18 April 2009

Melbourns (All Saints) Brewery, Stamford, Lincolnshire

This blog supports in particular the dying and the defunct, the forgotten and the almost forgotten. There is a specifically literary slant to most posts, but as things literary are often associated with drinking, it should be no surprise that we look back to long gone breweries, such as Melbourns in Stamford, Lincolnshire, which ceased brewing in the early 1970s, and is now a museum. The photo above shows the ex-brewery as it is today, and the one below is a memory of former times:

I believe there is a trainspotting gene in all of us to some extent, and I once used to collect beermats of local breweries, although Melbourns Brewery had for some reason been unknown to me. Having moved to the Leicester area, I once ventured into a working-class pub in Oakham one evening with my parents and my then wife, and they got a little worried about me as I appeared to have a fixation on the dartboard: this was particularly worrying to them as they knew I detested darts. But my interest was in how the dartboard was held in place, and it seemed as though some of this was due to a beermat at the back of the board. I had worked out that, unless I was serously mistaken, this beermat must have held the dartboard in place for a few years at least, as this was a highly elusive Melbourns beermat that was doing the job. I had to have that beermat at all costs, but my first problem was that my wife and my parents wanted to move on, and my second was that a guy was practising on the dartboard. I knew I couldn't ask for the mat as it was no doubt a kind of historical fixure to them, and I couldn't order another round of drinks to plan my strategy because as soon as I committed the theft we would have to depart forthwith.

My parents were becoming increasingly worried for my sanity as we all nursed virtually empty glasses and my eyes remained fixed on the dartboard, but my wife understood - in the ironically slavish way she tended to cope with my obsessions - that this was something I just had to do. And then, like the hand of God reaching down to me, the dartplayer left for the toilet, I snatched the beermat and dislodged the dartboard at the same time. My mother hastily grabbed for her handbag and moved towards the exit, all the while glaring darkly at me as if I were a mass murderer, although I had the impression that my father admired my nerve. But heh, so what, these guys only had to find another beermat to replace the stolen one: who is living life more - them or us? Don't answer, I don't want to know. In the car, on the way to the next pub, I admired my trophy which had somehow grown bigger due to the dart pricks in the bottom left corner.

The images below are of a range of Melbourns bottled ales:

Lionel Britton, by Fredda Brilliant

The long missing bust of Lionel Britton – sculpted by Fredda Brilliant – was sold via Live Auctioneers on 13 April 2009 for a remarkably cheap $350. The bust is signed and 16" tall.

15 April 2009

William Shakespeare and Stratford-upon-Avon, Warwickshire

From this family tree, we see that John Shakespeare married Mary Arden in 1557, and that William Shakespeare (1564–1616) was their third child and first son.

For many years, Shakespeare's birthplace on Henley Street in Stratford-upon Avon has been a shrine to Bard worshippers, and The Shakespeare Trust has preserved a window in the 'birthroom' where various people have etched their names in the glass, some of the more noteworthy including Shelley, Keats, Dickens, Carlyle, and Mark Twain.

For much more information on Shakespeare and Stratford, my other post is here.