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Ruthin’s Last Brewery

A part of old Ruthin re-appeared on Castie Street berore Christmas, a nineteenth century red-tile advertisement of Roberts Home Brewed Ales uncovered during the renovations at the Corporation Arms. The Last Brewery Robert Roberts was from Ruthin and bought the Corporation Arms in 1879 when he was 27 and ran it with his wife Martha where they developed their business and brewing skills. He initially sold four types of beer, probably all milds in 35, 18, and nine gallon casks, Roberts was obviously seeking regular bulk orders. At the end of 1890, he bought the Hand Brewery and Vaults or Hand Vaults public house on Well Street and transferred his brewing there. The Hand  The Hand was built between 1681 and 1688 by the Myddeltons of Chirk Castle as an inn. It was stone-built and was taken down and rebuilt in brick in 1870. Today it houses 'Work and Leisure Wear' on the ground floor. By 1890 the individual publican brewing his own ales was being replaced by the common brewer supplying several public houses. Robert Roberts followed a series of successful common brewers at the Hand. William Edwards ran a profitable business, which he sold to Foulkes and Co for £950 in 1882 when it could brew only one beer at a time. The Hand Brewery was acquired by Benjamin Trimmer in 1888 who modernised and extended it. He sought to draw water from Galchog, west of Ruthin, where a limestone outcrop provides calcium in the water promoting clarity, flavour and stability in the finished beer, but was frustrated by vested interests. Roberts bought the Hand in 1890 and circumvented the opposition by carting water from the Galchog spring. Roberts transformed Trimmer's business into a large operation. He replaced some mild beers with bitter and pale ales. His 'Cwrw Hand or 'Hand Ale' had a longstanding reputation. His seasonal beers included his 'very best October Brews' and stronger ales for winter consumption. With the profit, Roberts bought public houses. To the original Corporation and Hand (Vaults) he added the Feathers in 1897 and the Black Horse on St Peter's Square in 1896. He probably
owned the Boars Head and had close connections with the Farmers Arms the Royal Oak on Clwyd Street, the Drovers, Rhewl and the White Horse, Hendrerwydd and supplied other public houses. Robert Roberts (Hand Brewery) was always in the press; whether attending a function or a council meeting, he was always identified with the Hand. He was the only local brewer advertising his ales, in fact, for the Ruthin media he was the only local brewer The Hand generated traffic. A water cart would have been a familiar sigh,t as 1000 gallons of Galchog water were needed weekly. The brewery's three working horses, heavy cart and dray floats and 'delivering lorry' would have been busy. Frequent deliveries of coal for the boilers and barley would have added to the bustle. All around the Hand would have been pervaded by the smell of malting. The Hand's beers included three milds a 'best bitter' and a pale ale, all popular beers in late Victorian Britain. The First World War The war severely affected Robert Roberts's business. Beer was heavily taxed. The glory days were over. The Hand Brewery business was sold to Ind Coope 1912 in 1917 who closed the brewery and Roberts sold the contents in May 1919 The last brewery in the town had gone. His steam powered brewer had two boilers, one holding 1000 gallons and could brew three beers at once. He had a cooperage with 480 casks in 1919 Roberts's property was dispersed, the malt house becoming a cheese creamery. Other buildings became a depot for agricultural merchants. The Hand Vaults continued until around 1960 known simply as the Hand and is now a private house and an outdoors shop. The Corporation, Boars Head, Feathers, Drovers and Farmers' continue as public houses despite the changes in leisure activities.
In March 2017, GARETH EDWARDS retraced its history