On This Day: 19 October 1703

On this day in 1703, Thomas Bowrey purchased beer and spirits for the Rising Sun. There are two bills from James Lansdown for beer and a third from John Dearsly for strong waters.

In towns, at the time, water was rarely drunk because insanitary conditions made it unsafe. Most people drank small beer, that is weak beer. Tea and coffee were both still novelties and expensive. At sea, rain water was saved and fresh water was collected whenever possible during the voyage but it often had to be rationed, especially in the tropics.

Plentiful beer and spirits were usually carried on board but were not freely available to the crew. They were usually sold to sailors with the cost taken from their wages. I have found no evidence in Bowrey’s Papers but, as mariners were renowned for being heavy drinkers, the sale of beer and spirits was possibly a money-making side-line on a long trading voyage in the tropics.

On This Day: 27 August 1706

On this day in 1706, James Lansdown supplied beer to Thomas Bowrey. Lansdown bill, not paid until January 1709, covered a 53-month period.

In that time, Lansdown supplied only 4 dozen bottles and 12 gallons of beer, pale beer and ale – it would appear that this was for household consumption rather than provisioning a ship. From other documents in Bowrey’s papers, it is known that the household brewed their own beer. Was Lansdown’s beer stronger than the homemade small beer drunk on a daily basis or did it fill gaps in the household production?

There are a couple of points of interest in this bill. First, it demonstrates just how long tradesmen were expected to wait for payment at the time.

The second point of interest is that the first 2 sales were described as in bottles. At that stage, Bowrey had purchased 2 dozen bottles. The next purchase was 2 dozen bottles, corks & por. Was Bowrey reusing the bottles, having them refilled (poured) and sealed with new corks? That the final 2 sales were in gallons and include 2 dozen corks & por appears to confirm this.



On This Day 27 March 1711

Today we have an insight into the private life of Captain Thomas Bowrey. On this day in 1711, he paid his account with the maltster, Alex Marshall.

The account covered the period from 21 October 1710 to 13 February 1711 and was for malt, hops and browns indicating the Bowrey household in Wapping brewed their own beer. Small (or weak) beer was commonly drunk in place of water because there was no safe water supply. It was also common for households to brew their own small beer rather than rely on outside suppliers for such an essential element of their diet.

Browns may have been brown hops or old hops as opposed to pale, new, hops. Beer recipes today often use a mix of brown and pale hops. However, as the browns was sold in bushels, like the malt, it was more likely brown malt. Bowrey also purchased pale malt. A mix of malts was also often used in beer making.

Intotal over the  Bowrey purchase 7.5 pounds of hops and 25 bushels of malt. Looking at recipes on the Internet, this quantity of hops would make at least 160 gallons of beer. I imagine that it would be more of small beer. The household probably made more than 1,000 litres of small beer over four months. At this time, the household is known you have been made up of Bowrey, his wife and mother-in-law, Bowrey’s servant and his wife. There was probably at least two more servants making, perhaps seven people. That would be about 1 litre of small beer each per day.