4 June 2015: The working days of Letheringsett’s large rural maltings and brewery

On Thursday 4 June 2015 Margaret Bird will give an illustrated talk in Letheringsett Village Hall on the story of the village’s maltings and adjoining brewery: ‘ “A maltings of national importance”: the working days of Letheringsett’s maltings and brewery 1720–1896‘. The talk will begin at 7.30 pm, preceded at 6.30 by a cold buffet costing £9.00 a head. Details of the evening’s arrangements are given later.

An innovative brewer converts to water power

Letheringsett Maltings elevation, reconstruction

Margaret Bird’s reconstruction of the way the west front would have looked c.1830 after alterations by William Hardy jnr. The waterwheel is seen in its channel (left)

William Hardy, husband of the diarist Mary Hardy, bought the village maltings and brewery in November 1780 and moved with his family to the Hall nearby in April 1781. His wife gives us an immense amount of detail on the changes they made as they developed and expanded the business.

Mechanisation represented a significant move for the brewer. He created a channel from the River Glaven to run under the malthouse and into the brewery yard before heading south under the main road to rejoin the river. The large waterwheel under the malt-mill, seen on the left in the elevation, was destroyed in the brewery fire of 1936.

This drawing by Margaret Bird is based on measurements taken by members of the Norfolk Industrial Archaeology Society (NIAS), who have published many articles and a book (by David W. Durst in 2013) about the maltings, brewery, watermill and other historic features in this industrial landscape.

Richard Cooper, carpenter at Letheringsett

Mary Hardy’s descendants sold the brewery and maltings to Morgans, the Norwich brewers, in 1896. Richard Cooper was then one of the brewery carpenters

A skilled workforce

The talk will cover members of the workforce as well as the buildings in which they worked. This busy complex needed maltsters, brewers, draymen, carpenters and pigmen: pigs were kept on the premises to grow fat on the by-products, the grains. Richard Cooper was one of the last of the brewery carpenters.

The venue

The buffet and meeting will be held in Letheringsett Village Hall, Holt Road, Letheringsett, NR25 7YB. This stands on the main road near the foot of the hill leading to Holt. There is only limited parking in the small layby beside the Village Hall. On-road parking is available in the lanes nearby, including Riverside Road opposite. Marion Thurlow, of Letheringsett Watermill, has kindly offered the mill car park as an overflow. It stands beside the River Glaven in Riverside Road, at NR25 7YD.

It would help with the catering if those wishing to come could telephone the organiser Louise Stevens (01263 713857) at least some days in advance. Payment can be made at the door on the night.

Further information

There is more about the talk on the website for Mary Hardy’s Diary, which shows photographs of the maltings before and during conversion to housing 2013–15.

David Durst’s scholarly and well-illustrated study Letheringsett: The industrial history of a Norfolk village, the fruit of decades of research and teamwork, is available from NIAS.

For those able to arrive early, Letheringsett Watermill is only three minutes’ walk from the Village Hall. It will be open to visitors on 4 June from 9 am to 4 pm. Working demonstrations will run from 12.30 to 3.15 pm that day.