Postcard of the month - #51 - August 2004

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Albion Brewery, Whitechapel Road

This is the entrance to Mann, Crossman & Paulin’s Albion Brewery at 172 Whitechapel Road. The four stories high grade II listed building was constructed in the 1880s. Below the clock is the firm's logo of "Saint George Slaying the Dragon".

In 1808 the Albion Brewery was built near the old Mile End Turnpike by the landlord of the Blind Beggar, Richard Ivory. A small brewery already existed at the back of the Blind Beggar. Richard Ivory was able to raise sufficient capital to buy the brewery and build a new one calling it the "Albion Brewery". Access to the brewery was by a large gate at the side of the Blind Beggar.

For the first ten years the Albion Brewery was leased by John Hoffman, who ran into financial difficulties. The Brewery was put up for auction and the lease was bought by Blake and Mann, a Lambeth brewer, in 1818. Philip Blake retired in 1826 leaving John Mann to run the business alone. The Company’s name changed to John Mann, Brewer and in 1843 to Mann and Sons.

It was soon clear to James Mann that if he wanted to expand his business he needed new partners and fresh capital. First Robert Crossman and then Thomas Paulin became partners in 1846. The new name became Mann, Crossman & Paulin and Company. The Company went from strength to strength throughout the 19th century and the first half of the 20th century.

In the 1860s, the London drinker started to moved away from porter and acquired a taste for "light sparkling ales", brewed at Burton-on-Trent. The Company decided to follow fashion and built a new brewery, another "Albion Brewery", at Burton-on-Trent. However, when they discovered that East End water could be used to brew these "light sparkling ales", they sold the brewery and moved production to London in 1897. By 1880, Mann, Crossman & Paulin and Company was the ninth largest brewer in the country. Another fashion, in the latter half of the nineteenth, was the growing demand for bottle beers. To meet this demand the Company purchased the old Whitechapel Workhouse in Ravens Row, on the southside of Whitechapel Road, near the Brewery, and built a bottling plant. By the turn of the century, beer production had reached nearly 500,000 barrels. In 1901 Mann, Crossman & Paulin become a public company.

The Company had its moment of history during the "Siege of Sidney Street" in 1911, when the breweries become front page news throughout the country. After the killing of three policemen in the City of London, one of the perpetrators had been traced to a flat at 100 Sidney Street, opposite the Company’s bottle plant in Ravens Row. A policeman, shot in the early stage of the siege, was carried into the bottling plant. Here his wounds were dressed before being taken to the London Hospital. Sharpshooters of the Scots Guards, placed in the high water tower of the bottling plant, were able to get a clear shot into the house. The house eventually caught alight and the criminals perished.

During the Second World War the Albion Brewery found itself in the front line. The Brewery had its own Home Guard contingent and fire fighting unit. Like much of the East End, the Brewery suffered bomb damage. The stables had a direct hit killing and injuring many of their famous shire horses. A Roll of Honour to the Company’s employees who gave their lives in both World Wars had been erected at the entrance to the Albion Brewery.

Throughout its time in the East End the Company was an active supporter of the Royal London Hospital. The Mann family had also been involved in local politics, providing the first Mayor of Stepney, Edward Mann, in 1900. By the 1950s five generations of the Mann and Crossman families had been associated with the Albion Brewery and "Mann’s Brown Ale" was a huge success. But in 1959 the slippery slope to oblivion began when the Company merged with Watney, Combe, Reid and Co. to form Watney, Mann. Then in 1972 this Company was bought by Grand Metropolitan who closed the Albion Brewery in 1979. In the 1990s the entrance was converted into flats and the site of the Brewery became a Sainsbury’s supermarket.

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