Meanwhile an important figure in the affairs at Bristol was Arthur Tozer who, at one of the earliest Board Meetings held at the Assembly Coffee House in November 1788, was appointed Manager and Conductor of the business with responsibility for keeping Books of Account. His salary was £150 a year, augmented by an “allowance of House Rent, Coal, Candle and Beer.” Tozer was active in getting the business on to its feet. But by 1800 when it was doing well - though his salary had been increased - he was disappointed in not being able to obtain a stake in the business, and it was noted in the Minutes that he had resigned his position, his “efforts to obtain a Share having been unsuccessful.”
In 1790 the partners received an offer from one of their members to purchase the brewhouse and after two years in business it is significant that they did not close the door to this possibility, stating that they were unwilling to dispose of it “at least for the present.” It was in that year that they decided that the brewing of porter was not enough and they started a Pale Ale Brewery taking over “Bayly’s Premises” for “fitting up and applying ...for the purpose of carrying on the brewing business.” This expansion was done at some risk as the concern showed a loss of £150 for the year 1790/1791.
Before the turn of the century they did not make their own malt, but in 1795 Mr. Tozer was sent to Berkshire and Hertfordshire to make enquiries regarding the method of making brown malt and to observe the construction of malt kilns. A model was produced and it was resolved that enquiries be made for a malt house to rent. Four years later they were still importing malt for the Minutes refer to a mishap, not uncommon in those days: “Mr. Tozer acquainted the Committee that, the Brig Daniel on which we have 340 Quarters of Malt shipped by Mr. Warren, was, on the night of the 27th grounded on the rocks called The Wolves in Bristol Channel and afterwards run into Uphill River where she now lies with hopes however of getting into this port.”
This maritime touch was characteristic of Philip George’s business in the early days. The brewery was well sited by the bridge and transport by water, significant in most breweries until the present century, played a vital part in the economy of the Bristol concern.
In Philip George’s day the roads in the west country were in such an appalling state that any widespread distribution of beer was out of the question. By all accounts the streets of Bristol itself were worse even than those of London in their narrowness, filth and congestion. Much of the city’s traffic was carried by water, and Bristol Bridge was in a very real sense the hub of the city. The proximity of George’s with the bridge and the harbour was of inestimable value both at the time and throughout the nineteenth century. Though the river frontage has fallen into disuse, like the Thames frontages at Horselydown, London, the brewery still flourishes as the west of England headquarters of the Courage Group on the site of the original Porter Brewery.
The minutes of the old Porter Brewery kept by Philip George and his partners recalled much detail of the daily life of the business but curiously contain no reference to an event on the bridge in 1793 in which they must have been involved, at least as witnesses. This was the Bristol Bridge Riots*, the most tragic local incident of the century. According to Latimer the cause of the upheaval was the failure of the Trustees of the Bridge to abolish the toll-houses (and with them, of course, the tolls) at either end of the bridge. Eleven persons were killed or mortally wounded and 45 others injured, and, as is always the case with such calamities several of the sufferers were harmless lookers-on, two being respectable tradesmen and one a visitor to the city.
*The Bristol Bridge Riot of 30 September 1793 began as a protest at renewal of an act levying of tolls on Bristol Bridge, which included the proposal to demolish several houses near the bridge in order to create a new access road, and controversy about the date for removal of gates. 11 people were killed and 45 injured, making it one of the worst riots of the 18th century
Perhaps the Minutes which were so meticulously kept omitted all mention of this because no damage was done to the brewhouse and the employees came through unscathed. But they did reflect the fact that the company was much taken up with banking matters which so often co-existed with brewing. There are many references to the issue, backing and endorsing of Bills of Exchange. A typical Minute is one dated 5th April 1803 when “Mr. Spiring reported he had taken up Two Thousand five hundred pounds on the Company’s note at 3 mo., of Messrs. Miles Vaughan & Co., and had therewith paid the Company’s note to Mr. Jas. Fowler for the same sum, the 27th Mar.”
Something of the diversity of interest which sometimes went with brewing at the turn of the eighteenth century is to be found in that pocket book which Philip George carried for most of his active life. For instance there were his dealings with two of his Porter brewery partners, W. P. Lunell and Samuel Worrall of Clifton. About 1800 he paid Samuel Worrall out as a partner with his share in “Wilder Street premises”, £150 cash from profits on Shot Ho. and 2 shares in “the Coal Canal.” His share in Neh. Bartley & Co., a distillery on Temple Backs, he transferred to W. P. Lunell in 1791, but only received from him about half its value, which may have terminated their business relationship.
As an adjunct to his Patent Shot Company he acquired a lead Works in Blackwirth Road, Bristol, and shares in lead mines near Helston - the “Wheal Prosper” and the “Wheal Rose”. He also traded in liquor other than beer. He bought large quantities of rum, brandy and port and the excise was considerable. For instance:
“Wm. Morgan: Duty on Rum £457. 6. 0d. M. R. Hunter on a/c of Rum £1,446. 9. l0d.”
He had a moiety of a Yard in Jacob Street, bought 2 small horses for £31. 10. 0d. and 3 coach horses for £68. 5. 0d., exported patent shot to Hy. Cruger, New York: porter, lead and shot to Gibraltar (they paid him in “dollars”), and indulged in an “adventure to Maryland” which produced £458. 15. 6d. A promissory note in the name of H. 0. Wills for £209. 6. 6d. may be on account of tobacco.
From 1787 to 1791, he was in partnership with T. Corser and William Fisher in a wine business which involved chiefly brandy, raisins and excise. In various places appear the words “colouring”. “wages”, “halling”, “masons”, “£16. 16. 0d. for a Prefs.” and "coopering”. He had shares in the “Newbury canal” and Bills of Exchange played a great part in his dealings. He obviously visited London, Wales, Cornwall, and Plymouth.
He bought a horse, bridle and saddle from one William Turner for £40, paid his Moiety in a Cloth Cottage at Devizes (£7. 3. 6d.), purchased premises in various streets, bought a “pillion and portmanteau” for £1.13. 0d. and was closely connected with St. Stephen’s parish. He paid the ringers 15/-d periodically, the Sexton for mops and brushes and cleaning up the church, and there is a payment (unspecified) to the late Churchwarden of £265. 14. 4d. Plumbers are also paid and the Sexton is paid for “lighting ye Stove”.
One of the more curious names is that of Jonadab Mort of Liverpool. He seems to have been closely associated with the firm of Lewis Corser and Harford, Bristol. In 1796 George paid John Champion of Bristol £200 as “my moiety ½ years. Rent on the Mill.”
Certainly the diversifications of Philip George and his partners were necessary for the brewery showed a profit for the first time only in 1797, nearly ten years after they took over. But from then on a profit was sustained, shared at first by four partners, then three, and at last two, as they either died or retired from the business. From time to time there were disagreements. In 1798 there was a row about the distribution of profit. Apparently Philip George had not fully paid up his share of the capital. Mr. Sam Worrall was agitator and there is a note in the Minutes “N.B. Mr. Philip George being present refused to sign the above.”
Two years later the Minute Book itself was a cause of disagreement. Mr. Worrall had put pressure on Philip George to pay up his capital and had succeeded, and now he was worried about the location and safety of the Minute Book. The co-partners did not take him very seriously and the book continued to be kept in the usual place, wherever that was. The trading figures for the forty years of Philip George’s management - he died in 1828 - reflect a very slow but steady growth. The export trade seemed always to have been a variable factor. In some months it was as high as 257 barrels (795 in February 1795), in other months nothing at all. Possibly it depended on whether there was a local market or not. Certainly it is noticeable that in Winter, when local trade was lowest, export tended to rise. In August, 1800, trade reached a peak of 2,462 barrels (inclusive of town, country and export) but thereafter declined slightly. By 1828 the average monthlybarrelage was in the region of 1,000. Though there were, of course, considerable seasonal fluctuations, with February invariably the lowest at about half the barrelage of the summer months. A special export beer was brewed in 1795; some of the barm, (a commercial leavening agent containing yeast cells : used to raise the dough in making bread and for fermenting beer or whisky), being sent to Richard Clare of Cork who had a distillery there. In 1802 the firm was bottling cider and perry as well as porter and ale. But porter was still predominant. When peace was declared in that year, Philip George produced one of his slogans which was widely advertised:-
“PEACE, PLENTY AND PORTER”
A Wages Book covering the period from 1821 to 1828 provides some sidelights on management. Written in a handsome copperplate, it gives details of wages paid to coopers, warehouse, and cellar men. Much of the payment was piecework, especially that involving the washing of casks, vessels and bottles. The basic weekly rate ranged from 13/-d to 19/6d, the highest rate being paid to the coopers. The total weekly wage bill was in the region of £22.
There were fines for improper language to the Brewers (1/-d), getting drunk (2/6d) and for being late on brewing morning (1/-d). On December 21st 1822, a character called William Haynes was fined Sunday’s wages for leaving the large plug out. He appears to have been an unsatisfactory employee, since in March 1823 he had to be discharged for “seducing William Howe’s daughter”. William Howe was another employee.
Before the end of 1816 all the original partners had disappeared with the exception of Philip George and Jacob Wilcox Ricketts, who decided to retire in favour of their sons. A new partnership was then formed being styled Georges, Rickettses and Co. A drawing of the period shows the porter and the pale ale breweries as separate buildings. The quayside, with horse-drays, barges and sailing trows underlines the continued importance of the river frontage in Bristol.
The new partnership announced itself in a circular dated October 1st 1816: “Messrs. Philip George, Jun., Richard Ricketts, Christopher George, Jacob Ricketts, Henry Ricketts, Alfred George and Frederick Ricketts, respectfully announce that they have taken to the business of Porter-Brewers, lately carried on by Messrs. Philip George, Sen. and Jacob Wilcox Ricketts, and that such business will in future be carried on by them at the Brewery and premises in Bath Street, Bristol, under the firm of ‘Georges, Ricketts’. and Bristol Porter Brewery Company’.
“Referring you to the above advertisement, we respectfully solicit a continuance of the support enjoyed by our predecessors, and assure you that no exertion shall be wanting for the prompt and careful execution of your orders.
“We are further determined to merit a preference by vending on liberal terms, Porter, Strong Beer, and West India Ale, of quality superior to most Breweries, and inferior to none in the Kingdom.
“We are, “Your obliged and most obedient Servants, "
This was the period when the Company began to acquire its own licensed houses and so, to some extent at least, free itself from the fierce and unremitting competition between brewers that drove many small breweries into liquidation. A typical case, locally, was that of Fry, Ball & Co. Their old letter-book covering the last years of the concern is still extant. It contains the statement that “Our Porter is generally allow’d to be superior to the London brew’d, and we doubt not will have a great sale in your neighbourhood if one tried. Our strong beer is in equal repute.” Of course, this is sales talk, and though the Frys were Quakers it is evident from the letters that they were also men of business who could drive a hard bargain. There is a liberal sprinkling of Thee’s, Thou’s, wast and can’st, but in the collection of their accounts, Fry, Ball & Co. do not appear to be behindhand. One of their descendants, incidentally, was Conrad Fry, who was on the board of Georges, and is still remembered by some of the staff.
Family continuity has been as strong at Bristol as at Southwark and Reading. Members of the George family were active in the business until the retirement of Mr. Christopher George in 1951. Philip George - the founder - like his contemporaries in Southwark and Reading, played his part in public life being a Sheriff of Bristol in the years 1808, 1813 and 1815.