by Caroline Dudley and David Dines
In Newport, county town of the Isle of Wight, four breweries made it into the twentieth century.
These were Mew Langton, of course, the Carisbrooke Brewery, Coppins Brewery and Knott's Brewery. By the outbreak of World War One the number had halved leaving only Mew Langton and Knott's. The Great War was, however, going to prove devastating to the smaller Knott's Brewery.
Knott's was located at 44 Orchard Street, Newport and operated between the late 1860's and 1920/21. There had been another brewery in Orchard Street named Watermans, which also had a maltings of ten quarters in size. It had come up for sale in 1879 after the death of Charlotte Eldridge. It was then purchased by F. Brading who had already been in occupation at the malt house. For a small road Orchard Street seems to have been a hive of industrial activity; in later years the Brickwood's depot was also located there. Beer from Knott's was sold on the ground floor of the premises and also at the Knott's family beer house at 66 Upper St James Street. Not much seems to have survived in the way of bottles, flagons or information on the range of beer and possible other products produced. Bottles with their source in lettering sandblasted on them exist from William Knott's time and embossed ones from Sydney's time survive but are rare. A member of the Isle of Wight Heritage Group on Facebook has posted a picture of a flagon he owns, and at least one beer label survives, for a dinner ale. According to Hill's 1871 Directory of the Isle of Wight, beer was being sold in casks and bottles. Cask sales were again mentioned in 1888-89 in Pike's Isle of Wight Blue Book and Local Directory, where a small advert appears: "William Knott, brewer and retailer, Orchard Street, Newport, small casks supplied".
The beer house at 66 Upper St James Street was opened sometime between the 1841 and 1851 censuses by James Knott. He had trained as a tailor, which was also the profession of his father, Joseph, and was recorded as a "tailor and beer retailer" in 1861. His main profession appears to have been that of a beer retailer at the time of the 1871 census. By around 1867/68, his eldest son, James George Knott junior, was running a brewery at 44 Orchard Street. This brewery had previously been owned by the Prangnell family from about 1840. James junior occupied one bedroom in a four-roomed house attached to the brewery premises, the remainder was let out
. There was a store for the sale of beer on the ground floor of the brewery. The 1871 Hill's Directory describes the Orchard Street property as that of a home brewed ales and beer retailer.
In 1878 James George Knott junior died at the age of 36. His father and younger brother William continued to run the brewery and beer house at 66 Upper St James Street, which at that time appears to have been known as Knott's Beer House. When James died in 1889 aged 72, William began running the business on his own. He was joined by his youngest son, Sydney James Knott, (b.1884) in the early 1900's.
In about 1910, William retired, but he came out of retirement to allow Sydney to sign up for military service in 1915. William passed away after an operation in 1915, and Sydney himself was killed at the Somme on the 8th of July the following year. Sydney had been attached to the 3rd Worcestershire Regiment at the rank of Second Lieutenant. The licence of the brewery was then transferred to Harriette Amy Knott, Sydney's widow, and to Albert Edward Harvey, a local businessman who was later to become the Chairman of Gould, Hibberd and Randall, a soft drinks manufacturer and retailer, also based in Newport. Sydney had been a member of the Town Council and a prominent Oddfellow. A. E. Harvey had joined Newport Town Council in 1909 and later held the post of Mayor for two consecutive terms. It seems he and Sydney had got to know each other well during this public service. Harriette was the daughter of Alderman R. B. Cheverton J.P., and she and Sydney had married in 1907 and had one son. They lived in Castle Road, Carisbrooke. At probate on the 3rd of November 1916, the beneficiaries were Henriette and Albert Edward Harvey.
Sometime between 1891 and 1897, the licence of the beer house in Upper St James Street was transferred to Edward Thomas Hall and then to John Edwin Lamb. The business was then to become known as the John Lamb pub.
At the time of the 1920 electoral roll, Sydney Knott's sister, Mildred Cooper, and her husband George were living at 44 Orchard Street along with Annie Elizabeth Knott, William's second wife, who he had married in 1901. They had tried to keep the brewery operating after the passing of William and Sydney. Incidentally, Sydney's brother-in-law, Thomas Bird Cheverton, had also been killed in the war, on the 24th of March 1918. Sometime between 1920 and spring 1921, the brewery was sold to Sprake's, brewers of Chale. Mildred and George Cooper and Annie Knott all moved to 5 Rosehill Terrace and Charles Oscar Sprake and his wife Bertha Kate Sprake became the new occupiers of 44 Orchard Street. By 1923 part of the previous living accommodation at 44 Orchard Street, together with the old brewery, had become the Malt and Hops public house. Sprake's Brewery was itself purchased by Brickwood's Portsmouth Brewery in 1928.