Controlling archival ferment: the West Country Breweries Collection at GA, by Mike Bevan

Gloucestershire Archives has been stock checking, listing, enhancing and structuring the collection ready to being fully catalogued into CALM, with the help of volunteer Amber Patrick, also a member of GSIA (Gloucestershire Society for Industrial Archaeology) and an expert in the Maltings Industry. Is she partial to an amber ale then? No, she doesn’t drink beer!

Gloucestershire Heritage Hub’s nearest pub, which has a West Country Brewery plaque on the exterior

The series of photographs taken of the staff at the brewery is an interesting feature which can be useful for family history reseachers, looking for relatives employed by the brewery. Another good set of photos are of b/w inn signs which again allow locals to identify with their specific landscape and memory; and connecting their local pub with an image of what the sign would have looked like in the past.

The West Country Breweries Collection (D8947) includes the breweries Cheltenham Original, Cheltenham Brewery Holdings, Nailsworth, Arnold & Perrett, Wintle’s, Stroud and Godsell’s & Sons. Mr J T Agg-Gardner founded the brewery in the High Street, Cheltenham in 1760 and a quick look online at Pigot’s 1844 directory shows Mary and James Agg Gardner as brewers at 160, High Street, Cheltenham.

There were a lot of mergers after 1908, taking over Nailsworth; Arnold & Perrett in 1924 and Wintle’s in 1930. A merge to become Cheltenham and Hereford Breweries happened in 1946, then acquired by Cheltenham Brewery Holdings in 1956 who also acquired Stroud in 1958. These sorts of business mergers do tend to be quite complex and so the archive has several parts to it to separate records relating to specific breweries at specific times.

Ultimately, after a few more name changes, the company became West Country Breweries Ltd in 1961 and then Whitbread came along and acquired everything in 1963. The Whitbread Archive originally held in London was dispersed throughout England, with some collections still residing at London Metropolitan Archives. Papers relating to specific breweries were sent to the relevant county record offices to make the material accessible.

The collection at GA contains a large portion of minutes, directors’ reports and accounts; deeds relating to various pubs, breweries and properties throughout the county; shares ledgers; volumes concerning the brewing process including malt contracts and brewing books; debenture stock ledgers; a section detailing transportation of products and an ephemeral section including beer mats, photographs of breweries and pubs; bottle labels, inn signs and brief histories of the main breweries.

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