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Mediaeval Oddments


A collection of display cards from the 1997 Exhibition on the 'Home Brewers and Innkeepers' board



Querns are the most ancient hand-mills, found from Neolithic to Early Iron Age cultures and still used in Third World countries today.


There are two basic kinds. The saddle quern is a hollowed stone slab on which the grain is pounded with a second stone; the operator kneels at one side. A variation is the pestle and mortar.


The rotary quern, as in the illustration, has an upper stone which is hollowed on its underside to fit the convex grinding surface of the lower stone. The upper stone has a hole through which a rod passes and the grain is fed. In sophisticated versions a handle is fixed into the side of the rotating stone. Wind-, water- and animal-driven mills use the same principle.


The hard millstone grit of Derbyshire was the most prized grinding stone, but the "pudding stone" conglomerate, found all over this part of Hampshire, was the next best thing.


The first step in brewing is the crushing of the malt to prepare the mash. Since the kilned barley only needs light crushing -- it must not be ground -- a hand mill is all that is needed for domestic brewing. The old malte quearne left in 1581 by Robert Milward was a valued piece of household equipment. The inventory of John Bedel (1614) also lists a malte quern in his kitchen.


Punishment for bad Ale

A Domesday entry for Chester records that bad ale was punishable either by imprisonment in the cucking-stool or by a fine of 4s. Women brewsters seem to have suffered this fate long before it became the punishment of scolds and whores.


Assize of Ale

The Assizes of Ale, established in 1267, regulated the price of ale based on the costs of the grain and malt, and according to the strength of the ale brewed. The assizes also appointed the ale tasters and fined or licensed the brewsters. The licensing powers passed to the justices of the peace in 1552 whose descendants are the Licensing Magistrates who preside over regular sessions in local magistrates' courts. Aldershot magistrates preside (1997) over eight sessions per year for Northeast Hants division and one every month for North Hants.


The Licensing Act 2003 established a new licensing regime for alcohol and public entertainment effective on Monday 7th February 2005. Responsibility for licensing premises was transferred from the local magistrates courts to the local councils, thus abolishing Brewster Sessions after almost half a millenium


Ale tasters

Appointed by the early 1400's, they enforced the regulation of ale by tasting the brew before it could be sold and altering the price if necessary. They also 'presented' brewsters to the local manorial court for fines called amercements. These were either fines -- with perhaps a ducking in the pond for selling bad ale or short measures -- or licences to brew. The same word was used for both eventualities.


Ale-stake or bush

The 'bush' at the end of the stake probably began as a small besom of twigs. When the brew was fermenting well and the yeast frothing up lustily, small bundles of twigs were drawn through the foam and then hung up to dry on hooks. This dried yeast could be used to revive old ale and wine and became the brewster's symbol. The evergreens associated with good luck would also be used on a pole so the 'bush' too became associated with brewing. Holly, the evergreen symbol of Christmas merrymaking, was used frequently. The name 'Hollybush' may perhaps recall a long-ago brewhouse or even a more recent one. Hollybush Lane in Eversley curves around the Chequers pub and, for more than 100 years William Belsher Parfett's brewery flourished just to the north of Eversley cricket green.


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Original page written by Peter Tipton for the Yateley Society's 1997 Exhibition: Inns, Alehouses & Maltsters

Additional research by Norma Dowling, Richard Johnston, & Elizabeth Tipton

Original page has been revised to include the Society's latest Research

(c) The Yateley Society, 1997 & 2008


Page Exhib.1997.34

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