Over the last few months, a major project has been undertaken at the Brewery, rebuilding the original boiler chimney. This chimney has not been used since 1970, when we installed our first new oil fired steam boiler. It is a large blue brick chimney, which actually rises as high as the main brewery tower. Some remedial works had been undertaken in the late 1970′s, but of late the chimney had deteriorated, and was in need of urgent attention. Initially we had wished to take the chimney down to a safe level, but this was resisted by English Heritage, who suggested we apply for grant aid from them to rebuild the chimney. Worsening economic conditions meant there was no possibility of grant money from EH, despite their trustees visiting here and saying we should be worthy of financial support. So we were pointed towards the Heritage Lottery Fund, and following a visit to a presentation by them in London, we engaged a Historic Building Consultant, and an application was duly made. The outcome was a success, and we were awarded a 45% grant to the project. This all seems a long time ago, as the chimney building works will be completed this week, apprentices have been employed, a film has been made, awareness days held, and £200,000 later, our chimney will be in arguably as good a condition as when it was built.
Earlier this month, the Oxford Brewers’ Alliance met at the National Brewing Library, which is housed at Oxford Brookes University. It is a huge collection of a great range of brewing books, and the collection is logged electronically, with a very effective search engine. I couldn’t help searching “William Bradford”, and several references came up. I was drawn to a small publication by him, entitled “Notes on Maltings and Breweries”. The section on engineering made reference to boiler chimneys, and he notes how many are purely functional in design; whereas William regards them as objects of beauty, and felt they should be designed with that in mind. When the scaffold comes down next week, a work of art will be revealed, and I would like to think that William Bradford would be proud. I am sure too that John Harris, Alban, Bill and David would be too. It really is a testament to design and commitment to Hook Norton that has enabled this project to take place, and not least to the current custodians of the Company, to want to maintain this wonderful tower brewery. I think we can all be very proud; and of course, we would love as many of you as possible to come and see the chimney in all its’ glory.
At Hooky, it isn’t just the beer that is hand crafted, the whole business is.