Before the 1891 fire Courages had already established working arrangements with other brewery
concerns.  The water from the Horselydown well was admirable for the traditional London beers
such as mild ale and stout and, long before the family concern became a public company, the
Courage London-brewed beers had become popular outside the metropolis and overseas. But at
that time it was thought that the Southwark water lacked the mineral ingredients required for a good
pale ale - the increasingly popular bitter.  By the eighteen-seventies Courages recognised the need
to supply their customers with these other types of beer to meet public demand. In 1872, therefore,
they contracted with Flower & Son of Stratford-on-Avon, brewers of a fine beer, to supply them with
pale ale for their own distribution.

This arrangement depended of course upon the Victorian transportation system which was already
well established.  The beer came from Stratford to London by rail. It was then carted across the
Thames to the brewery where it was assembled for redistribution.  Significantly the youngest of the
family partnership. Robert Michell Courage, was taking what was then a forward-looking interest in
the problems of logistics.  Although railway freightage had been revolutionizing brewery distribution
over several decades, he saw a means of simplifying the pale ale operation by reverting to water-
transport.  So in the late eighteen-eighties the pale ale contract was transferred to Fremlins of
Maidstone, whose brewery was on the banks of the Medway.  Thus the casks of bitter went by tall-
masted brown-sailed barges direct from the Medway into the Thames and up the tideway to the
Courage wharf at Shad Thames. At the height of this operation some 32,000 barrels a year sailed
in this leisurely fashion.

The brown sails of these beer ferries lingered on into the present (20th) century but not for long. By
1903 there was a further rationalization.  It was clear then that it was better business for a
prosperous concern such as Courages to acquire the means of production, particularly in an age
when distribution was becoming more sophisticated. Courages decided to brew their own bitter
beers in some place outside London where the water was suitable, and they began a search for an
existing business to acquire. Their acquisition of Messrs. G. & E. Hall’s brewery at Alton in
Hampshire was their first move outside London in the creation of the structure which has now
become the Courage Group.  It should perhaps be noticed that acquisition, merger and
amalgamation - which in the contemporary term ‘takeover’ seems to represent so very much the
idiom of this mid-century — has been almost a traditional element in the brewing industry.

After the early eighteenth century when brewing was entirely localised, popular demand and
scientific methods created larger scale production and stablization of quality. This ‘with improving
means, of distribution in the nineteenth century favoured larger units of production and throughout
Victorian times there was a tendency for these larger units to take over the smaller breweries with
their tied houses.  Because of all the long term elements which make up a brewery concern, the tied
houses,’ the maltings, the ‘water supply and the local goodwill, it has always been more desirable to
acquire an existing concern rather than to start an entirely new one. It is difficult to name a brewing
concern at the present day which is not in some way rooted in the takeovers of the past.

The Alton brewery had been bought by Henry Hall in 1841 and it possessed a historical interest in
that the Manager, when it was acquired by Hall, was a certain James Newman Frost, who was a
relative and friend of John Henry Newman, and the Cardinal had frequently stayed at the Brewers
House. During the second half of the nineteenth century the brewery, deriving its exceptional
qualities from the Alton wells, built up a substantial localized trade and its beers became well known
in London. At the time of Courage’s acquisition in 1903, the output amounted to 20,000 barrels a
year. The Hall concern was typical of the well established country- breweries of the period. It
possessed its own maltings and its beers were largely brewed from Hampshire barley and hops.
During the first decade of the present century Courages reconstructed the buildings and by the
nineteen-thirties Alton was producing 4,000 barrels a week.

Alton continues to play an important part in the Courage Group. It is still in service but in these days
of specialisation its main significance is as a Group canning and kegging plant.  But for all the
industrialisation of Alton, there lingers one noble aspect of the past which calls for a digression.
Here, adjacent to the brewery, is the stable for the
Courage dray-horses which, since the beginning
of the nineteen-fifties have moved out of London to a neat well furnished Hampshire home. It is now
acknowledged that there is no useful place for the brewer’s horse-drawn dray in this mechanised
age.  Courages still had fourteen working horses in London in 1951 when it was decided that horse-
drawn vehicles were no longer commercially viable.

Fortunately, the splendour of the turn-out was recognised as something to be preserved not only
for sentiment but for prestige and publicity purposes. So there remain at Alton six shire bay
geldings with a noble dray in the Courage livery painted in maroon and gold. The team is
maintained from new stock when occasion arises. Compared with their forerunners these great
horses, each more than 17 hands, are much travelled.  They go, by motor, all over the country to
take part in parades and show events.

They serve as a reminder not only of the pride and glory of the past but also of the extent to which
the breweries - more than most industrial enterprises - continued to rely very heavily on the
services of the horses long after railways and even mechanised road transport were well
established. For instance,  in 1893 W. J. Gordon in
The Horse-World of London saw the Courage
horse as a permanent feature of London life: “The brewer’s horse is a splendid animal, the most
powerful as a rule of London’s heavy brigade. At the Cart-horse Parade, in which teams of all
classes compete, the first second, and third prizes were taken for the only two years in which they
entered by Messrs. Courage, whose cart horses are generally sold for an average of £32 each,
one of them having fetched fifty-one guineas, the highest price ever obtained for a horse cleared
out of a stud as being past the work of the trade in which he made his first appearance in town. In
fact, there is no stud in the kingdom of higher level excellence than that under Mr. Laird’s care at
Horselydown, which is saying much, considering that the 3,000 horses owned by the larger London
brewers are worth at the very lowest estimate £90 apiece.

“A barrel of beer weighs 4 cwt; a brewer’s van carries 25 barrels, which means 5 tons; the van itself
weighs not less than 35 cwt., some of them weigh over 2 tons; the harness weighs three quarters of
a hundred-weight; the men weigh - what? It is a delicate question. To answer it Mr. Laird weighed a
drayman for us, a fine young man in his twenty-ninth year. He weighed 20 st. 10 lbs! And the horse
he drove, a five-year-old gelding standing 17.2 and still growing, was then put on the scale, and
dipped the beam at just over the ton.

“But this is hardly a fair average. Let us throw the men in with the sundries, and say these
tremendous horses have to draw 8 tons; and this is for three horses worked unicorn fashion,
two at the pole and one as leader. According to one horse-keeper, who had been twenty-seven
years in his position, it now takes three horses to do the work that four did twenty years ago.
‘The vans have improved, the roads have improved, and the horses have improved, especially the

When the Courage company was formed in 1889 the stud consisted of 78 heavy draft horses. In
1914 the stud had been increased to 104. The first large garage was erected at Horselydown in
1920 “to meet the new methods of delivery”.

Mechanization of transport was in fact the most significant aspect of the development of the brewing
industry in the first three decades of this century, but the changes came slowly for the horse
remained for so long the most economical form of transport for the short journeys with frequent
stops entailed in delivery rounds. There was also - and this happily remains to this day - a feeling of
pride and affection for the splendid horses associated with the trade. Henry Courage devoted
himself to this side of the business in the early part of the century. His aim was for the firm to have
the best horses on the road, and in this there was keen competition with other great breweries. The
Courage teams were arranged in colour.  His pride was the unicorns of three matched horses
pulling a dray loaded with six tons of beer through the crowded streets of London. The family
interest in transportation remained strong for he was succeeded by his son, H. Ernest Courage,
and by the thirties when mechanization was almost complete the transport system came under
supervision of Captain J. H. Courage.

But the transport revolution, which afterwards had such a potent effect upon the building up of the
structure of the Group, was essentially gradual. Although the First World War had seen the
disappearances of cavalry and the virtual elimination of horse-drawn vehicles for military purposes
in favour of petrol driven power, many of the brewery concerns while retaining their horses turned
their attention first to steam.  The first mechanical vehicle purchased by Courages was a steam
Foden bought in 1916 for £673, and between the wars the Foden steamers were a popular form of
brewery transport which are still nostalgically remembered by older people and, when they can be
found, collected by veteran enthusiasts.

                                                 Example of Foden Steam lorry from early 20th C.

Courages purchased their first Commer car during the First World War and in 1920 their first K type
Leyland motor lorry which cost £1,310. By 1930 they were running 34 Leylands, 5 Fodens, 5 Morris
Trucks, and 3 Trailers, and there -was still a stud of 32horses.A development which brought new
pressure on the transport system early in the present century was the new popularity of bottled
beers. At the turn of the century the tied-houses belonging to such concerns as Courages had a
free hand to make their own arrangements for bottled beers. At that time the only large brewers
who were bottling to any extent were Messrs. Whitbreads. To meet the growing popular demand for
bottled beer with their own resources, Courages made their first move in 1904 by coming to an
arrangement with the Star Bottling Company to supply their houses. When this did not succeed
they contracted with various London firms - Messrs. M. B. Foster for Bass and Guinness, Messrs.
R. P. Culley & Co. for Worthington and Guinness, and Messrs. Fremlin Bros. for all the lighter
brands. This somewhat cumbersome arrangement weighed heavily on the transport system for the
goods had to be collected by the brewery and special staff engaged to superintend deliveries.
Bottling trade in fact increased so rapidly that Courages erected their own plant just before the First
World War.  By 1930 they were running a fleet of 27 bottled beer vans and lorries. In that year their
output of bottled beers was some 54,000 barrels a year which represented about 25 per cent of the
brewery’s output.  From the times of John the Second the Courage policy had been to regard itself
as a public-house, rather than a family trade concern. This had meant an ever increasing
involvement in what may be loosely termed as “tied-houses”.  This involvement from the last
century into this has been described by G. N. Hardinge:  “The firm’s method of dealing with its
public house customers had been the loan method. Its practice was to lend money to business on
mortgage of the freeholds or leaseholds of their houses. The pursuit of this method at one time led
to the firm’s ceasing membership of Brewers’ Hall, which was enforcing restrictive regulations upon
its members on the question of loans.  To Courages it seemed best that the Brewery should have
a free hand in the matter. As a result of maintaining this policy a very large number of public
houses came within the scope of their trade. They would make the licensee a loan on first charge
which advance he would usually follow up by a second loan from Pale Ale brewers, such as Bass’s,
Worthington’s or Allsopp’s, who thus got the Pale Ale trade, and by a third charge loan from
distillers, who thereby secured the spirit trade - the licensee himself finding the balance of the
capital needed.  Under this system Courage’s outstanding loans would be at times as high as a
million sterling; the actual figure in 1887, for example, was £955,675.  That was during the days
when the business was still a partnership.

“A few years later much higher figures were attained. In the late Nineties came the great boom in
the brewing trade. Cheap money and the lending of large sums by Banks and Investment and
Insurance Companies, and competition among Brewers for the purchase of houses, were the
features of the time, and the high prices which in consequence were commonly paid can certainly
be described as inflated.         

“With Courages the new development meant a further big increase in their loans, which in 1897
reached the colossal figure of £2;202,879, and in that year the output reached 333,400 barrels. To
meet these heavy financial engagements fresh capital was issued, and the Company bought a
large number of houses;  and though it withstood the prevalent temptation to pay almost any price
for properties, it nevertheless did pay some very high figures. Later this inflated finance of the
Trade had the unfortunate result of drawing the attention of the Chancellor of the Exchequer to a
further source of revenue.”

Like other great breweries, Courages became virtually bankers to a host of licensed victuallers in
the areas in which they were operating which were ever wider as the business grew and the
efficiency of transport increased.  It was, and still is, an extremely personal business. It was uniquely
personal in the case of one George Wyatt, a big man in business in a big way.  He weighed well
over 20 stone and, as a publican he controlled some fifteen houses for the promotion of which he
needed the sizable sum of £100,000. The Courage directors of the period were impressed by
Wyatt’s keenness and acumen but regarded the size of the operation as something of a risk, and
therefore sought an endowment policy for a large sum on his life.  The Insurance company
demanded that Wyatt be weighed, but sufficient weights could not be found and hefty office ledgers
had to be brought in to balance him on the scales. The precaution turned out to be unnecessary
for Wyatt continued to prosper and outlived the policy.  After the turn of the century the Company’s
loans decreased and the policy of taking over ownership increased. Thus in 1900 the Company’s
loans stood at just under £2 million while their estates were valued at about £950,000. By 1930 this
balance was reversed - the loans standing at about £350,000 and the value of the estates having
built up to well over £2+ million.  Throughout all the developments which carried the company
through its formation in the eighteen-eighties into the present century, the Courage family
continuity was maintained.  Robert Courage was the company’s first chairman from 1886 to 1893.
He was succeeded by Edward Courage who steered the company with a firmly conservative policy
through the inflationary period at the turn of the century until his death in 1904.  He always
maintained that dividends should never exceed 10 per cent, and this policy paid off when legislation
brought fresh taxation on brewers and many public houses were depreciated in value.  He had built
up large reserves which were used to meet depreciation at a time when other breweries were
forced to write down their share capital.  He was succeeded by his son, Raymond Courage, who
continued the policy during the period before the First World War when drink legislation was hitting
the brewery trade particularly hard.  Lloyd George’s
Finance Act, 1910, (see First Schedule),
heavily increased license duties.  Until that time the license duty for a public house had been £10
above 10% of its gross assessment, with a maximum of £60 per annum. The Act increased this to
50% of the gross assessment, with various other increases. The license duty of the Courage
houses rose from £3,000 to £30,000 a year, making a further depreciation of £27,000 a year to be
met.  Again this was a case where other companies wrote down their capital, but Raymond Courage
insisted that the £100 ordinary shares issued by the company should remain at £100 and that
depreciation must be met out of income. This was a thin time for the shareholders, practically all
members of the Courage family, for between 1910 and 1913 the dividend dropped to 1%.

The First World War of course brought massive drink legislation, a Beer Tax in 1914, restricted
opening hours for public houses in 1915, restriction of output amounting to rationing in 1916, and
restrictions in the average gravity of all beers in 1917 and 1918. At Horselydown, Courages, their
staff depleted by war service, raised a Company of Special Constables and provided makeshift air-
raid shelters in the cellars.  Residents of Bermondsey whose parents used to come to draw water
from the Horselydown wells now came to bed down on the hop pockets when the raiders came by

The business emerged unscathed to welcome a wave of prosperity which followed the war.  It was
still under the guidance of Raymond Courage as Chairman, and during this period there was
remarkable intensity of family management.  Commander A. V. Courage was Director in charge of
production and the maintenance and improvement of public houses. Ernest Courage was Director
responsible for transport.  Oswald Courage was a Director principally concerned with the buying of
materials, hops, etc.  Captain J. H. Courage assisted the Commander in the general management
of the public houses, and M. V. Courage assisted him - these two being responsible for interviewing
all applicants for public houses since it was a rule that all applicants should be passed by a Director
of the Company. In addition, Colonel M. R. F. Courage was in charge of the brewery at Alton and
the houses attached to it.

At Horselydown the acquisition of freehold interest gave the company a free hand to carry out an
ambitious rebuilding scheme which was carried out from 1925 onwards.  It is significant that at that
time the wooden cask was regarded not only as traditional but as permanent. A steam cooperage
which had been instituted after the fire of 1891 was reinstalled, and G. N. Hardinge in his account of
the brewery in 1932 states that:
“the company makes all its own casks and buys its own timber”. By
the nineteen sixties not a single cask was being made at Horselydown or indeed throughout the
many breweries in the Courage Group.  Steel had taken over.  

The prosperity of the nineteen-twenties stemmed from the relaxation of war restrictions on output, a
renewal of appetite for the pleasures of life, and a change from the attitude of people toward public
houses and drinking. There was a more liberal attitude in social behaviour, a betterment of
standards and a removal of the more squalid aspects of drinking which had lingered on since the
nineteenth century.  It was a period of much rebuilding and improvement in public houses. Much
of the war time legislation and taxation remained. Indeed, the taxation of beer had continued to rise
since the formation of the company.  Beer duty in fact rose 16 fold between 1889 and 1920.

Nevertheless, Courages forged ahead by adapting to the new mood of the times by industrial
reorganisation, by developing new amenities and by extending the whole pattern of the business.

The first expansion was north of the Thames, the acquisition of the Camden Brewery in Camden
Town.  The purchase was decided by the toss of a coin.  Colonel John Courage and Charles
Perkins, then representing rival concerns, were both interested parties in that they had both
acquired seats on the board with an eye to future prospects.  When a change of ownership became
inevitable they did not bid against each other but settled by spinning.  The concern formed into a
public company in 1889, the same year as Courages had an output of 42,000 barrels a year
supplying 78 of their own houses.  It had been founded in 1859 and its heavy gravity beers were
well established throughout the north-west side of London, a district where Courages at that time
were scarcely represented and its beer unknown.  After the takeover the superintendence,
collection and division of houses were kept separate within the Courage business, and friendly
rivalry was fostered between the Courage interests north and south of the Thames.

The other expansion in the nineteen-twenties was a rural one consolidating the Alton business. In
1927 Courages acquired the Farnham United Breweries Company on the Surrey/Hampshire
border.  With it went a holding of 196 licensed houses.  Its output amounted to 45,000 barrels a
year and it possessed its own maltings.  In 1969 these were sold to the Farnham Maltings
Association, an organisation of local citizens, for conversion to a Community Centre.

The Farnham Brewery was itself typical of the nineteenth century concerns which built up through
amalgamation.  In 1839 two brothers, Robert and John Barrett who were hop-growers in that
district, renowned for its hop gardens, began a small enterprise which they named the Red Lion
Brewery.  For a decade or so it served the needs of the immediate agricultural community. Then
the impact of wars made itself felt in this rural scene.  At the end of the Crimean War the British
Government bought a tract of land for the creation of a permanent army camp. Thus in 1856 began
the military settlement of Aldershot.  In that year there were only two publicans in the village of
Aldershot.  Three years later there were already twenty fully-licensed houses and forty beer
houses.  The opportunist who had most energetically cashed in on the army construction
programme was a local hop grower and property owner named George Trimmer.  He built a
brewery at Farnham and immediately applied for licences in Aldershot entering into fierce
competition with the Barretts.  In fact every time the Barretts got a petition signed for a beerhouse
to serve the ever increasing military population, Trimmer would obtain one next door or opposite.
The struggle later caused redundancy and the closing of certain houses by the Magistrates.  The
Barretts did well enough with their enterprises in Aldershot, however, to expand in other directions.
In 1866 they bought two small breweries with some twenty houses in the Basingstoke area. Their
conflict with Trimmer resolved itself in 1889 when they joined forces to form Farnham United Brew-
eries Company Limited with both families represented on the board.  The Red Lion Brewery was
closed down and the Farnham Brewery supplied the requirements of the united trade until
Courages acquired it.  Then the whole business was transferred to the Alton Brewery where the
trade, after much rebuilding, had reached 120,000 barrels by the end of the twenties. By the
beginning of the nineteen-thirties, therefore, the Courage enterprise was established as a
metropolitan concern with London breweries north and south of the Thames allied with a substantial
and widespread interest spread over Surrey and Hampshire and centred at Alton.

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Chapter 3
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