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An Exploration Rather Than a Visit

by Paul Hathaway

The Pubwright explains how he sets about making the most of his time on the Mainland. Read on fellow explorers...

A keen interest in the history and heritage of pubs, beer and breweries, together with a love of old maps and trade directories, all combine well to make a visit somewhere more of an exploration rather than a visit. Living on Islay, it is not often the Pubwright gets the chance to make such a tour but when he does, he seeks to try to make the most of it. It should also be added that the Pubwright has been known to enjoy train journeys and ticking off new stations.

Hence the first step is always to find a location or series of locations, connected by rail and/or bus not visited before. Recently a trip to Kirkcaldy was the subject of such a plan.

The first job is to identify the transport arrangements. This involves, in this case, looking up train times between Glasgow Queen Street Station and Kirckcaldy, a simple task using the National Rail website's Journey Planner. Put in dates and times of travel and the site does the job for you and, as a bonus, allows you to print off the timetable which can also be downloaded for electronic mobile storage.

What is there to explore in Kirkcaldy? Brewery history - second job - the Brewery History Society's (BHS) Brewers of the British Isles 1890-2021 gives details of two breweries, those being Fyfe Brewing Company (1996-2015 so not so interesting) and James Rintoul, Bridgeton Brewery, Bridgetown Links (1910) adding that the Brewery was founded in 1680 which by 1884 had moved into the ownership of William T Leishman to whom Mr Rintoul paid £700 in 1908 for the brewery.

Third job - what pubs are there in Kirkcaldy? There are three boxes to tick for a pub visit. One, it's in the (current) Good Beer Guide; two, it's a Cask Marque accredited pub and thirdly, and as a member of the Pub History Society, are there any pubs on CAMRA's Heritage Pub List? Three boxes ticked makes it a must visit, two slightly less so and one it really should be visited as a full exploration of the area is fundamental to the exercise but can be left until a later date.

Back to the Brewery history bit. The National Library of Scotland has a wonderful collection of digitised maps, available free online to download small sections of, but also available by print for an appropriate charge, website https://digital.nls.uk/directories/ and archive.org. In the case of Kirkcaldy, on this exploration, it was one town in one day. The earliest available map which has any details is the Ordnance Survey Kirkcaldy Fife Sheet 37, surveyed in 1855 and published in 1856. This shows not one, but three Breweries. The West Bridge Brewery, as it is styled on this map, is shown opposite the West Bridge Mills and the southern end of the town. This is the James Rintoul Brewery mentioned above. Halfway up the High Street, on the landward side of the Street, is another "Brewery" and yet a further Brewery is identified on the seaward side of the Street opposite the long-gone Links Pottery Factory. So, three breweries to be investigated.

Moving to the Pub bit, CAMRA's Whatpub site, https://whatpub.com, and Good Beer Guide web-based app come next, https://goodbeerguide.org.uk/find. Next source of information is the Cask Marque app, available free from both Google Play and the iStore, listing Cask Marque accredited pubs, of which the Robert Nairn and the Exchequer are identified. Finally, and now comes a word of warning and advice. Not every pub serves real ale so to ensure that heritage pubs are included, visiting the https://pubheritage.camra.org.uk/ website, two pubs are to be found. The Harbour Bar as noted above and The Feuars Arms, which according to the Heritage Site does sell real ale but Whatpub says it doesn't. The GBG site doesn't list it at all, so when looking at Whatpub, ensure that the real ale filter is off or refer to the Heritage Pub site.

This is the matrix:
  Good Beer Guide Cask Marque Heritage Pub
Harbour Bar 473 High Street X X
Betty Nicols 297 High Street X
Robert Nairn KirkWynd X X
Montagues 85-89 High Street
Exchequer 60-62 High Street X X
Feuars Arms 28 Bogies Wynd X

Montagues entry on the GBG site shows it serves Sharps and Wychwood. Another pointer is it notes what beers available can be found in a number of other places which, together with no "X" on the matrix means that it would be the last pub to visit.

Another factor to consider is time. Planning a circular route minimises time wasting retracing steps and maximising pub and brewery exploration time. Enter Google Maps. By searching for "Kirkcaldy" and looking at Maps, put in one of the desired locations and this will bring it up on screen and give the option to get directions there. A good starting point for this is Kirkcaldy Station. Then add each other location to the list and as they appear on the map, the various sites can be rearranged so as to ensure that circular route ending up at the Station for the return journey to Glasgow. Apart from showing the path to take, it also tells how far each walk between sites is and the total distance covered by shanks' pony just so the explorer feels an appropriate justification for that pint. Another benefit of this approach is that it allows the viewer to see what, if anything, remains of the buildings. In the case of Kirkcaldy there are no remnants of any of the brwery buildings. This can be important in that if time is short, as on this trip it is, it helps the explorer to make better use of their time

John Lamb

This provides a route that starts at the Station, then The Feuars Arms, Harbour Bar, Betty Nicols, Robert Nairn, and then perhaps heading south to the site of the West Bridge Brewery past and back (via Montagues but see above about the Matrix) and the Exchequer and then returning to the Station. The beauty of this particular trip is that there were two Breweries in High Street which also happens to include four of the pubs with the Robert Nairn literally a few yards to the right in Kirk Wynd off High Street!

Google Street map allows the little walker to be put down on the map; this gives the explorer to virtually visit the sites of interest. A very useful tool when visiting a new location for the first time since he is able to see those sites and makes it much easier to recognise them in the real world. But research is not over yet. History of the sites can be found by looking at old trade directories. In Scotland, these can be found and downloaded free from the National Library of Scotland site and the University of Leicester holds digitised copies of English and Welsh Directories dating from the early 19th century, again available downloading free of charge. The link is https://specialcollections.le.ac.uk/

Researching the directories produces the following (by no means complete) information:

Kirkcaldy Breweries

West Bridge Brewery

Pigot's 1837 John Stocks, West Bridge, also listed under Kinghorn together with Andrew Robertson of Kinghorn.
Slaters 1861 John Stocks, Brewer, Westbridge (under miscellaneous, not Brewer)
William Robertson, Brewer and Maltster of Kinghorn (under miscellaneous)
Worrals 1877 John Laing Stocks (established 1680), West Bridge Brewery, Kirkcaldy.
Slaters 1877 John Laing Stocks, West Bridge Brewery and Maltsters.
Slaters 1878 John Laing Stocks, West Bridge Brewery, Brewers and Maltsters.
Along with together with two further maltsters:
Robert Hutchison & Co, East Bridge Mills and 178 High Street.
Robert Kilgour & Co, Dunnikier Malt Works.
Scotland Trades directory 1878 John Stocks Laing, Kirkcaldy, and also along with Samual Allsopp & Sons (Burton-on-Trent) Glasgow, Johnson & Co, Berwick-on-Tweed, Andrew Kerr, Hawick, Robert Meiklejohn & Son, Alloa.
Slaters 1886 William Thomas Leishman, West Bridge Brewery, residence 295 Links Street.

John (or William) Keddie or Keddie

Site of Linktown Brewery

Pigots 1837 Links, Brewer (and James Keddie under Vintners at East Port)
Slaters 1861 William Keddie, 303 High Street (under Vintners)
Worral's 1877 William Keddie, 295 High Street, Kirkcaldy, Spirit Dealer
Slaters 1878 William Keddie, 295 High Street, Kirkcaldy, Spirit Dealer

Henry Fergus, Linktown Brewery

Pigot's 1837 Links but see note below re the OS Name Book 1843-1855.

Other Notes:

Under Kirkcaldy Worrals 1877:
George Shaw, brewer, Auchtertool
Site of Linktown Brewery A Gow & Co, manufacturers of aerated waters, also bottlers of ale and porter 293 High Street

Under Kirkcaldy Worrals 1878:
A Gow & Co 291 High Street with no mention of the bottling side of the business.
Maps Kirkcaldy Fife Sheet 37 Surveyed 1855 Published 1856 shows all three Breweries.

Detail from Kirkcaldy Fife Sheet 37 Surveyed 1855 Published 1856 and reproduced with the permission of the National Library of Scotland.

Site of Linktown Brewery

Kirkcaldy OS Town Plan Surveyed 1894 Published 1895 shows just West Bridge Brewery.

OS Name Book 1853-1855 lists Linktown and West Bridge Brewery but not Keddie, though this brewery is shown on the 1855/1857 map. Both Keddie and Linktown Breweries have disappeared by the trade directory of Worrals 1861 with only reference to Kiddie/Keddie as above.

This is a summary of how the Pubwright plans his explorations; how you may wish to do it is up to you but whatever and however you choose to do it, enjoy it! Any comments or suggestions, please email The Pubwright at thepubwright@btinternet.com