John Courage -
By 1787 he had already been in business in London for eight years as an
agent for the Glasgow shipping firm of Carron which traded from the
Glasgow Wharf (the Carron and Continental Wharves) on the north side of
the Thames, downstream from the Tower of London.
John Courage was the only surviving son of his late father, Alexander,
when he left Aberdeen for London in about 1780 to become the Wapping
agent for Carron Shipping, leaving behind in Aberdeen his mother Isabel
and his unmarried sister Ann. John could see across the river to the
foreshore of Southwark and decided to diversify his interests by going into
the beer business. Thus it was that the name of Courage became
associated with the brewing industry.
When John Courage, together with a number of friends, settled for the
purchase of a brew house at Horselydown, on the south bank of the
Thames, he was investing his acumen and money in a staple industry at an
opportune time. He purchased the Anchor Brewery at Horselydown,
Bermondsey, in 1787 from John and Hagger Ellis. An earlier owner of the
Brewery was Vassal Webbing a Flemish émigré. What is interesting is that
both Vassal Webbing and John were described in G.N. Hardinge’s book,
Courages 1787-1932, as being Protestant émigrés. Frank Courage wrote
to his daughter Milly in New Zealand in 1914, that he thought John (his
Grandfather), could have come from Flanders, as brewing has always been
more of an industry there than in France. The only known French
Protestant Courages in the 1600s were Thomas and Nicholas Courage,
and their names do not appear in Aberdeen, so the search has shifted to
Flanders (Belgium), for our Protestant forebears. [Early records, including
family letters, on the purchase of the Brewery and the history of Courages
thereafter, are held in The Courage Collection, London Metropolitan Archives,
Northampton Road, London].
On 17th December 1787, John Courage, aged 26, paid a cheque for £100 to
the Morris Estate as part payment for the Private House and Old Brewhouse
at Horselydown over the Thames and opposite Wapping. On Christmas
Eve, John paid the balance on the purchase of £674 18s 9d. On 4th January
1788, he paid George Courage £26 6s for sundries and scroll book. On 15th
January 1788 John purchased one silk waistcoat for 19 shillings 8d, and on
7th June paid John Ward £10 for a gelding. On 15th November 1788, the
Founder's sister Ann writes to her brother “this piece of news that our king
is died” (Bonnie Prince Charlie in exile in Italy).
In March 1793, tragedy struck and John’s sister Ann died of a fever in
Aberdeen and was buried beside her father in Old Machar; there is a long
letter from the Founder's mother, Isabel Courage, about this in the Courage
Collection at the Greater London Record Office, EC1, together with the other
original letters that survive from this period including the old brewery book.
In May 1793, Archibald Courage from Findhorn supplies his cousin "with
1000 American staves and 20 bundles hoops”. Courage Beer was being
shipped all over the world, as its reputation grew. 2 hogsheads of Porter
on 25th February 1793 were shipped back to Scotland to the Earl of Fife,
and throughout 1794 barrels of porter were dispatched to India, Dominica,
Antigua, Amsterdam, Hambro, Gibraltar and Lisbon. Ann Murdoch, the
Founder's mother-in-law spent £6-10-6 on clothes for her grandson John in
September 1796 and Mrs Courage’s house expenses for the month of
October 1796 were £9-6-10d.
On 26th June 1788 a son, John, was born to John and his wife Harriet and
on 8th June 1790 twins Ann and Elizabeth were born. On 23rd February
1795 another daughter, Harriet, was born.
John Courage died in October 1797 aged 36 and was buried at St John’s,
Horselydown. His widow, Harriet died in May the following year aged 32,
and was also buried at Horselydown. On Harriet’s death, the new John
Courage was only 10, and John Donaldson, the managing clerk, took over
the running of the Brewery, becoming a partner in the newly named firm of
Courage and Donaldson, taking a third of the gross profits which was
afterwards enlarged to half, as well as half of the capital.
The Founder’s son, the second John, entered the Brewery in 1804 aged 16,
becoming a partner in 1811. He married Susan Hawes, the daughter of a
Norfolk brewer Sidney Hawes in 1823. A copy of an article about Susan’s
mother, Elizabeth Hawes (neé Porson) survives in family records. The article
states “that Elizabeth was born in 1756, was a servant and a woman of
strong natural sense and moral qualities and at night used to sit up in bed
reading from the light of a candle volumes of the Universal Magazine. She
took in dressmaking and always said she would rise in the world”.
COURAGE & Co.
John Courage, the founder of Courage &
Co., came to London in 1780 as a
younger son of a French Huguenot family
who had been exiled and settled in
Scotland a century before.
In a letter dated 7th February 1786, the
Founder’s sister writes to him
congratulating him on his marriage to
Harriet Murdoch and that “the marriage is
no surprise to us and be that she be a
sober good woman and that we drank
your health on your marriage night very
Born 1761 in Aberdeen, died
1793 in London