Hook Norton - Cotswolds Travel Guide
The thriving village of Hook Norton is located 5 miles North East from the market town of Chipping Norton. Surrounded by remote, hilly countryside the village has an eclectic mix of styles. This is mainly due to the fact that there is no manor house in the village, giving the villagers (in years gone by) the freedom to build houses to their own preferences. Rather than having a 'Lord of the Manor' dictating a specific design that villagers had to adhere too. The village once had a railway station, this help to ensure the success of the local brewery...how? You may ask, well 'Navvies' the term used to describe the labourers who built the track where a thirsty bunch, the thousands of miles of rail lines laid throughout England were done without the use of machinery. They lived by the rail line that they were building in so-called shanty towns & were constantly on the move as the line progressed. The subsequent railway line then help the local brewery to move their produce helping to enlarge the area of distribution.
The Hook Norton Brewery produce their local Ales, with fabulous names, our favourite 'Hooky' is one you must try whilst in the area. If you are lucky enough then you may see the shire horses leave the brewery with their wagon filled with barrels, the brewery still enjoying the traditions of years gone by & deliver by wagon to a handful of local inns. The brewery was established in 1849, John Harris moved into Hook Norton purchasing a farm of 52 acres that included a Malthouse. He took over the existing trade as a maltster, expanded the business by becoming a dealer in hops and so began the seeds of the Brewery. It is thought that commercial brewing started in 1856. This is supported by the brewing books which keep a record of every brew. The first book begins with brew No.1 on November 24th, 1856 which is described as ‘Mild XXX’. The 1880’s were a key period for the brewery. Although this was a time of depression in many rural areas, Hook Norton was thriving. The extension of the Chipping Norton railway line into Hook Norton not only meant a captive audience for the brewery’s beer (in the form of the navvies who were building the line), but also had a longer term benefit in maintaining the prosperity of the village and providing a vital means of transport for raw materials, equipment and casks of beer to and from the brewery. This saw redevelopment at the Brewery over the years the final stage was the construction of the new six-storey brewery on the site of the existing building. In 1899 On the ground floor of the new brewery, a 25 horsepower steam engine was installed supplying, through a series of belts, cogs and shafts, most of the motive power the brewery needed to pump water from the well below. In fact, the steam engine is believed to be one of the last steam engines in the country still in use for its original purpose.
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