by Philip Leason of the Stone Historical & Civic Society
In July, we finished our journey at the Joules’ Off Licence, so now arrive at what used to be one of the most iconic buildings in the High Street – Joules Brewery. In 1758 Francis Joule came to Stone from Youlgrove in Derbyshire to take over the small brewery and the White Horse Inn which had been carried on continuously from 1719. In 1767 he demolished the inn and built a house, which later became the home of the head brewer and in 1780 he established a public brewery not only supply his own premises but also to other public houses.
In 1813, his second son John took over the business and so to the beginning of the dynasty. Many readers may remember portraits of him displayed in the reception area and again in the board room. Portraits of other members of the family were displayed along the corridors on the second floor by the Directors’s offices as they led to the board room. The portraits were presented to the County Museum at Shugborough when the brewery closed and are now displayed in what used to be the private apartments of Lord Lichfield.
The premises on the High Street contained the brewery offices – and the telephone number? You’ve guessed it – Stone 1 – to become on the introduction of STD – Stone 2141).
In July we covered the entrance to the order department. The step to this office was mosaic and featured the famous Red Cross trade mark. For recent residents of Stone who have seen the Red Cross (and in particular on the former brewery buildings in Newcastle Street), they may not appreciate its significance, – it was indeed the first true trade mark of Joules. It is said that the company adopted the emblem on account of that their brewery was built on the site of the former brew house of the Augustine Cannons of Stone Priory and it was their custom to mark the barrels “with the sign of the cross” to signify the “blessings from God” – the stronger the ale the more crosses (i.e. the more blessings from God). In 1876 when trademarks had to be registered. Joules made sure that theirs would be the first ever red cross to be registered and so sent an employee to London to queue overnight – in fact Jpoules’ Red Cross is the 6th oldest trade mark in the world.
Behind the offices was the brewery itself with the fermenting tower dominating the skyline with, eventually, a neon sign on top. On one side of the brewery yard was the brew house with its coppers where the wort was boiled. On brewing days the aroma of brewing beer filled the air of the High Street – a smell which you either loved or hated. Many of the old brewery workers reckoned that they could tell the type of ale being brewed by the smell.
In February 1955 the whole of Stone was saddened when two employees working in the brew house were badly scalded when the wort in the coppers boiled over and they subsequently died of their injuries.
The mash tuns had to been emptied by hand and men stripped to the waist would climb in and shovel out the spent grains into a shoot under which would be a lorry waiting to take the waste to farms for cattle feed.
Next were the stores where the malt and hops in sacks known as pockets were stored, and at the end of this row, the boiler house which produced the steam for the brewery. When the boiler house was being built a human skeleton was discovered and it was thought that there had been a former chapel on the site. Earlier in the 1950’s a monk’s sandal had been discovered when other improvement works were being carried out.
On the opposite side of the brewery yard was the Wine and Spirit Stores (more about these in a future article) and the cask shed where the wooden casks (later aluminium) were washed, steamed and inspected before being re filled. Also on this side of the brewery was the modern fermenting rooms.
One of the so called trade secrets of Joules’ ales was the quality of the water used and the wells located in this area. It is interesting to note that in 1977 when there was a serious draught, the water authority tested the water in these wells with a view of supplementing the mains supply. Unfortunately they found too much iron for potability.
Joules brewery was very much a family business. Generations of family members worked there. Perhaps the best example of this “nepotism” was the Hodson family – Les. Harold, George, Gerald, Michael and Philip all worked there in various roles.
Joules were always supportive of their staff and at Christmas gave them a voucher to buy meat and the highlight of each year was the annual brewery dinner.
Originally held at the Crown Hotel it was later held in Lotus Hall and then on to the Wayfarer.
I hope that the above will be back memories to some readers and will be of interest to others. Please help us to keep the heritage of Stone alive for generations to come. If you have any photographs relating to the anything mentioned here please contact Staffordshire Past Track.
All photographs will be treated with the utmost care and returned safely to their owner after then have made digital copies.