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Messrs. Stansfeld & Co. , Swan Brewery, Fulham

by Alfred Barnard

Chapter I

Our way to Fulham from the Great Western Station lay through Hyde Park, "one of the lungs of the Metropolis." The morning was one of those bright and beautiful creations which an Englishman - for its rarity - is justly anxious to make the most of.

London, in the eyes of a native is the veritable centre of Europe - the cradle of the arts - the seat of refinement and sociability - the fountain of knowledge - the birthplace of freedom - and the envy and admiration of the universe. Here in our own London, where the cloud rests over the “million-peopled city”, is, indeed, real life; for, is it not the great “throbbing heart of the world.” It may be pleasant for us to leave it for awhile and wander away into the country to dream, and gaze and ponder, but how gladly we return from that different world to renew our intercourse in the great city, and once more lead the old life.

If we proceed through the metropolis, no matter in what quarter – east, west, north or south, we perceive nothing but uniformity and order; one house does not disgrace another, and in every direction are to be seen good roads for the convenience of traffic, and wide pavements for the accommodation of pedestrians.

The environs of London are more beautiful than the place itself. At the west end, one sees at every turn the residences of noblemen and gentlemen, and encounters at every step well-mounted equestrians, splendid carriages, and even public conveyances that are nothing inferior to the equipages of the nobility.

In the course of this work we have had frequent occasion to illustrate the general magnitude of the Metropolitan breweries, and all that belongs to them; but on this day we extended our travels to suburban London, to visit the - handsome model brewery belonging to Messrs. Stansfeld & Co. In its way, it is a remarkable building, and somewhat novel in its construction and fittings, and we were informed that several country breweries have been constructed from the same designs. We purpose, therefore, in these pages, to give the reader a vivid idea of its importance, as showing the magnitude of a brewery established to supply families as well as the trade with casks of beer of any size, from a “pin to a butt.”

General view of the brewery
General view of the brewery

Householders are enabled to procure pure beer, in large or small quantities, direct from the cellars of this establishment; and if required, the brewer's men will place it on the stand, tap, and then taste it to see its condition before they leave the customer's house. The revolution which has been wrought in the wholesale trade, in change of taste from strong and heady beers to pale and bitter ales, has also reached the private consumer; hence, to supply the, demand, Messrs. Stansfeld commenced, many years ago, to brew this class of ale, and they now enjoy a high reputation for its superior quality. We propose, to notice first and briefly some of the more striking features in the structure of the brewery, and then to devote the remainder of our article to a description of the vessels and machinery therein, the latter, a subject of considerable interest to the trade, and not entirely without novelty to the general reader.

The business of this brewery was established at Walham Green in 1765, and we successively owned by John Stocken, William Chambers and Sidney Milnes Hawkes, all well-known brewers. At that time, attached to the brewery, was one of those quaint old- fashioned wayside inns, so graphically described by Charles Dickens and other writers, connected with which were recreation grounds and gardens. On the property originally stood a fine old house, since demolished, which was occupied by the Rev. M. Garrett, in whose days it was a favourite resort of “parsons and literary men.”

In 1880, the old brewery and property being required for improvements, Messrs. Stansfeld Co. were so fortunate as to obtain three acres of land on which to build in close proximity.

The premises abut on the celebrated Eel-brook Common, which, from time immemorial, has been used as a place of recreation for the inhabitants of the locality. It is now cultivated and called Eel-park, and the pond in its centre, to which ran the water from the grounds of Park House, in Parson's Green Lane, once the residence of Mr. Thomas Crofton, F.S.A., and said to be associated with Fair Rosamond's Bower, has been filled up.

In close proximity is the Metropolitan District Railway, from which it is intended to construct a short siding to run directly into the brewery yard.

From the Fulham Road the brewery presents a picturesque assemblage of buildings not usually associated with works of this class, which are generally built to appear more useful than ornamental. It was constructed from the designs of Mr. William Bradford, Carlton Chambers, Regent Street, the building contractors being Messrs. G. H. and A. Bywaters, of King Street, W., by whom the work was carried out. The whole of the plant in the brewery was constructed by Messrs. H. Pontifex & Sons, of King's Cross, who have executed it in a most substantial and elegant manner. All the buildings are of red brick, with Corsehill stone dressings, and covered with Broseley tiles, and the construction throughout is of a most substantial description. Cast-iron columns, stairs and roofs; wrought-iron girders, concrete arches, and asphalt flooring have been used throughout, wherever applicable, while some portions of the plant, usually constructed of wood, such as malt hoppers and grist cases, are made of iron.

The arrangement of the brewery is distinguished by extreme simplicity, free from any twists or odd corners, and wholly within reach of the master's eye. The plant is a sixty-quarter one, with ample space for extension in every department, when the exigencies of trade require it. Opposite the entrance gates, occupying the margin of the site, is the brewhouse, boiler and copperhouse, and chimney shaft. At right angles, at one end of the block, extends the fermenting-house, beer-store, and loading-out stage; at the other end, divided by a roadway, a range of stables for over fifty horses, forage-stores, chaff-cutting rooms, and foreman's dwelling-house.

Frontispiece to an ancient price list
Frontispiece to an ancient price list

On the frontage, adjacent to Fulham Road, there has been erected a commodious and imposing block of buildings, containing the commercial offices, wine and spirit cellars, and manager's residence. The central portion of the courtyard is enclosed and covered with a light zinc and iron roof, carried oil cast-iron columns, for the accommodation of the cooperage and cask-washing apparatus, which are of an exceptionally extensive character, there being eight small casks to wash as against every ordinary barrel of the wholesale breweries. Ample space in each department is essential for the efficient conduct of the business at this brewery, on account of the very mixed nature of its operations, which comprise, in addition to the ordinary public house trade, large deliveries of ale to private consumers, as well as a supply of wines, spirits, bottled beers and mineral waters.

On making known the object of our visit, we were most courteously received by Mr. Stansfeld, who introduced us to the heads of departments, with a request that each would conduct us through his division, and explain whatever was required. Leaving the countinghouse behind us, we proceeded to the brewhouse, to commence our inspection, directed by Mr. J. Hodges, the head brewer. Entering the ground floor we found ourselves in a wide corridor leading to the mill-room, engine-house, and boiler department, from whence we ascended a lofty iron staircase, to reach the malt stores. They occupy a very large space on the top floor of the fermenting-house, measuring 150 feet long and 50 feet wide, and hold upwards of 1,000 quarters of malt. The walls throughout are lined with white bricks. The lofty principals in the roof have been utilized for storing hops, and will hold 600 pockets.

Passing by these, we reached the roof, where, placed within a tower, are to be seen two liquor backs, capable of holding 300 barrels, carefully covered in to screen the contents from atmospheric impurities. These reservoirs are for the reception of the sparkling brewing water, referred to later on, which is pumped thereto by steam-power direct from the wells. It is from these vessels that the water is drawn off, as required, into the hot liquor tanks placed on the third floor of the brewhouse.

The malt and hop; are delivered from the wagons below to the stores by means of a powerful frictional geared hoist, erected in a spacious projecting cage or balcony, hanging over the roadway, which runs at the back of the brewery. Rising from the floor is a wrought- iron receiver or shoot, for conveying the malt to a large hopper, from whence it passes over a series of screens, where it is cleaned, and released from the rootlets, before reaching the rollers in the mill room.

These screens separate the grain into three categories-large, small, and medium, and so prepare them for the mill rollers. From the malt stores we retraced our steps to the ground floor, to pay a visit to the mill room, which measures 50 feet square, and is paved with coloured tiles. It contains an enclosed set of steel malt rollers for crushing the malt, adjustable, at will, to a greater or less degree of closeness, in order to suit the requirements of the brewer, over which are the screens before referred to, reached by a narrow zigzag iron staircase. A Jacob's ladder whirls the grist swiftly up to the third floor, where it is delivered by an Archimedean screw into the grist cases.

The ceiling of this lofty room is composed of cement and concreted arches, laid on iron joists, which latter are painted a bright colour. On one side of the wall, from end to end, are to be seen a range of deep covered bins for storing shives, pegs, and bungs, and at one corner is the ponderous mill machinery. In the centre of the floor, covered by a circular iron slab of immense weight, is the most important well in the brewery, which supplies a perennial flow of the purest water, and has a total depth of 450 feet. It is enclosed by iron cylinders, 7 feet in diameter for the first 30 feet, and beyond that, to a depth of 130 feet, by brick; after this depth is reached, it is then bored. The object of the metal cylinders; (which are sunk down to the London clay) is to prevent any surface water getting into the well. The pumps are set on the bottom of the well, and can be shut off by valves of powerful construction, when it is found necessary to examine them; these pump; are actuated by a spur pinion on a crank-shaft working in a mortice wheel, which gives motion to an underground shaft. The pumps are three-throw, of 6 inches bore, with gun-metal barrels and copper rods. From the crank-shaft, a pair of bevel wheels drive the upright shaft, which extend, the whole height of the brewhouse, giving off power at different levels, as required.

Malt and hop stores
Malt and hop stores

We next directed our steps to the noble mashing-room, 45 feet by 40 feet, underneath the refrigerator-room, the floor of which is concreted. Here are to be seen two mash tuns, one constructed of oak and the other of cast-iron, the latter being lagged and enclosed in wood. They are thirty-quarter tuns, and contain gun-metal porcupines, or rake shafts, revolving inside the tun, and are set in motion by steam-power from below. The draining plates, or false bottoms, are also constructed of gun-metal, and each tun is commanded by a Steel's mashing machine, constructed of copper and gun-metal.

The actual blending of the malt and water takes place in these mashing machines or tubular metal cases, into which pours a stream of hot liquor from the heating tank, and at the same time a stream of grist from the cases above, thus both are brought into contact before reaching the mash tuns. After the mixture has been thoroughly worked up, mashed, and churned, by the stirring rakes, and the bulk of saccharine matter has been extracted from the malt, the liquid portion, now called wort, is run off through pipes into the wort-back. This latter vessel, which is placed at an elevation in the adjoining copper-house, a separate structure on the ground level - is constructed of copper, serves both tuns, and commands the coppers.

The room below the mash tuns, which is of the same dimensions, is principally occupied by the head brewer's rooms, sampling room and laboratory.

All these apartments are fitted and furnished in a neat and handsome style, but we were particularly struck with the size and importance of the laboratory. It is presided over by Mr. Herbert J. Hodges, F.C.S., and contains the apparatus necessary for the examination of malts and all other brewing materials, including that required for the estimation of the organic carbon and organic nitrogen in water, by Frankland's combustion process. There is also a chemical balance, and a powerful microscope, which is used for examining and photographing the yeast, with which the fermentations are started.

Between the brewer's room and laboratory, supported on iron columns, and reached by a suspension bridge, is a receiver, constructed of copper - for setting the taps, which receives the wort on its way from the mash tun to the coppers. Here, too, we had an opportunity of seeing the mash tuns unloaded by means of a sluice valve, attached to a circular iron tube or waste shaft, leading into the yard, where a wagon receives them.



Continuing our progress, we passed through a doorway, and came to the coppers and boilers, placed in a separate building on the ground floor. It measures nearly 100 feet in length, and is provided with ample means of ventilation, for the escape of steam, here so fiercely generated, and so inseparable from this part of the business, and once this door is closed behind its, neither the steam or the coal dust can penetrate into the other portions of the brewery, an advantage which commends itself even to an outsider. Here are placed two open wort coppers, of rubicund metal, each holding 160 barrels, and fired by Martin's patent furnaces.

The floor of the copper stage is laid with cast-iron plates, supported on wrought-iron girders, and approached from the ground floor by iron stairs, and, like the mashing-room, there has been space left in the building for two more coppers of similar capacity, when required for the rapidly increasing business of the firm. At one corner of the copper stage, and partitioned off therefrom, there is erected a little experimental brewery, and although on a miniature scale, the plant is erected on stages or platforms, as in the great brewery.

We commenced our observations on the top stage, on which is placed a hot liquor tank, holding fifty gallons, and a small grist hopper; below it is a four-bushel mash tun; and next in order is the copper of 150 gallons capacity, and, although so small, is heated by a gas apparatus. At the top of the enclosure there is an open cooler, 5 feet by 3 feet, under which is a little Morton's refrigerator, 1 foot square, and on the ground floor a fermenting round, with usual racking vessel. Altogether there are four stages in this little brewery, which is most complete in every respect.

Fermenting room
Fermenting room

Having inspected this diminutive concern, we returned to the copper stage, to follow the process. Passing to the floor below, we came to a circular hop-back, constructed of English oak, holding 180 barrels, fitted with false bottoms, from whence the wort runs to a pumping back or receiver. When the wort has been thoroughly boiled with the aromatic hop (and this is an important operation, requiring great exercise of the brewer's skill), the entire contents of the copper are turned into the hop-back - a circular oak vessel, placed by the side of the copper, with a false bottom, serving as a strainer for arresting the hops, now valueless, except for manure, whilst the wort is pumped up by steam power to the cooler-house.

Before leaving this house, to follow the wort, we were taken to see the two Lancashire boilers, which are divided from the copper furnaces by a wide coal bank, forming a massive wall between them. These boilers, which are fitted with tubes, and are of the most modern kind, supply steam to the engine, the hot liquor tank, and cask-steaming apparatus. They are 25 feet lung by 7 feet diameter, and possess Adamson's rings and flanged joints in the flues, with Ashcroft's low-water alarum, fusible plugs, etc.

Passing through a doorway, we found ourselves again in the brewhouse corridor, through which we proceeded into the engine-house, of same dimensions as the mill room. It contain, a splendid horizontal engine of twenty-five horse-power, which not only works all the well-pumps, but supplies all the motive power in the brewery. It was constructed by Messrs. Marshall & Sons, Gainsboro', and is fitted with Hartnell's patent governors and automatic expansion valve gear.

Here also there is another well, 200 feet deep, tunnelled to that next door, and, at the side of the building, is a powerful set of three-throw wort pumps. We should here remark that the plant in this brewery is practically a double set, all the more important parts being in duplicate, so that if any breakdown occurred, it would be but partial, and only cause the curtailment, instead of the entire stoppage, of operations. In the pipe-fitting arrangements great care has been taken to utilise all condensed water for scalding casks, and waste steam for heating purposes. The gearing throughout is of wood and iron, the shafting turned, and all the fittings of the neatest and completest kind.

Following our guide, we mounted an iron staircase, leading to the top of the brewery, where is situated the cooling loft. Here are two coolers, communicating with each other, which cover the entire roof of the refrigerator room, with the exception of a foot passage all round for the workmen.

The roof is an open one, with a central ventilating cupola, and the side walls are louvred all round. In the refrigerator-room below, where the cooling operations are completed, besides other vessels, are to be seen two vertical refrigerators, by Morton & Co., cooling at the rate of 120 barrels per hour. Opposite to these is a circular hot-liquor tank, steam-jacketed, constructed of Bessemer steel plates, lagged and encased in wood, holding 160 barrels, and further heated internally by copper steam coils by which means the fluid is raised to the required temperature for mixture with the malt. To the right of the refrigerators, with a wide space between, is another liquor tank, similarly constructed and heated, holding 180 barrels. Here also, in the centre of the floor, are the two thirty-quarter iron grist cases, for supplying the tuns, the crushed malt being distributed in the capacious cases by Archimedean screws.

This floor, like those below, is concreted and covered with asphalt, and the lofty ceilings are supported by massive girders, resting, on iron columns.

Loading stage
Loading stage

Overhead, a number of main pipes greet the eye, which are used principally for distributing cold liquor to different parts of the building.

But to return to the process. After the wort has passed over the refrigerators, the brewing process is completed; the next step being the important one of fermentation.

Retracing our steps through tile mash tun stage, we reached the fermenting-room apartment, the same size as the malt store above, constructed of bricks, which are painted white, with Gay & Co.'s special paint, and are washed down every week. Along the centre of the floor there is an opening, railed all round, for supplying light and ventilation below. Placed around this opening are thirteen fermenting vessels, huge square structures of English oak, containing copper attemperators of the newest type, and each of 120 barrels content. The room is ceiled with boards, painted a light drab colour, and lighted by fourteen windows, and at one corner is an excise office, with glazed sides, neatly constructed and fitted. In the room below, to which we descended, are the skimming vessels, constructed of slate, also fitted with attemperators, and each containing a copper parachute, there being a sufficient number to hold the contents of the squares above. Below the skimming vessels, sunk into the floor are numerous yeast backs, shallow slate vessels luted together for receiving the yeast through the parachutes.

From the foregoing observations the reader will understand that this brewery was designed expressly to carry out what is known as the skimming system, which differs from all others, in so far that the fermentation is not carried out entirely in one vessel, but is begun in the fermenting squares and completed in the skimming backs. It is contended that it tends to produce a cleaner and brighter article than any other, while, as compared with the Burton system, it does not entail the multiplicity of small vessels, with the almost insuperable difficulty of keeping them thoroughly clean, which characterises the latter.

The apparatus for working the parachutes is actuated by a worm and wheel, easily adjusted to the surface of the beer, so that the yeast can be carried off without disturbing the beer. This room also is well lighted, having thirteen windows, and is kept as beautifully clean as paint and water can make it. In the centre of these slate yeast backs are valved traps for letting out the yeast into movable vats, placed on wheels, for conveyance to the yeast presses. To the racking room below, 150 feet in length, we next bent our steps, and after inspecting the yeast pressing operations, we walked to the end of the building, where there is a slate tank, of the enormous length of 50 feet, used for receiving the beers, and from whence, when required for racking purposes, the beer is drawn off direct into the casks, which are filled to the bung-hole, and then shived, prior to which a few hops are placed in each.

This room is asphalted throughout, and arrangements have been made whereby the whole place can be sluiced down, as often as required, to keep it sweet and clean.

Passing through an archway, shut off from this by an iron sliding door, we entered a similar building, 200 feet long, and used principally for storing small casks of ale for family use. They are stacked in tiers of eight high, a thousand being -in each block, and there are sixteen blocks in all. At the eastern end of the place is a storekeeper's office, and extending along the whole of its front is a loading-out stage, capable of accommodating twenty drays at a time, and so arranged that the casks can be rolled in to these without any lowering or hoisting.

This stage, which is constructed of blue bricks, raised 4 feet from the ground, is 8 feet wide and 150 feet long, and covered by a handsome iron verandah, supported by neat cast-iron pillars, which serves not only as a shelter from rain, but also keeping the beer store and cellars cool in summer. At one end is a checking clerks' office, and at the other the men's allowance house. Before visiting, the store cellars, we crossed the yard to the cask-washing sheds and cooperage, situated under three iron roofs, laid with zinc, supported upon iron pillars, and covering a large space paved with concrete and asphalt. There are two liquor reservoirs in the roof, with a capacity of .400 barrels, supplied with waste water from refrigerators; and at an elevation are two heating tanks for supplying hot water for cask- washing purposes.

As we walked along, a busy scene was presented both in the shops and sheds; a number of men were at work replacing damaged staves and tightening hoops; and many others were washing and steaming returned casks, all of which are rigidly subjected to this process before being re-filled. In the cask-washing department there are numerous lengths of pipes for steam, cold and hot liquor with nozzles a foot apart. At the side of the cooperage there is a large boiler, for supplying boiling water to the cask-washing department, and the cold water used is from the subsidiary well in the engine-house.

Cooperage and washing shed
Cooperage and washing shed

Leaving this place behind us, we came to the engineer's shop, adjoining the boiler-house and chimney shaft, the latter 120 feet high, and a few steps farther on to the noble stables and loose boxes. The firm own a splendid stud of sturdy dray horses, whose journeys sometime reach forty miles a day. Over one end of' this range are forage and corn warehouses, and at the other the horsekeeper's house, under which there is a harness room.

The stables are asphalted, and each stall has a self-supplying fountain and iron bin, and the names of the horses are painted over the mangers. Adjacent there is a farriers' shop, spacious draysheds, and general stores.

After inspecting these we returned to the brewhouse, where, descending it wide, flight of steps, we came to the extensive store cellars which stretch out beneath the buildings, and will hold 5,000 barrels. Here are stored the stock ales for summer use, also bitter and mild ales in casks of various sizes. The floors are all laid with a mixture of clay and chalk, well rolled and beaten, which stands the constant rolling of the casks better than paving, concrete, or other materials generally used. There is a hydraulic lift, holding file barrels, capable of lifting a ton weight, worked by a main from the water tower, which is for raising the casks to the loading-out stage. In the lobby entrance of these spacious vaults there is a large sampling room, the walls of which are laid with white bricks and the floors of asphalt. Beyond these cellars, and divided only by a brick wall, there are others, used for bottled beer, to reach which we returned to the yard. They are situated under the small-cask ale store, and contain an enormous quantity of bottled ale of all sorts ready for delivery to customers.

The floor above is the place where the bottling operations are carried on, and contains all the usual apparatus to be found in other bottling breweries.

After this, we walked through the general offices, which contain, on the ground floor, a large counting-house, and at the back, a department for checking draymen's orders, which are made up every night. To the left of the doorway, is Mr. Bradford's office, and beyond that is Mr. Stansfeld's private office. To the right of the lobby, as you enter, is Mr. Davis' office, the manager of the public trade. On the upper floor are the private rooms of the firm, and beyond these, the private house of the manager of the offices.

Before leaving we paid a visit to the wine, spirit, and mineral water department, which occupies the south end of the office block, and looks out on to the yard. It contain; an office for the manager, a sampling room and stock warehouse and below, five cellars containing, wine, spirits, etc., for bottling, purposes.

On the premises upwards of one hundred men are employed, and besides these there are as many as fifteen clerks, six foremen, and numerous collectors.

For the convenience of their numerous customers, the firm have established depots, stores and offices, at Leyton, Staines, Barnet, Croydon and Hammersmith.

Depôt and office at Leyton
Depôt and office at Leyton

To give our readers some idea of the importance of these branch establishments, we have included an illustration of one of them. Besides these, the, firm have a branch house at Barnstaple, which includes large stores and offices, and is for the supply of beer, wines and spirits, anywhere within twenty miles of that town. And so, good-bye to the Swan brewery; though not one of the largest, yet one of the most interesting breweries we have visited, distinguished alike by its convenience, cleanliness, and thorough completeness in every detail.


Taken from A. Barnard, Noted Breweries of Great Britain and Ireland, 4 Vols. (1889-91)

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