Ploughshares to pints at Radford

Many readers may remember the Thornley-Kelsey Brewery at Radford Semele which closed in the 1960s.

Henry Marriott, the great grandson of the brewery’s founder, H E Thornley, recently gave a talk about its history to Sydenham History Group.

Nigel Briggs from the history group sent in this report of Henry’s talk entitled ‘Ploughshares to Pints’ :

Henry explained that his maternal great grandfather, who farmed around Radford in the late 1800s, brewed ale for his farm workers, a common practice at the time.

Radford breweryRadford brewery
Radford brewery

The ale gained something of a reputation with surrounding farmers so, perceiving a demand for their ales Mr and Mrs Thornley decided to establish the brewery.

A lot of the building work was done by themselves and the family, quite a task when you consider the eventual size of the concern.

An initial problem of some significance was a suitable source of water as that from the proposed borehole proved to be unsuitable.

Despite going deeper it did not improve so, from day one of the brewery, water was supplied by tanker from Campion Hills, doing the trip several times per day.

In 1933 Kelsey from Worcester merged with Thornleys.

The business wasrenamed Thornley-Kelsey, as it was known until its closure.

Henry showed an interesting photo of the railway bridge over the High Street in Leamington displaying a Thornley’s advert, but on the road beneath sewer works were in progress showing that some things don’t change.

What does change is the drinking culture, with tales of draymen doing the beer deliveries drinking some four gallons (32 pints) of ale in their working day.

Henry had some deliciously smelling samples of malts and hops available which were some recompense for the absence of ales to sample, the bottles on display being empty.

A number of people present recalled relations having worked at the brewery.

The site has undergone several changes of use since the regretful demolition of the impressive buildings in an era when it seemed that nationally all buildings of note were being demolished.

Later occupiers of the site have been the EMEB, Midland Motor Panels, Shanghai Manufacturing, Force Ten and Ricardo, the latter businesses being in the forefront of automotive and defence vehicle technology.

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