Now is the time for Warminster to milk its malt!(March 28, 2009)
AN IDEA which could fix Warminster on the brewing industry and tourism map has attracted supportive comments from a well-placed civic leader, writes Paul Macdonald.
"Nowhere has a more legitimate claim to being the home of British malt production," says Civic Trust chairman Michael Heaton
In among the tourism ideas on visionforwarminster.co.uk is the proposal that in the next few years an out of the ordinary national museum could provide the town with a unique attraction.
"As well as Warminster historically being a market town it also has had many maltings including Chinns Court. A unique attraction could be a Museum of Malting,' the vision co-authors propose.
Michael Heaton, a qualified professional who has shown a passionate interest in the the town's history and heritage, agrees.
'Warminster was the centre of the British malt industry from the late 18th century (when brewing grew rapidly into an industrial concern rather than a cottage industry) until well into the 20th," says Michael.
"Malt growing was responsible for the appearance of the surrounding landscape and underpinned the economy of the town until the military arrived.
"Maltings were common buildings in the town and many (buildings) survive still and the commonly used strains of barley used in malting and all brewing-related uses were developed at Warminster by Mr Beaven.'
(The former Beaven household in East Street is commemorated by a Civic Trust blue plaque).
'Brewing, particularly of beer, was immensely important. It has some negative connotations now because of the health issues
"Throughout the Middle Ages and well into the early 20th C, beer was the staple drink of the British people in particular the working classes.
"Medieval builders were paid in it. It was weaker than today - what is called 'Small Beer' - so people could consume large quantities - up to a gallon per working day - without getting pie-eyed.
There is still a world famous maltings in Pound Street which has its own website www.warminster-malt.co.uk where more of the history can be discovered as well as their modern day success.
"British 'craft' beers are now a major export and many are made with Warminster malt.'
'"We'll drink to that idea," said a passer-by as he asked why the photograph of this piece of history at Chinn's Court was being taken.
Steve Dancey, who read economic and social history at university in Canterbury in the 1970s, says the museum idea could prove to be a real winner with history buffs.
"Today's tourists are typically not those who want to eat candy-floss and ride donkeys on the beach at Weston-Super-Mare," he said.
"We have a greying population of people with more cerebral needs who have both money and leisure time and there is a continuing and understandable interest in the brewing industry.
"The fact that we continue to have a working, traditional and successful malting business in town is a real boon and I would expect town centre shops, and of course, our pubs, could benefit if we can get this idea off the ground.
"We also have a resident local historian who likes to write books about the town - perhaps he could be commissioned to write a book about the industry and the Guinness Barley Research station in Warminster (and latterly Codford)."