Wednesday, 27 June 2012

All Brewing’s Cancelled

I was at the Portsmouth History Centre, working my way through the first surviving King Street brewing book for the Portsmouth and Brighton United Breweries, covering the period 1st April 1940 to 20th February 1942 when I was brought up short by this entry by the Head Brewer for Monday 13th January 1941: “All brewing’s cancelled. Brewery seriously damaged by enemy action on the night of January 10th 1941. I hope it is not too trite to say that documentary evidence of this type can bring home the realities of war to those of us fortunate enough never to have lived through such dark days.

As Philip Eley writes in his Portsmouth Papers publication, ‘Portsmouth Breweries Since 1847’, “the sustained bombing of Portsmouth ten days into the new year [of 1941] not only claimed 171 lives but many licensed premises … United suffered particularly badly, not just because they lost their two ‘flagship’ hotels, the Central in Commercial Road and the Fratton at Fratton Bridge, but because their brewery was seriously damaged with the total loss of the wines and sprits stores and the stables, together with six or seven horses. Their maltings at St George’s Square were also put out of action” (1994, p. 20).

Eley goes onto say that “United were completely reliant on other brewers for their beer supplies from January until August 1941 when brewing recommenced”. An analysis of the brewing book confirms that the brews of XX and PB planned for 13th January, and of IPA and XX for the 14th January were all cancelled and that it was not until 3rd August 1941 that the next brew took place, with XX. Even so, perhaps United got off relatively lightly. Long’s brewery, just a short Southsea-hop away at the corner of Hambrook Street and Cecil Place, took a direct hit in the blitz and was completely devastated.

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