As I was saying yesterday, we spent the first couple of days of our holiday staying in the small Dorset village of Ansty. Until 1900, the small village was the home of the Hall and Woodhouse Brewery but, whilst the brewery buildings still exist, the brewing now takes place at their Blandford Forum brewery a few miles to the north. The interesting question is - how could such a small rural village become the location of such a large and thriving brewery?. For answers to such questions we must turn to the magisterial nineteenth century work by Alfred Barnard, "The Noted Breweries of Great Britain and Ireland"
|Illustration of the Ansty Brewery from Barnard's "Noted Breweries" Vol 3|
Charles Hall was a farmer who - like so many at the time - also brewed a little beer for his family, farmworkers, and neighbouring villagers. It would appear that he was a talented brewer because the brewery built up both a reputation and a small but loyal customer base. And so the story would have continued - and the brewery would have eventually faded into obscurity - if it had not been for the intervention of Napoleon Bonaparte. In 1801 Napoleon had massed his armies at Boulogne in preparation for an invasion of Britain. The British had forces camped in anticipation along the south coast : one of the largest camps being at Bincombe Down, just north of Weymouth. Whilst waiting for the expected invasion, the British redcoats were ceaselessly drilled : it was up Bincombe Hill that the Duke of York exercised his troops by marching them repeatedly up the hill and down again.
|The Grand Old Duke Of York, He Had 10,000 Men|
All this relentless exercise was, of course, thirsty work, and the genius of Charles Hall was to spot what these days would be called an entrepreneurial opportunity. He managed to get the contract to supply the army camp with beer and what with all that marching and the Duke of York's 10,000 men, the rest - as they say - is history. The expected invasion never took place, the Red Coats eventually went home, the brewery saw some lean years and eventually merged with another local brewery to form the company, Hall and Woodhouse. In 1900 the old Ansty brewery was closed and the buildings converted to other uses. Today they provide a variety of houses, flats and a Village Hall, a fitting legacy to Charles Wells, Napoleon Bonaparte, and the Grand Old Duke of York. Cheers!
|The Ansty Brewery buildings today|