I only knew one Brewery during my lifetime and that is/was of course ‘Greene King’. My Grandfather Albert Stocking worked there and so did my Uncle Ernie. My great-Uncle Uriah Stocking was a Cooper there in 1871 and several of his sons worked there also.
The earliest memories I have are of my Grandfather taking me, aged about 4 or 5, to the Greene King stables at the top of Maynewater Lane, where his dray horse was stabled. The horse was his great love, somewhat greater than my Grandmother, so I was told later! It was a gentle giant of a Suffolk Punch, alas I cannot recall his/her name, and Grandad would sit me on the horse’s back whilst he groomed him/her (I will call the horse ‘him’ as that is how I think of it, see the photo further down). Despite his size I remember being completely at ease with him and could walk around behind and even under him. When I was a little older, I went out on the Dray during deliveries around the town (probably not really allowed), usually being dropped off at my aunt’s pub the ‘Black Boy’ in Guildhall Street for lunch, whilst the beer was unloaded and Grandad had a pint. The Draymen had a pint at each pub they called at in those days. It was not unknown that after all deliveries were made, Grandfather would nod off on the way back to the brewery, but as the horse knew the way and there was not much traffic, it was not a problem.
Greene King also had an indoor swimming pool down Maynewater Lane, sort of behind the ‘then’ stables. I only ever went in there once and cannot remember where the access was from.
The Theatre Royal was a Barrel Store when I was a child, and I can remember my grandfather taking me in there and saying, ‘What a pity it was that it was not still a theatre’. Sadly I don’t think he lived to see it restored.
The brewery seemed very good to their employees, and after Grandfather retired, a crate of beer would be delivered each week to his Brewery cottage in Maynewater Lane. He could also go up to the brewery workers ‘club’ on the south side of Westgate Street, where the ‘Tap room’ is now, for a drink at lunch times which I believe was also free.
When I was at College in the 60s, I also worked at the Brewery during vacations to make some money to supplement my student grant and repay the inevitable overdraft! I worked in the yard loading the delivery lorries at first and at break times one could have either tea, coffee or a pint of beer, free of course. There is no need here to state which I chose! I was then asked to go out around the villages on the Delivery Lorries. This was great as most of the time was spent sitting in the cab watching the countryside go by. At each pub we would unload the barrels. Many were still wooden in those days, and you had to lower them down the cellar ramp with two ropes. Crates of beer also went down and it was amazing how much lighter the crates got towards the end of the round! We also had a pint in each pub, which may go some way to explaining this phenomenon, and also why we inexplicably dropped off to sleep on the way home. There were no breathalysers in those days but even so I think, nay I hope, that the drivers did not imbibe quite as much as the rest of the crew, I think there were three of us including the driver.
The first photograph is of my Grandfather on his Dray with his mate, whose name I do not recall, (perhaps someone recognises him?). I think it was taken in the Traverse outside the Cupola House, but I stand to be corrected.
The other photograph is of my Grandfather Albert (nicknamed ‘Ancha’ but I don’t know why), with the Brewery Gardening Cup which he won outright after winning it for, I think, five consecutive years. My Brother Paul still has this Cup.
I still love Greene King beer which luckily we can get here in Darkest Norfolk, IPA & Abbot, although these days I can’t drink much of the latter before I fall asleep!! It must have done successive generations of Stockings good though as most of them (barring accidents) lived well into their eighties.