Dartmouth, Devon, with the holiday season well over, is the perfect place to get lost in time, amongst bent-backed, half-timbered Elizabethan merchants’ houses and the remains of fortifications from war after war. Just out of town, along the coast path, is Warfleet, where there used to be a brewery. In the drizzle, we read a tantalising reference on an information board, and then, back in town, asked about it at the museum. The staff were very helpful, but couldn’t find much information in any of their books or folders of clippings. As is often the case, however, the internet held the answers, thanks to an excellent local history group.
There was brewing in Warfleet by 1840 and, by 1853, it was a ‘well accustomed brewery’, according to a note of its availability for rent in The Exeter and Plymouth Gazette (13 Dec): ‘The Brewery is of stone; it has two coppers, one of twenty-seven barrels, the other of twenty-two barrels, with Coolers, Refrigerator, &c., in proportion.’
In 1875, a someone called Madocks took it on and, by 1882, Madocks & Co were running weekly advertisements in The Dartmouth Chronicle, boasting that their town-centre office was in ‘telephonic communication with the brewery’. Each advert was headed with an illustrated device bearing the text ‘The Barley Wine… of the English Rhine’. (The river Dart is steep-sided and broad at this point, and Queen Victoria noted a similarity with the Rhine when she visited in the 1840s.)
Prices were listed for Pale Ales (numbers 4, 3 and 2); Burtons (4 and 2); India Pale Ale; and ‘Light’. But was the ‘barley wine’ of the slogan a specific product — an ‘old ale’ or strong beer — or just a snappy phrase used to describe beer in general? (And chosen at least partly because it rhymed with Rhine?)
In 1926, the Brewery was ‘amalgamated’ with Heavitree of Exeter (taken over), and ceased brewing in 1929. Since then, the building has been used for various purposes, though a plan by a Ministry of Agriculture man to turn it into an experimental poultry farm in 1948 was turned down.
Almost every town in Britain had at least one brewery. What about yours?