24 Oct. 2013: More on struggles between rival brewers

There were at least 35 commercial breweries in the eastern half of Norfolk and north-east Suffolk in the late 18th century. To stay viable they needed to secure retail outlets, and this tension helped to shape the local economy. Many concerns struggled, engulfed by debt. As they sank, their rivals swooped on the outlets.

Old Brewery House, Reepham

Bircham’s brewery, Reepham, the brewer’s house: one of many such concerns in the Aylsham area

On Thursday 24 October 2013 Margaret Bird, the editor of Mary Hardy’s diary, will give an illustrated talk to the Aylsham Local History Society on the struggle for survival and competition for public houses in the area just within easy reach of Aylsham. Entitled ‘Rival brewers in north-east Norfolk in the 18th century‘, the meeting will be held at 7.30 pm in the Friendship Hall, at the corner of Cawston Road (the B1145) and Mill Road.

Visitors are welcome, with a fee of £3.00 per person. The full programme is given on the website of the Aylsham Local History Society.

Eight breweries competing for Aylsham in the 1770s

In the 1770s the town of Aylsham had no common brewers, the term used for commercial (as opposed to publican) brewers. However eight concerns lay within a few miles of the market town: at Cawston, Coltishall, Guist, Letheringsett, Reepham and Worstead. The list is very much longer if Norwich, 12 miles away, is included.

Mary Hardy’s village of Coltishall, with a population in 1790 of under 600, had three breweries all with integrated farms, maltings and tied-house portfolios.

Coltishall, the Anchor maltings

Coltishall: the 18th-century maltings built by the Brownes. Their brewery house lies beyond, which by 1826 had become the Anchor public house

Interestingly she recounts the merger talks between Wells’s brewery, managed by her husband William 1772–82, and John Browne’s brewery in what later became Anchor Street at Coltishall. The talks foundered in 1780 after two years, and by 1787 Browne’s had been bought by Chapman Ives, the third Coltishall brewer.

Adding to the instability of the times, there was little continuity at the brewery. The 35 common breweries identified in the wider area were owned by 60 families in the 36-year period of Mary Hardy’s diary 1773–1809. The 35 are listed in the directory of breweries in Volume 2 of the commentary Mary Hardy and her World.


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Margaret Bird

Margaret Bird in 2016

The editor and author of the Mary Hardy volumes

You can read about the historian Margaret Bird on the link above

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