The following has been extracted from a book written probably during the late 1890s by Alfred Barnard titled “Noted Breweries of Great Britain and Ireland” and in particular, the booklet “W. J. EAST & SON – The Hope Brewery, Milton Malsor”. The Hope Brewery was situated off the Towcester Road in Milton Malsor, adjacent to The Greyhound Inn.
Alfred Barnard and party travelled First Class one dull October day from Euston Railway Station; London to Blisworth and for the duration of their visit were accommodated in the much-acclaimed Blisworth Railway Station Hotel. The following day after a fine breakfast, they drove to Milton to inspect The Hope Brewery and whilst on their way, noted the pleasant countryside, open fields and a view of the parish church before arriving at the lofty buildings of the brewery.
Alfred Barnard records Milton as being a pretty country village about three miles from Northampton, having one street and being surrounded by comfortable and thriving homesteads, woodlands and gardens. He also notes that the lofty chimney shaft of the brewery as being quite a landmark and could be seen from all around including Hunsbury Hill and the Danish Camp and even Brington Copse, some eleven miles away.
The brewery stood in eleven acres and the firm also had a farm upwards of 100 acres. The business was founded in 1806 by a Mr J Cockerill who was a maltster and kept an ale-house in the village and for many years served his well-known home-brewed ale to farmers and others in the neighbourhood. William Minards succeeded him until 1835 when the brewery was transferred to James Lilly until 1866 when Mr W J East, the senior partner of the firm, purchased it. Since then the business considerably increased and the premises were enlarged. In fact, Mr W J East completely rebuilt the old brewery in the year 1879. On the 1st April 1880, Mr Herbert East, elder son of the senior partner took charge of the brewery, extended, and modernised the premises even further.
The maltings connected with the business were even older than the brewery and formally belonged to John Marriott, a Baptist minister who combined the business of malting with that of preaching and his chapel is still standing in the village today.
One of the chief characteristics of this brewery was the purity of the water used and obtained from a well 35 feet deep and pumped to a 3000 gallon tank weighing over twelve tons situated on the roof of the brewery. In the work on “Middle Lias of Northamptonshire” Beeby Thompson refers to this well and states “The hard bed seems to be made of highly fossiliferous nodules; papers shales, fish and insect limestone are well developed, this bed yields a good supply of water under pressure”.
The following is the result of a further analysis of the same supply:- “As a brewery liquor it is well adapted, on account of its comparative freedom from organic contamination, and especially suitable for brewery Stock Beers as previously mentioned, while for Black Beers, the water can be materially softened by boiling” Signed Samuel Spencer.
The book continues to explain in detail the structure of the buildings and the equipment that had been installed including the hoppers, polishing, milling and mashing machines and the copper storage bins and all that was necessary for the processing of beer, ale and stout. As part of the driving force for all of the equipment was, the twelve horsepower vertical engine housed on the ground floor of the premises and in the boiler-house opposite was another twelve-horse Lancashire boiler, fitted with Bailey’s patent fittings. In addition to all this were the buildings to house the stables for the numerous horses, carpenter”s shop, dray wagons and even a loose box to accommodate sick horses and more besides.
Mr Barnard”s party then extended their visit to the Stackyard Malting, an ancient building some 153 feet long. It comprised of a growing floor, barley store, malt bins and a kiln and of course an extensive hop store. In particular, it was noted that the new hops were remarkably pale and were used to brew the celebrated pale or primrose ale, brewed only in October and March.
On completion of the tour, Mr East entertained his visitors to dinner and a variety of fine ale including XXX, pale bitter and stout before they were driven back to Blisworth in time to pack their belongings and catch the London Express.
The Northampton Brewery Company bought the brewery and then closed it in 1906. Since then the building has stood empty, been used as a furniture store, and was finally converted into offices during the late 1990s, although The Greyhound Inn next door functions as ever.