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.jpgThere 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 thoughts on “Starkey, Knight and Ford – defunct brewery”

  1. 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).

  2. 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.

  3. 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.

  4. 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.

  5. 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!

  6. 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.

  7. 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.

  8. 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.

  9. 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.

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

  11. 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

    1. 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.

  12. 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.

  13. 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?

  14. 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.

  15. 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.

  16. 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!

  17. 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?

  18. 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

  19. 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

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

  21. 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

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