A Venerable London Brewery Salutes the Duke of Wellington

A Victorian exercise in London pageantry and fine beer was brought to life via a story in the New Zealand Gazette and Wellington Spectator of November 27, 1841, a reprint of an Evening Mail story. The account described how a venerable brewery gave a salute to Arthur Wellesley, 1st Duke of Wellington and hero of Waterloo. He was barging on the Thames to Deptford to assume the position of Master of Trinity.

The brewery was Hodgson & Abbott, formerly Hodgson`s and famed for sending a renowned bitter pale ale to India.

Trinity House still exists and occupies itself with ocean-pilotage, navigation, and related maritime issues of importance to Britain’s economy and military security.

The account, reproduced below, is a spirited picture of the welcome the firm gave the Duke as the party sailed upriver.

Hodgson`s Bow Brewery was by Bow Bridge on River Lea, a branch of the Thames now canalised but still connecting to the river. I think the sail-past went by another brewery, or depot, on the Thames, which Edwin Abbott owned before becoming a partner in Hodgson`s.

Martyn Cornell`s article, here, explains that Abbott initially owned a brewery called Curtiss just east of London Tower. I`d think the drawing room in the 1841 story must have been in that brewery, or building if it had ceased brewing, as Bow Brewery surely wasn`t near enough the Thames.

The Duke travelled in a shallop, a craft suited for sailing in shallow water and rowed or masted (or both). Below I show the Gloriana, a modern Royal barge. The Duke’s sloop probably looked quite a bit like Gloriana as the latter was based on a 1700s design.

One may note that the pale ale mentioned was described, twice, as strong. A number of early accounts of East India Pale Ale describe it as strong drink, while later statements stress its light or moderate alcohol. As always in beer matters, contradiction abounds.

Analyses of pale ales mid- and later-1800s suggest a relatively moderate drink of c. 6% abv, but I have a suspicion that the first pale ales sent to India were stronger, in keeping with the roots of pale ale, a country ale which must have been 8% abv or more. I`ll have more to say about this soon.

Footnote: Abbott evidently was an M.P. and so was Frederick Hodgson of the brewery. Hodgson was known for his swarthy complexion and nicknamed “brown stout“ despite running a pale ale brewery*. The English were never entirely serious about beer, were they, pace CAMRA, yours truly, and my dear fellow-bloggers who obsess on historical questions. Probably a good thing.

 

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Note re images: The first image, the news story discussed, is believed out of copyright and the original source is linked in the first line. The second image, of the Royal rowbarge Gloriana, was obtained from its website, here. The third image, of the Duke of Wellington, was obtained from his entry in Wikipedia, here. All are believed available for educational and historical purposes. All feedback welcomed.

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*As porter scholar Alan Pryor notes in this 2013 collection of essays, George Hodgson had brewed porter in the mid-1700s. Perhaps Hodgson`s still brewed some porter in its early 1800s heyday, but my jape is in reference to its pre-eminence for pale ale in India.