A while ago, I wrote about Starkey, Knight and Ford, who once ran almost all the pubs in my home town. I was intrigued, but a bit frustrated at the dearth of information. Well, once again, Westminster City Archive (which I’m always on about) has come through for me, and I now know almost everything I need to about SKF.
I was browsing the Archive’s bookshelves when I came across a copy of The Brewing Industry: a guide to historical records, edited by Lesley Richmond and Alison Turton. It has an entry for almost every major brewery in Britain, with very detailed information about where each company’s records can be found. This is the kind of thing Ron probably has multiple copies of.
It says that SKF were based in Bridgwater, Somerset (not Tiverton, Devon, as some sources suggested). The brewery was founded in 1840 by George Knight. Thomas Starkey started a brewery in nearby North Petherton around the same time. They merged at some point in the late 19th century, and then took over Ford & Son, who were based in Tiverton (hence the confusion, I guess).
They seem to have been incredibly acquisitive — the biography is just one takeover after another, all over the West Country, until they themselves were taken over by Whitbread in 1962. Whitbread ceased production in Bridgwater (all those beers my Dad recalls must have disappeared then) and changed the brewery’s name to “Whitbread Devon Ltd”. It ceased brewing in Tiverton in the early 1970s.
Present day regional behemoth breweries with acquisitive tendencies, take note…