A wealth of history within our Pubs, Inns & Hotels

December 31, 2013
Bell Hotel Military requisition form

View of the Dolphin Tavern, Penzance in 1936

If you have been raising a glass to absent friends over the festive season, why not pop down to your local St Austell Brewery pub to do so and enliven the old seasonal spirit?

With an estate that includes some of the oldest buildings across the region, it is not surprising that quite a few of our pubs and hotels come complete with their own unpaying – though not unwelcome –  ethereal guests. Yes, we’re talking ghosts – and we’d like you to tell us about your St Austell Brewery ghost stories so that we can make a compilation of spooky goings on in West Country watering holes.

Take the Dolphin Tavern down in Penzance, where “the awe-inspiring sense of history greets you as soon as you enter”. Back in 1585, John Hawkins used the tavern as his headquarters when recruiting Cornishmen to fight in the Armada, and Sir Walter Raleigh is thought to have smoked the first pipe of tobacco in England here. The tavern was also used as a courtroom in the centuries that followed and, so legend says, is home to three spirits. The most-often observed is an old sea captain dressed in his tricorn hat and ruffles. Could it be old Raleigh himself or an unfortunate victim condemned in the courtroom by the “Hanging Judge”, Judge Jeffries?

If you’ve got any supernatural stories about your St Austell Brewery local, get in touch and tell us all about it so that we can research the history and try to dig out the origins of the tale. We’ll report back on the best ones as we find out more about them in 2014.

Until then, may the spirit(s) of Christmas and the New Year be upon you as we raise our glasses to you all. Cheers from the Archive Team!

You can contact us by emailing our archives department


Closure by order of the Ministry of Defence

December 5, 2013

While the old Bell Hotel in Liskeard may have been silenced these last 60 years or so, the Brewery Archive Research Team has unearthed a wealth of history about the old coaching house that was owned by St Austell Brewery until its closure in 1940, located in Church Street. Registered as early as 1853 to a Mr Richard Hawkes, it is possible that the Bell also has some links to an earlier pubic house in the street known as the Bullers Inn, referenced in an 1842 itinerary of the town.

Bell Hotel Military requisition form

Retained for Military use. Official request given to the Bell Hotel in Liskeard

On its closure, the Bell was requisitioned by the Ministry of Defence for war purposes, initially between the years of 1940 and 1941, for what we believe was to act as a billeting centre for US troops based in Cornwall. We’ll be following that up but if anyone can confirm that for us, or shed any further light on the Bell’s wartime use, we’d be really grateful.

Also, we’d love to hear from anyone who might remember the landlady of The Bell, Mrs Frances Preston. She originally ran The Bell from as early as 1919 under her maiden name of Frances Cullen and then, after her marriage to John Preston at the local church, found herself at the Temperance Hotel in Minions for a time before coming back to manage The Bell in her married name until it was closed down in 1940.

Again, we’d love to hear from anybody with a little local insight into the history of the Bell and Frances Maud in particular, to help us complete our records.

You can contact us by emailing our archives department

The Wallabies are coming – well, they came, saw and conquered actually…

October 4, 2013

It was Napoleon who said that an army marched on its stomach, which more or less meant that if you feed your men well enough, you’ll win the day.  That being the case, Cam1947 Rugby ticket for Cornwall & Devon against Australiaborne locals must still be blaming the St Austell Brewery owned Tyack’s Hotel staff for Australia’s 17-7 victory against Devon and Cornwall at the Recreation Ground on September 13th 1947!

Why? Because the entire Aussie team booked in to sample the hospitality of the hotel for a special meal during their historic tour of Britain, Ireland, France and North America between 1947 and 1948 and it obviously hit the spot, as the visitors delighted locals with the new running style of rugby that had not yet been fully embraced in the northern hemisphere.

The first world tour since the end of hostilities in the Second World war, the nine-month journey made by the Wallabies was one of the last of that era of epic tours when transport was mostly by ship and when the tourists were whole-heartedly welcomed by rugby fans and townships, civic officials and royalty across the country.

As well as the letters shaping up the requirements for the team visit to the Tyack’s Hotel, we’ve also come across a programme for the event, but we’d love to hear from anyone who has memories of the match, pictures taken during the stay of the Wallabies or souvenirs that we could photograph to complete the story for the archives here. You never know, we may even come across the menu for the meal as we work our way through the documents here – if we do, we’ll be sure to pass it on to Steve McNamara, England’s Head Coach for the forthcoming Rugby League World Cup. League and union might be different, but a man’s stomach? You know that other old saying about getting to a man’s heart, and a combination of great food and great sport sounds just the ticket – see you at the Tyack’s for a pre-match pint?

Wallabies letter to Tyacks Hotel, Camborne

Tregonissey House – where the Hick’s magic began!

August 21, 2013

Site of the Old Brewery, St Austell town

Recently St Austell Brewery MD James Staughton joined ED Coode and the archive team for a trip through vats of gold..or amber, at the very least

In 1870, The West Briton reported on the ingenuity of one Walter Hicks in incorporating the very latest techniques and equipment into his first patent steam brewery as it came to life at Tregonissey House, the site of the old London Inn and just a stone’s throw up the hill from the Parish church.

‘By a new and admirable apparatus the mashing is most successfully carried on…After the beer has been boiled it is poured into vessels in which it passes to the next flat and immediately falls on a patent refrigerator. This ingenious and useful appliance is made of a number of copper tubes and perpendicularly set, through which cold water is constantly running, as soon as the beer drops off it is then passed at its required temperature into the vats.’

There might not be much left of the ‘ingenious’ appliances at Tregonissey House, but, thanks to the help of the current owners of the site, French and Coodes Solicitors, we were able to dig deep in the bowels of the old building to have a look at the original brewing vats where the ale was stored. Even MD James Staughton was tempted to don his overalls to climb down through a narrow grating into what feels like the hold of an old ship, kept afloat in modern times thanks to some steel stanchion work, inserted back in the 80s.

Brewery artefacts from the past,The building itself is a maze of eccentricities, having been redesigned for both residential and commercial use over the years, including a stint as a Grill House, so it is not easy to imagine how the original building would have been used. Extensions to the front and back of the building add even more mystery as to how each section would have interacted with the others. There is even a strange ‘light well’ in the centre of the building which could have been used for barley hoisting back in the day.

As you can imagine, we’ll be devoting some time to working out how it all hung together, but if you know anyone who has images or descriptions of the old building, we’d love to hear from you to help us decipher the development and use of the old Brewery site. After, all, it’s where the Hicks magic began – it certainly felt strange to be walking through those old vats – was there really still a tang of hops on the air or was it just the imagination….?

James Staughton and ED Coode in the depths of the old brewery

Proper Job bags Tesco contract after national award

August 16, 2013

Proper Job

Cornwall’s premier independent brewery, St Austell Brewery, is celebrating after its Proper Job IPA scooped Silver and Bronze at the prestigious Great British Beer Festival held at the Earl’s Court exhibition centre in London.

The Cornish Brewery had yet more reason to be cheerful with the news that the world’s second-largest retailer, Tesco, is now stocking the award winning 500ml bottled ale throughout its UK stores.

Proper Job won Silver in the Champion Bottled Beer of Britain category and Bronze in the Golden Ales category at the UK’s biggest beer event, regarded as the industry Oscars. The ale was entered into the finals of the national awards after being awarded Gold in the South West heats for best Golden Ale in the South West in the cask and bottled categories.

Jeremy Mitchell, St Austell Brewery’s Marketing and Communications Director, said: “We are very proud that Proper Job has won Silver and Bronze at this year’s Festival, it is a great occasion and it continues a fantastic run of success for the Brewery and our ales.

“The Brewery is also very pleased that Proper Job is now available throughout Tesco stores in the UK. The confidence that the supermarket chain has in the ale highlights the distinctive taste and quality ingredients that make it such a great drink.”

Roger Ryman, St Austell Brewery head brewer, said: “The Great British Beer Festival is incredibly competitive and pits us against some great beers from right across the UK, so we’re incredibly pleased to see Proper Job honoured in two categories this year.”

Proper Job is an authentic IPA brewed with Cornish spring water and a blend of malts including Cornish grown Maris Otter barley. It is a powerfully hopped golden bitter that explodes with citrus grapefruit flavours.

The authentic IPA brew has recently celebrated winning a haul of awards in the CAMRA South West beer competition, which included a gold medal for Proper Job, judged Champion Golden Ale of the South West for both cask and bottled ales.

Proper Job has previously been awarded a Silver medal at the International Beer Challenge 2012, Gold in the Strong Bottled Beer category at the SIBA South West Beer Festival 2009 and a Silver medal in the Design & Packaging category at the International Beer Challenge 2009.

This year was a good year to grow barley

August 12, 2013

Head Brewer Roger Ryman inspects the Cornish Barley crop

A good end to the growing season has meant a bumper barley crop for the brewery.

Last year, poor weather and other factors meant only 25 per cent of the high quality barley required to produce our award winning beers was grown in Cornwall.

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A Cornish touch to a classic European brew

August 2, 2013

Picking cherries in the Tamar Valley
In Europe’s the Belgians are famous for brewing many a beer. But perhaps one of the more unusual brews is the kriek beer.

Kriek beers date back centuries and are brewed in what is known as a ‘lambic’ style, where they are fermented spontaneously with wild, naturally occurring airborne yeast in the style of a traditional wine or cider.

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