A complexity of coppersmiths

Week 57

I’ve been trying to sort out the company history of the Pontifex family of coppersmiths, well known in the 19th century for their splendid brewing coppers, like the two by Pontifex and Wood at the former Ram Brewery in Wandsworth. There were many, many Pontifexs (must be Pontifexes surely?) and since I don’t know of a collective noun for coppersmiths, how about a complexity of them? Anyway, turns out there were several interlinked firms, in London, Birmingham and Leeds, and at least two establishments called the Farringdon Works. Lots of constantly changing partnerships, a nightmare to investigate, though I’ve got the early years fairly well sorted. They started in the 18th century and went on well into the 20th; I’m not sure when this bottle filling machine at the National Brewery Centre was manufactured (probably early 20th century) – though given time to check, one could narrow it down using the patent number. Their advert is also on display at the NBC. Currently working on the ‘power’ chapter – water wheels, horse mills, steam engines etc – and came across the fact that Guinness, Dublin in the late 1950s had the largest fermenting vessel in the world (size of a small aircraft hangar!), holding over 8,000 barrels when made, and still the largest in the world in 1980. Is it the largest in the world now, I wonder, or is the question no longer relevant as fermenters went conical, as it were, after that?

NBC (22)

NBC (20)

NBC (26)

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