IT IS NOW time to revert to the business itself - to the industry which the successive generations of
    Courages developed on the banks of the Thames at Horselydown.  Structurally that undertaking may
    be observed today as an imposing mass of buildings covering some 4 acres contiguous to the Surrey
    end of the Tower Bridge. They are grouped about a small and most curiously named thoroughfare -
    Shad Thames.  Antiquarians have not settled whether this name arose out of the fact that the fish
    called shad were at one time prolific in the water near this spot, the most likely explanation, or whether
    “Shad Thames” is a corruption or abbreviation of St. John at Thames, as the street runs through the
    ancient Liberty of St. John.  In any case this is the little riverside highway which is now flanked by the
    brewery, offices, stabling, cellars, cooperage stores, etc., which make up the Anchor Brewery,
    Horselydown  The present buildings are not old, for a fire on May 5th 1891, started by a spark in the
    malt mills, and causing an explosion and conflagration of the flammable malt dust, destroyed the
    brewhouse, after raging for several days, notwithstanding the efforts of the famous Captain Shaw and
    his London Fire Brigade and its engines, aided by tugs and floats on the river. This prevented
    brewing for some three or four weeks, and Messrs. Barclay, Perkins & Co. supplied the Company with
    all London Beers to the extent of about £40,000 - the Pale Ale trade not being affected, The fire
    necessitated the rebuilding of the brewhouse. At other times other alterations and extensions have
    been made for the equipment of one of London’s most modern and well appointed breweries. It is
    interesting to note that on the day the fire broke, out the beer in process of being brewed was Mild
    Ale XX, of a gravity of 22 lbs., or 1060°, sold to the houses at 33/- per barrel (less 5%) and retailed to
    the public at 2d. a pint - 4d. a quart; hence its name Fourpenny. The duty on this beer was about 7/-
    per Barrel, as it was over standard gravity. The duty on the same beer today (1932) would be about
    Another result of the fire was the re-arrangement of the various lease-hold properties held from the
    Abdy family, by the surrender and regrant for 99 years of an inclusive lease at a ground rent of
    £1,900.  The re-building of the waterside premises with deep concrete foundations, sunk well below
    the bed of the river, was carried out according to plans of Messrs. Inskip and Mackenzie, by Mr. W.
    Watson, the builder, at a cost of £15,524. It included a new malt tower and chimney shaft, bearing the
    date 1895; and in this reconstructed brewery were installed duplicate coppers, hop-backs and new
    mash-tuns, making up a 250-quarter plant, at a cost of £27,000, less £15,000 received from
    This opportunity was taken to install a steam cooperage for making and cleansing the firm’s casks,
    which was erected by Messrs. Ransome, of Chelsea.
    As has been shewn in the previous chapter, the business began on a much smaller scale. The output
    of John and Hagger Ellis from their eighteenth century premises in the converted mill house of the
    Knights Hospitallers must have been a very “small industry,” if the first brew of their successor, John
    Courage, consisted of but 50 barrels. The premises upon which this output was made comprised for
    some years only this small brewhouse and its foreshore, which are all that is contained in the original
    lease from the Abdy family. But under the enterprise of the first two Courages, the business soon
    began to grow; Liddards and Hartley’s Wharves, on the west of the Brewhouse, Burgess’ Wharf on
    the east, were absorbed into the Brewery. Then Keen’s Wharf, and further, outside the Abdy
    property, two large plots of freehold land were acquired. The one printed yellow, on the
    accompanying map was the firm’s freehold and was sold, before the Company was formed, to the
    Corporation of London under the Tower Bridge Act 1885. Thus the whole of the southern approach of
    that great edifice was acquired from the Courages.

                                              Map of Anchor Brewery site dated 1872

    Those early times were the days of waterborne traffic. At Courage’s wharves were discharged malt
    and coal and forage for the horses, and from them Courages’ Ales were shipped in barges, for
    loading on ships for Lowestoft, Dundee, Leith, etc. These were acquiring a more than local
    reputation, the shipments including large consignments of stout to Hamburg and other Continental
    ports. So important was this department of the Brewery’s transport that the firm had its own
    lightermen, as well as barges and a skiff - ” The Brothers “ - in which the partners and others
    journeyed across the river to and from the north side. Clerks and excise officers used the same mode
    of transport for their visits to the Brewery, for London Bridge was some distance away, and the Tower
    Bridge, which was to add to the Brewery’s convenience of access, as well as to its site value, was still
    in the future.
    It is not surprising that the fame of Courage’s beers spread. Southwark had long been noted for the
    purity of the Borough’s waters, and it only needed enterprise to turn that fame into an effective
    demand. It was probably the keen business sense of the first John Courage which prompted him to
    exploit the celebrity of the water by purchasing the Knight’s house brewery, just as it was the
    enterprise of the second John Courage which led him to make the most of the neighbourhood’s
    natural advantages.
    The well in the brewhouse was sunk to a depth of 450 feet, and yielded 200 barrels an hour of water
    of such quality and coldness that neighbours besieged it in the summer months, and the brewers
    produced with it beers which could hold their own with any.
    These beers however were limited in range. The quality of the water was admirable for the specifically
    London beers, such as mild ale and stout, but it lacked the mineral ingredients needed for good pale
    ale.  Hence, in order to supply the large demand for bitter beers, the Courages contracted in 1872
    with Messrs. Flower and Son, of Stratford-on-Avon, brewers of a fine bitter beer, to supply them with
    pale ale for distribution among their customers. This arrangement continued until 1886. Then it
    occurred to Robert Michell Courage, the youngest partner, while he calculated the economic waste in
    heavy railway freights from Stratford, and the double cartage of the beer across London, from the
    railway to the brewery and out again, that a better arrangement might be made. The contract was
    transferred to Messrs. Fremlins Bros. of Maidstone, for Maidstone is on the Medway, and the Medway
    flows into the Thames, and Fremlins could ship the beer from their brewery in barges for conveyance
    direct to Courage’s wharf at Shad Thames. Thus the lower reaches of the Thames gained an
    added picturesqueness as tall-masted brown-sailed barges sailed with their precious freight—some
    32,000 barrels of it a year—from the Medway to the Pool of London.
    Later, economic considerations prompted yet another method of handling the pale ale question.
    Fremlin’s ale was of excellent quality; but why should not Courages acquire a Brewery of their own, to
    brew their own bitter beers in some place where the water was adapted to the brewing of such ale?
    The directors after much search and enquiry eventually bought Messrs. G. & E. Hall’s brewery at
    Alton, in Hampshire in 1903.
    These ales were already well known in London; and there, 42 miles from London, are brewed today
    Courage’s Alton Pale Ales. The adoption of this course was similar in policy to the possession by
    other London brewers of breweries at Burton, which is further from London than Alton.  Hall’s was an
    old established concern, having been bought by Mr. Henry Hall from Mr. John Hawkins in 1841. An
    item of some historical interest in connection with it is that Mr. Hawkins’ manager, James Newman
    Frost, was a relative of Cardinal Newman, and the Cardinal often resided in what is now the Brewers’
    The Alton brewery was of respectable size when Courages acquired it; it had 64 freehold and 13
    leasehold public houses, and its local trade reached 20,000 barrels a year. The premises were rebuilt
    according to Messrs. James Bradford and Son’s plans, and now challenge acceptance as a model
    brewery. It is certainly a valuable asset to the Company.
    When the acquisition was made Major M. R. F. Courage went to Alton as local director, taking the late
    Mr. B. W. Peile from London as manager, Mr. H. Cooper remaining as brewer; his retention was
    justified in the increased production, which under the new management soon reached an output of
    50,000 barrels a year. The present headbrewer is Mr. Cooper’s son, Mr. W. M. Cooper.

G. & E. Hall’s brewery at Alton, in Hampshire, acquired in 1903.                        

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