Further alongMansfield Roadthere is an off-license with a house attached. This had been given to Bess and Sid’s mother as a twenty first birthday present, the family were evidently well off in those days. It was kept by their mother (my grandmother) as a beer off-license. She didn’t live in the house part of the premises although they were furnished. Sid recalled that the new off-license replaced his mother’s earlier brewing enterprise where the beer was sold from the farm itself. She brewed her own beer in premises close to the farm at the rear of the fold yard. There could be found two large vats and behind these, the boiler house. The produce of all this industry was a beer called Mansfield Beer which was sold fresh from the barrel. She also sold stout but this was delivered in barrels to the farm and was bottled there. Sid and Bess would stick the labels onto the bottles.
The off-license was a popular place, with people coming for their beer from up to a mile away and before opening time, a queue had often developed. There would be all manner of working men or their sons standing in line, clutching their jugs or bottles ready to receive the beer. Some of the sons who had been sent on the errand by their fathers would often partake of a small sample on the way home. You can probably imagine them thinking, “I’ll just have a little sip.” This resulted in their hasty return to the off-license with the charge of ‘short measure.’ My grandmother overcame this by sticking paper across the top of the bottle cap to show whether the bottle had been tampered with. There also existed the equivalent of today’s can clutching lager lout. Two regulars, one was a gardener and the other a pot-bellied coal man, used to buy their beer from the off-license and then walk to the rick yard next door. There they would stand beneath an elm tree and upend the bottles, pouring the beer down their throats without pause. Then it was back to the queue again.
To help around the farm and to do the brewing, the family employed a man fromKidderminstercalled Frank Bradley, Frank was a red faced, bull necked man with an accent so thick, you needed a translator to understand him. Still, he did the milking and must have made a good job of the brewing. Like many a farm labourer in those days, Frank slept in and ate with the family except that he had his own table, under the window where uncle Will shot sparrows. At this table Frank sat, reading his comics which he thoroughly enjoyed, bursting into gales of laughter at the choicest pieces. He slept in his own room which was small and situated over the brewhouse. During the day he had found his own room in the barns near the fold yard and this was called “Frank’s Hut.”
He was a ‘queer fellow’, recalls Sid and cited two examples of his oddness. To move the heavier items around the farm there was a four wheeled truck, rather like a railway porter’s trolley. One day, Bess was playing on this trolley in the fold yard when it rolled away with her and dumped her into a vat of water. Frank burst into laughter and was so helpless with mirth, he was quite unable to pull her out, so someone else was called for the task. On another emergency Frank was again unable to assist, when the farm collie took hold of Bess’s arm and wouldn’t let go.
Frank was regarded as quite old and so he surprised them all when he left the farm to get married. That heralded the end of the home made beer business and from that point onwards, the beer was bought in.
Scribe’s note: In 1983, I lived in a house on the Yardley Road which was being renovated. Beneath the floorboards at the front of the house we found an ancient bottle of Mansfield Beer which somebody, (I like to think it was Sid,) placed there for posterity. A little message from the past, from my grandma to me.