Broadland's Breweries Past and
Present: October 2016
at the Annual General Meeting
There is never a lot
of time after the AGM
business, but Nicola Hems, our Vice Chair, made the
most of what was available.
She presented enough information in her half hour to
qualify for the Guinness
Book of Records, but as it was on a subject dear to
most men’s hearts, nobody
Beer, we discovered, has been our
staple drink for at least 5000
years – a safer drink, until very recently, than
water. Even acceptable for
children, when at a reduced 2% alcohol content it
was known as “small beer”.
Until the 1550s brewing was a pretty domestic
process, conducted in small
public houses in every settlement in the land. The
output was cloudy, very sweet
and full of husks. To combat the sweetness herbs and
spices were added.
Commercial brewing then gradually took
over and we learned that
Norfolk, including Broadland, had a range of natural
advantages. Barley was the
main local cereal crop, water from the underlying
chalk was ideal, and the
network of smooth flowing rivers and broads provided
cheap bulk transport.
Quality was much improved but there was still a
large number of breweries, each
producing its own distinctive brews. Norwich, for
example, had 27 breweries in
1836. Breweries grew by progressively taking over
public houses in financial
difficulties, thus establishing the tied-houses that
we know today.
The origins, growth and eventual
decline of Norfolk and Broadland
breweries were examined. Names new to the writer but
not to local people
included: Bullards; Youngs, Crawshay and Youngs;
William Browns – breweries
that ran from the 1700’s into the mid and late
twentieth century. Where are
they now? Largely gobbled up by Watneys, it seems,
the company that was best
able to exploit steam power, railways, road
transport and the stock exchange.
There was a romantic interlude when we
looked at Coltishall, now a
moderate-sized village, but once a centre of
malting, employing 100 people in
brewing, and possibly the place where
wherry-building originated. And we
finished with a wistful allusion to CAMRA and a look
at some old, but empty,
The meeting had opened with a short
pause to remember the company
and contribution of Peter Salmon, who had passed
away the previous evening.
Peter was a great supporter of the History Group who
had served on the
committee with energy and enthusiasm.
Otherwise it was a routine AGM. 44 in
attendance. A successful
2016. Chair’s Report and actions supported. Finances
sound & accounts
accepted. Constitution updated. All Officers
re-elected. 2017 Programme getting
there – target date November.