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BREWING AND BREWERIES

Pre-18th century history

The history of brewing and beer consumption has been widely written about. In Sileby, as elsewhere, beer was most often brewed domestically, mainly by the women of the household. Due to a lack of evidence it is hard to deduce how widespread beer production was before the 16th century, but as it was drunk widely by all members of the family and labouring servants, it must have formed a vital part of the family's production tasks.

Our window upon brewing activity suddenly opens in the 16th century.  Mention has already been made of Church Ales, brewed by the parish church to raise funds for it's activities and building works. Malt appears in most probate inventories of this period, for instance Robert Wylls in 1531. Other specialist equipment incudes wort leads (wort brewing vessel), of which John Thorpe had two in his bolting house (1556).  John Mowhar (More) owned both a brewing lead and a mashing vat upon his death in 1557 and John Meesam had a vat, 3 ale tubs and a barrel in his house (1559). The first mention of a brewhouse was in William King's farmhouse as listed in his probate inventory of 1598.

Regulation of beer quality was undertaken by the manor court. Retail beer sellers were fined for breaking the Assize of Ale. As this seems to be an unofficial way of licensing beer sellers in the manor, it also provides lists of possible ale houses for when the manor court sat. For instance, in 1533 Margaret Lyppe,  Joanna Gibson, Joanna Hynde, John Milner's wife and Agnes Ryk were all fined 2 pence for breaking the assize of ale. The prevalence of women undertaking this activity in this period is particularly noticeable.     

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