consumption – Who drank it and why

Mass Observation Archive –  Women in Pubs – File report Image 19

“Well, its like everything else, they rule the roost now since they have come in place of men. Engineers, auctioneers and profiteers, and even try to steal our fashion of trousers”(M65C)

And, more definitely rejecting the moral line; “All old-fashioned prudery – it’s disgusting. Women are doing just as much in this war as men. Why would they turn up their noses and look Victorian because we walk in in trousers and order beer. Sheer stupidity” (F30B)

“I’m broadminded about it. If a women wants refreshment why shouldt she have it the same rights as men. She’s entitled to be free’

Women are thus becoming a more acceptable feature of pubs., and tend less to lose status by attending on their own or in the company of other women. But minority feeling still remains fairly strongly against and is velearly based on the idea of unrespectability and immorality association. As we have said few people specifically mention intoxication as a reason for objecting to women in pubs. It does, however, come out strongly as one of the main current objections to the behaviour of some women in pubs.

Beard and Co

The brewers’ target was given in these words:

“If we can once attract a new class of customer we shall sea the brewing trade turn round and start the ascending scale. I am not saying that the present beer drinker should drink more, but rather that we want new customers. We want to get the beer drinking habit instilled into thousands, almost millions, of young men who do not at present know the taste of beer. These young men, if they start with what beer they can afford today, as they grow up they will afford better beers to the greater advantage of the brewing industry”.

Sirb Edgar gave instructions on how to popularise beer among the “thousands, almost millions, of young men who do not at present know the taste of beer”. He referred them to the success of the soap firms’ efforts in enlisting the aid of film stars to sell their wares, and suggested that there
were “plenty of footballers, plenty of cricketers, plenty of prize fighters” who would probably be willing to help beer in the same way. He set out quite bluntly the relationship between the editorial and advertising sides of the press, and said that even the Manchester Guardian and the Observer shown themselves [ILL] amenable on this point. Moreover, it was a national duty to help the Exchequer raise the expected revnue on beer. But our main concern is with juvenile drinking, and enough has been quoted to show that in the past, at any rate, the drink trade has been alarmed by the small numbers of young men taking to bear, and set in motion a campaign with the intention of gaining their custom. As far as juveniles are concerned, there is no suggestion that they should be encouraged to visit pubs (that would be illegal) but there is definitely an aim at lowering the age limits of habitual drinkers.

Largely as a result of this speech and the campaign which followed on it temperance reformers have been tempted to trace the increase in drinking among young people to publicity. Our own figures do not bear this out. Counts of people in pubs made in 1938 in Belton and Fulham reveal that at that time the under 25’s still represented only a small percentage of the total number of drinkers.

Verralls Brewery 1890

Oral History interview with Chris Hare

IT: Right, do you know any songs particularly with beer or brewing in the title?

CH: Ale Glorious Ale. John Barleycorn – there’s several songs called John Barleycorn and they’re completely different, different words, different tunes. Drink Old England Dry, Fathom the Bowl – the bowl in question being the punchbowl – oh yeah, there’s quite a lot.

 A Fathom of the Bowl for instance, it’s a drinking song, it’s also a patriotic: 


Come all you loyal heroes

Give an ear to me song

We’ll sing in the praise

Of old whisky and rum

There’s a clear crystal fountain

Near England does flow

Bring me the punch ladle

I’ll fathom the bowl

 So, that’s all about drinking and each verse presents you with the singer’s life and if you like his problems, but it all comes back to the chorus, you know, so:

My wife, she do disturb

me/ When I’m at my ease/ For she says as she likes/ And she does as she please and Bring

me the punch ladle/ I’ll fathom the bowl.

Drink Old England Dry is a warlike song and it highlights the central role of drinking in English life, because it was a song that was popular during the Napoleonic Wars and those Wars, you know, Second World War lasted six years, the First World War lasted four years, but the wars with France, with one little brief intermission, ran from 1793-1815, that’s 22 years, so a huge long time and to all intents and purposes it was a world war….

 Drink me brave boys as I’ve told you before

And drink me brave boys and we’ll boldly call for more

For the French they invade us and they say that they will try

They say that they will try and drink old England dry

High-dry. High-dry, me boys, high-dry

They say that they will try and drink old England dry

You know, as if that’s what the French are coming for, to steal our ale.

CH: Ale Glorious Ale, I mean that’s a sort of humorous song, it’s also a later song, it’s later in

the 19th century, it’s almost nudging on music hall. So music hall displayed folk song, first of

all in the towns and then later generally, that became a popular genre. So, and it’s a rather

endearing song, I suppose.


When I was a young lad, me father did say

The summer is coming it’s time to make hay

But when hay’s been cut in don’t you ever fail

For to drink Gaffer’s health a pint of good ale.

Ale, ale, glorious ale

Served up in pewter

It tells its own tale

Some folk like radishes

Some curly-kale

But give I boiled parsnip

And a great dish of taters

And a lump of fatty bacon

And a pint of good ale.

Tasting the ale

So, that song is combining the food as well. And what it’s doing is it’s sort of looking down on these new fangled things that are coming, like curly-kale and, yeah, give us ale and fatty bacon with some spuds, you know, that’s what you want. And then a later verse is very temperance, because temperance is forgotten today, but temperance was a huge social and political movement in late 19th century Britain and if you like, that is the counter to the drinking culture, coz it’s… it tends to be fired by evangelical Christianity, often by liberalism, whereas the drinking is much more imbued with conservative values, very anti-nonconformity, very anti-liberalism, very anti-liberalism, very anti-reform, very much keeping things as they are in the traditional way.

CH: Well, there were middle classes, but temperance was really big in working class areas and, and also it was – you know, this is only my own view – but I think it was an important precursor of the later suffrage movement. So, the Working Women’s Temperance League was very strong in the 1880s, which is 20 years before the Suffragettes, and this was the first time, you’ve got working class women getting up and speaking in public meetings, because they were the ones, if you like who suffered from the dark side of the drinking, the fact that so much of the small family income went on beer, the domestic violence associated with it.

 So, yeah, there were middle class reformers, but it was also genuinely strong in the working class areas, so my own great-grandfather – and I suppose you could say this is ironic given the songs that I sing – but my great-grandfather was born at Battle… no he wasn’t… yes, he was born at Battle, yeah, north of Hastings and then later moved to Hastings and by the time he was, I think 16, both his parents were dead and he just went walking, looking for work and he had a very hard life, although eventually he did quite well, but as a boy of about 9 he had took the pledge on the Anvil of Bohemia never to drink intoxicating liquor, and although I can’t prove it, I have a… I suspect the fact that his father died in the workhouse, and the fact that he writes with such passion about drinking, and that… he wrote an autobiographical novel, at a later age, and he makes scant reference to his father, but a lot of reference to his mother and implying her sort of suffering and her hard life. And so he was from very humble origins, and yet temperance was everything to him.

CH: No, no. I mean we sing drinking songs and we have sung, we have done workshops on themes, but not drinking, because what we’ll also be doing at the workshop is readings from local writers – Richard Jeffreys, Hilaire Belloc, Arthur Beckett, W H Hudson – who refer to the drinking habits of the local people. I mean Richard Jeffreys has got this description of rural labourers who, I don’t know if it was the end of harvest, of sheep-shearing or one of those intense periods of agricultural activity, would take a barrel of beer, may have even been a gallon and lie down on a grassy bank and drink the whole thing until it had gone and he said, you know, “It’s a feat that you can’t believe unless you’ve seen it”.

Recent research on longevity, life expectancy, in mid to late 19th century Sussex seems to indicate that the rural labourers were outliving the urban middle class, because they were doing quite a lot of physical manual work and although they were drinking quite a lot, the beer they drank was quite weak and of course if you’re doing lots of physical labour, you know, you’re getting rid of it. Whereas the urban middle class were very sedentary, they were eating lots of red meat, that we now know is very bad for your health and typically middle class men in the late 19th century were dying in their fifties.

Oral history interview with David Hitchin

Now people think about Quakers as puritans, total abstainers, which wasn’t the case and many Quakers are not aware of that. In fact a lot of surprising things in Quaker history that modern Quakers are not aware of. One of the first Quakers in the area was Nicholas Beard who visited Lewes but lived in Rottingdean and during his life he was fined, imprisoned, sustained the loss of his goods and his loss was more than £1,000 of the money of the time

and he had more than 20 children of whom 12 survived him and yet he left a huge fortune when he died and in his will he appealed to his son Joseph to refrain from drinking wine, spirits and beer and subsequent generations passed that down. It was unusual, Quakers generally wouldn’t drink spirits but some would drink wine, most of them would drink beer. He insisted on total abstinence from all of them.

And that is how things are left to Quakers today. We’re not told that we should drink or we shouldn’t. We’re told as with so many things to consider it, to make up our own minds. But Lewes Quakers became very involved in the movement for the ban of the sale of intoxicating liquor on Sunday. The Lewes Total Abstinence Society, the British Women’s Temperance Association and the Blue Ribbon Society, many women wore a blue ribbon as a sign that they were total abstainers.

In 1879 Caleb Kemp, who was the leading Quaker not just in Lewes but in Britain at the time, chaired a meeting to support a Bill for closing public houses on Sundays. He was accompanied by clergy from All Saints, from Southover, from South Malling and Barcombe. So at that point the Quakers and the Anglicans were beginning to get on and do things together. For the large crowd that vigorously opposed them by hissing and booing and shouting no, no.

Some of the Quakers went for a more practical approach. In 1881 Eliza Payne, a Quaker who lived in Albion Street, paid for the building of the British   Workman’s Institute which was described as a public house without intoxicants open daily from 6 to 10pm, coffee, refreshments and entertaining games. It seemed to be the only place in Lewes where you could get refreshment if you had signed the pledge. Well you might guess that a public house without intoxicants would not be successful and it wasn’t. There was another attempt in 1882, the Lewes Coffee Tavern. It was a serious attempt to win over people from the licensed trade. Caleb Kemp gave them a hundredweight of coal and Burwood Godley, a Quaker character in Lewes you may have heard about in other context, gave them a hundredweight of coffee. Those were the only two significant donations although two of the Baptists were shareholders in that and from that time on Quakers have been quite easy in most respects about whether they should drink or not. It’s largely common sense. We have always refrained from having alcohol in the Meeting Houses.

A final word, this is quote from John Whiting who was a member of another Meeting in the 1880s. John Whiting was a great advocate and strong supporter of teetotalism “has frequently been obliged by the doctor’s order to resume beer and today we hear that he is again ill. Total abstinence is certainly irrational, unchristian and inexpedient, temperance is quite another thing.”


Lyall’s Steam Brewery

Lyall’s Steam Brewery in Malling Street offered its Pale Ale for sale at 3/- (15p) for a dozen quart bottles – and it was even cheaper if you bought it by the gallon! (Sussex Life)

Oral history with Rev Godfrey Broster

Everybody would have drunk the beer, because it was the safest thing to drink. It would have been the only thing that would have been presented to the traveller or to the person staying, unless they were of nobility and then they would have had, then they would have had the wine. But most people drank beer.