Beer history breweries Somerset

Starkey, Knight and Ford — defunct brewery

Living in London, I’m used to seeing the ghostly indications of defunct breweries everywhere I look — Taylor Walker; Truman Hanbury and Buxton; and, yes, Barclay Perkins. But the whole time I was growing up in Somerset, I didn’t once notice the arguably more subtle remains of the big regional brewery, Starkey, Knight and Ford.

Nowadays, you can spot their old pub buildings — many of which are now shops — by their black horse plaques.

tauntonroad.jpgFrom what I can tell, SKF were established in Bridgwater (or possibly Tiverton, in Devon) but then expanded aggressively into the surrounding towns (notably Taunton — this pamphlet is excellent). Googling them reveals very little other than a trail of takeovers of smaller breweries throughout the 20th century, until they themselves were subsumed by the colossal Whitbread empire in the early 1960s.

My Dad: “They had a big range of beers. There was double X at about 3.2%; triple X at about 3.8%; and four X at around 4.1%. Triple X was the best — sort of nutty, from what I remember.

westquay.jpg“There was one called Lighthouse, named after the lighthouse on the beach at Burnham-on-Sea, and a stout, but I can’t remember the name. The brewery was right in the centre of town, behind where the swimming pool is now. I was drinking their beer right up until about 1966, when they started getting replaced in the pubs by Whitbread’s own beers.”

You can see the remains of SKF pubs on Fore Street (pic 1), Taunton Road (pic 2) and West Quay (pic 3) in Bridgwater, and on the Knowle Inn, Bawdrip (pic 4). For more details of remaining SKF livery, see the excellent defunct brewery history site.knowle.jpg

29 replies on “Starkey, Knight and Ford — defunct brewery”

I just happened to stumble across a Starkey, Knight & Ford beer in the Whitbread Gravity Book (where details of their competitor’s beers were recorded).

The sample of the beer was taken on January 6th 1950. It’s just described as Mild Ale, cost 1/2d for a pint, had an OG of 1037.8, an FG of 1008.5 and a colour of 40 + 2.5 (don’t ask me exactly what that means, but the Pale Ales are in the range 19 to 25 and Imperial Stout 320; most of the Milds are around 40).

My grandfather was the landlord of the Halswell Inn, North St, Bridgwater, Somerset during the late 50’s. It was a Starkey Knight & Ford pub but I can’t find it on any websites. Have you any ideas where I can look.

Thanks for dropping in, Martin. All I can find online is reference to the Halswell Inn Carnival “Gang” from the 1950s. You might have to go offline. If you can, try popping into Bridgwater Library — they’ve got a decent collection of local history books, including lots of photos of the town from the Victorian era onwards.

There’s a SKF glass in the Wolborough Arms in Newton Abbot; about 10 years ago I interviewed someone who worked for SKF as a drayman when a teenager, he wasn’t that much a mine of information sadly. I think he wrote a book about Bridgwater pubs which was available in the late 1990s.

My wife & I have bought a house in Bridford, Devon which I understand used to be the Harriers Inn (or Harriers Arms). We move in in late May 08. It was owned by the City Brewery, Exeter and also at one time SKF!!
Would love to get some memorabilia!

As a student I worked for Starkey`s each summer betwen 1965 and 1967. The first two years at the Fore St. site in Tiverton and the last at the new site.Bridgewater had closed by then and Tiverton was the only brewery still in action but under the aegis of Whitbread. I used to start off in the keg shop before fiddling my way out onto the lorries. In my last year our route covered from Ivybridge to Rooksbridge and from Seaton to Barnstaple the lorry was DPF 473B and still had the Bridgewater address on the side. As I remember Starkey`s had depots in Barnstaple and Plymouth, a firm called Norman and Pring were involved. When I was in the keg plant we mostly dealt with Tankard with occasional runs of mild. Each artic trailer held 187 10 gallon kegs and the 6 wheel Dennis 150(I had to load these on my own!) I also remember during their independent days Starkey`s brewed a keg beer called “Tantivy.” Some years before I delivered papers to Tom Ford the Chairman. He drove an old Ford(!) V8 which used o misfire evry so often.

As a kid I remember that Starky Knight & Ford had a depot or did they brew in Union Street in Union Street Plymouth? I am trying to find out any information on a cider company called Carr & Quick. I remember a framed advertisment in the Kings Head in Elberton (just outside Plymouth) which if I remember went:

“Water is the best of drinks the ancient poet sings, but who am I to have the very best of things. Let princes wallow at their pumps and kings with wine make free, but cider made by Carr & Ouick is good enough for me”

For the past forty years I have wondered who were Carr & Quick. Any information gratefully received.

I was born in Tiverton in 1944 and lived there until leaving for Canada in 1977. From approx. 1946 to 1951 we lived at New Inn Gardens right beside the Starkey Knight and Ford brewery. I well remember playing with other local kids in the brewery grounds (companies weren’t so uptight about private property in those days!) If I may make a small detail comment on Tony’s message of 2008 Aug 06, I remember Tommy Ford as driving a grey straight eight Buick of late 40s vintage.

I came across this site through looking at old photo`s of my grandad,i remember the old brewery where the supermarket kwik save now stands
in Tivvy which became whitbreads and was gradually phased out to be replaced by the new brewery at bottom end of town near palmerston park which is now just a bottling plant.
Thing is that my grandad used to drive steam traction engines for SKF his name was william (bill) woodward,be nice to hear from someone who remembers him.

Hi – you Starkey Knight fans – I have an old glass bottle with the horse logo on – anybody interested in buying this from me?

hello , i found recently a brown bottle with starkey knight and ford embossed at the bottom , it has still got its crown top and its contents inside but sadly no label. if anyone can help me with information about the bottle and its contents , i would be very grateful

My Dad says, off the top of his head, that they bottled stout, light ale and brown ale — what colour is it? Also, they had an IPA and something called Lighthouse Pale Ale.

Hello there, we found a bottle inside an old wall we had to rebuild in Devon recently. The bottle we found is green and is a SKF bottle – 8 inches high with the label embossed into the glass. It says Starkey, Knight & Ford Ld Paignton Registered Trade Mark and has the horse and also the SKF shield. It looks as if it would have had a cork or whatever else was used to back then. What we’re wondering is when the brewery was in Paignton.

I have dug up a whole range of SKF bottles (amazingly whole) from the various town breweries out of my garden, including one that looks as if it contained gin not beer(?) and fancy ginger beer bottles. I’d Like to find out the dates of all these types, does anyone have any ideas? The gin-looking bottle has a very ornate design embossed, consisting of a castle turret, a knights helm and a river as well as the lettering. It’s quite unlike any of the other designs on the other bottles. Perhaps it’s older?

I have today seen a large framed advert for Fords Brewery showing the black horse ‘ unapproachable’ Therefore this must have been the trademark used when Starkey, Knight and Ford were amalgamated.

My parents kept the York Inn at Churchinford from 1967 to 1985. It was an SKF pub at the time being absorbed into the Whitbread empire.
All the signs were Stakeys with the black horse logo.
The carpark had SK&F boundarymarkers at the corners built into the tarmac and dad used to have to ask the council not to cover them each time they re-did the roads.
I remember as a 6 year old being taken to tiverton to fetch th ebeer in a van during one of the many (1970’s) drayman strikes and also after the 1968 floods.

Simon — thanks for that — really interesting to hear those kinds of first hand accounts. There’s something very evocative about the idea of a 1970s draymans’ strike!

I have just found an intact marble bottle with the Starkey Knight & Ford logo on it. It is embossed Bridgewater and the horse has a knight riding on it. I was surprised to find an intact marble bottle and have no idea of its original contents. Could anyone help?

Hi, does anyone have or know of an old SKF Gin bottle, very ornately decorated with castle turrents etc that I could purchase?
I am the maternal great great grandaughter of Thomas Starkey, and would appreciate some history in my hands as it were!
Please leave a message on here or to
Many Thanks

I am trying to establish the history of an old SKF pub in Halberton, Devon. It used to be the New Inn (for about 150 years!) then became the Welcome Inn and is now “The Barge”. Whitbreads seem to have got rid of it eventually – in 1997 it was acquired by a small owning company. There is currently a Planning Application to pull it down and build houses: the village is trying to fight it, as its the only pub left.
Any information gratefully received……J

For those interested in the old Starkey logo, there is a fine example in the Tiverton Museum over the stairwell.

Some years ago I met a long retired traveller for Starkey, Knight & Ford of Tiverton; it was very interesting to hear how their sales team (if you could call it that) operated before the advent of reps and telephones.
He had worked for SK&F in the 50s and 60s, so right at the end of the era of the traveller. He would set off from Tiverton and the beginning of the week, taking the train to Dulverton to see all their pubs around there and collect their orders, he would then get the train back to Bampton and do similar there – this involved an overnight stop in one of them, because he would have to walk to outlying pubs (eg Oakford) to collect the orders.
He got back to the brewery late Tuesday afternoon with all the orders and these would be sent out on their lorry Thursday & Friday; an overnight stay also seemed necessary for this as well, although that may have been a hang over from a few years previous when they used a steam wagon and before that dray horses (which were still used in Tiverton itself).
A similar process was repeated elsewhere on Wednesday and Thursday with him being in the office on Friday to complete all his paperwork.
And in the run up to Christmas one of the directors of SK&F would go in to see each of their pubs and assuming that they had done very well that year (a la Mr Grace), he would arrange to send them out a free barrel or two (and I do mean barrels) as reward. Pubcos should take note, reward the pubs that are doing well for you, not use success as an excuse to rack up the rent again.

And on a separate note – the mash tun from Starkey, Knight & Ford is now at Wadworths in Devizes, although I suspect only used very occasionally now with the advent of their new brewhouse

Comments are closed.