Q&A: What Do We Know About The Falmouth Brewery Co?

W. & E.C. Carne advertisement, 1883.

This is the first in our new series of Notes & Queries posts. If you have a ques­tion you’d like us to try to answer email us at contact@boakandbailey.com

Do you have any information about Falmouth Brewery or Falmouth Brewing Company? I believe it closed some time around the early 1900s. – Neil McDonald

A quick look at Nor­man Bar­ber’s defin­i­tive ref­er­ence work A Cen­tu­ry of British Brew­ers 1890–2012 (Brew­ery His­to­ry Soci­ety, RRP £17.95) tells us that the pro­pri­etors of the Fal­mouth Brew­ery Co. were W & E.C. Carne, that it was acquired by the large West Coun­try brew­ing firm of Devenish in 1921 and that brew­ing ceased in 1926.

Broth­ers William Carne and Edward Clifton Carne came from an impor­tant local fam­i­ly of mer­chants, bankers and mine spec­u­la­tors and William, like his father, served more than once as may­or of Fal­mouth.

Though there are ear­li­er men­tions of brew­eries in Fal­mouth, the first ref­er­ence to a com­pa­ny by this name that we can find in the news­pa­per archives is from 1863 [1] when a beer shop sell­ing its prod­ucts stood oppo­site Carne’s gen­er­al stores on Mar­ket Street. It was run by the elder­ly Mrs Ann Allen, born in around 1876 1776. Her sons, George and Robert Allen, were list­ed in an 1847 trade direc­to­ry [2] as the only brew­ers in the town. Robert Allen suf­fered bank­rupt­cy in 1851 [3] but con­tin­ued trad­ing as a brew­er, with­out George (who had prob­a­bly died) at least until 1878.

Mean­while, the expan­sion of the Carne broth­ers’ busi­ness can be chart­ed through the same sources: in 1847, they are gen­er­al mer­chants; by 1856, wine and spir­its have been added to their port­fo­lio (along with guano…); by 1877, the Carnes were boast­ing in adver­tise­ments of being the ‘sole agent’ for the Fal­mouth Brew­ery Co’s ales [4] and in 1878 were list­ing ale and porter among their inter­ests, though still not describ­ing them­selves as brew­ers. At some point, though, they had clear­ly tak­en in a stake in the busi­ness, or had oth­er­wise come to be iden­ti­fied with it, as an 1868 arti­cle refers to it as ‘Carne’s Brew­ery’. [5] By 1883, the Allens were out of the pic­ture alto­geth­er and the the rather grand adver­tise­ment at the top of this post appeared in Kel­ly’s Direc­to­ry.

Now to the juicy stuff, and what we sus­pect Neil (a brew­er by trade) will be most inter­est­ed in: what did they brew? In 1889 [6] this was their line-up:

XXX MILD ALE 24s
XX MILD ALE 21s
P.A. LIGHT DINNER ALE 19s
X. MILD BEER 19s
P. PORTER 20s

More than a decade lat­er, in 1902 [7], that had scarce­ly changed, though the stronger mild had appar­ent­ly gone, replaced by anoth­er pale, bit­ter-type beer:

XXX. MILD ALE 21s
T.B. TONIC-BITTER ALE 23s
P.A. LIGHT DINNER ALE 19s
X. MILD BEER 17s
P. PORTER 19s

(Does T.B. strike any­one else as a par­tic­u­lar­ly poor name for a beer…?)

There’s noth­ing dis­tinc­tive­ly Cor­nish about that range and it looks pret­ty much in line with what we know Hicks (St Austell), anoth­er Cor­nish brew­ery, was brew­ing in 1912. As to where any brew­ing logs from the Fal­mouth Brew­ing Co might be found, the Devenish archive at the Dorset His­to­ry Cen­tre is prob­a­bly the best place to look. It cer­tain­ly con­tains brew­ing logs, though whether any Carne recipes are includ­ed we can’t say.

The brew­ery itself, small but with a high chim­ney, stood a few doors down from the town hall, about where the Tesco load­ing bay is now. (There’s a pho­to of it c.1900 here.) It was demol­ished to be replaced by an art deco Odeon cin­e­ma, itself now gone.

Carne's Falmouth Bitter beer mat, 1980s.In the 1980s, Devenish revived the Carne’s brand name for a keg bit­ter and bot­tled ales with a fan­ci­ful found­ing date of 1756.

So, there you go – that’s what we’ve got for now. If we find out any­thing more on our trips to the archives, we’ll update this post. In the mean­time, any experts on the his­to­ry of Corn­wall, or of beer, or both, who have more to add should feel free to chip in in the com­ments below.

SOURCES
1. Roy­al Corn­wall Gazette, Fri­day 02 Octo­ber 1863
2. Williams Com­mer­cial Direc­to­ry of the Prin­ci­pal Mar­ket Towns in Corn­wall, Liv­er­pool.
3. North Devon Jour­nal, Thurs­day 27 Novem­ber 1851
4. Roy­al Corn­wall Gazette26 Jan­u­ary 1877
5. Roy­al Corn­wall Gazette, Thurs­day 09 Jan­u­ary 1868
6. West Briton and Corn­wall Adver­tis­er, Thurs­day 19 Decem­ber 1889
7. West Briton and Corn­wall Adver­tis­er, Thurs­day 14 August 1902

7 thoughts on “Q&A: What Do We Know About The Falmouth Brewery Co?”

  1. Did­n’t I also tweet you about this last year? Though in my case, it was about the mod­ern Fal­mouth Brew­ing Com­pa­ny, UK reg­is­tered com­pa­ny no. 09482850, which shares an address with Rebel Brew­ing..

    1. Blimey, I did a bit more dig­ging around the com­pa­ny lists and found that there’s *three* sep­a­rate Rebel Brew­ing’s list­ed, plus Fal­mouth Brew­ing Com­pa­ny, Fal­mouth Bay Brew­ing and Brew­house Brew­ery, all at the same address, and with all the oth­ers appear­ing to link back to the lat­ter, which is the only one with actu­al assets list­ed. One brewk­it with a bunch of asso­ci­at­ed brands, I guess. The link­ing fig­ure is Rob (Robert Alexan­der Stu­art) Lowe, usu­al­ly cit­ed as Rebel’s MD.

      As you might guess, I ought to be work­ing… (-:

      1. You could prob­a­bly just drop Rebel an email ask­ing – they’ve always seemed pret­ty open in the past. Not seen any sign of beers being sold under those names at any rate.

        1. There’s a cou­ple of recent Fal­mouth Brew­ing Co pump­clip pho­tos on Untap­pd. I took one of them – the bar­man claimed the beer was via a friend from that part of the world who was involved in a micro­brew start-up.

  2. Fas­ci­nat­ing stuff, inter­est­ing beer line up. Appre­ci­ate the hard work you put into this. You cer­tain­ly found a lot more infor­ma­tion than I could!
    Cheers.

  3. A date giv­en seems odd, or I’m mis-read­ing some­thing. You wrote that “It was run by the elder­ly Mrs Ann Allen, born in around 1876.”, but the arti­cle is from 1863. Is the 1876 sup­posed to be 1776, or some­thing else?

    I’m from the US but I love this blog and the his­tor­i­cal infor­ma­tion.

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