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24 September 2014

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An ancient art in Cornwall
The famous St Austell Brewery
St Austell Brewery

The St Austell Brewery Company Limited was founded in 1851 by Walter Hicks, who mortgaged his farm for £1,500 to set up his business in St Austell.

Enjoy pictures from the brewery and learn more about its history.

Enjoy Traditional Cornish recipes and meet the folk on Bodmin Moor

St Austell Brewery
This website offers a detailed virtual tour, more on the history of the brewery and the latest news.

The BBC is not responsible for the content of external websites.


+ The St Austell Brewery Company Limited was founded in 1851 by Walter Hicks, who mortgaged his farm for £1,500 to set up his business in St Austell.

+ The company remains in private hands, with nearly all of Walter Hicks numerous descendants involved as shareholders, some actively as employees and directors.

+ It is one of the longest established of only a few independent family brewer's left in the UK.

+ The company's headquarters are at its Brewery site in St Austell, where it employs over 150 staff. It also has depots at Hayle, Falmouth, Bude and Newquay in Cornwall, and at St Mary's on the Scilly Isles, and at Ilfracombe and Heathfield (near Newton Abbot) in Devon.

Walter Hicks founded a business in 1861 when he opened a modest malting business.

He took a major risk at the time by mortgaging his farm for £1500. It was a risk that paid off. More than 150 years later the business Hicks founded is still a major force in the brewery world.

Seven Stars
The Seven Stars today

Most ale houses at the time produced their own ale. Hicks bought The Seven Stars in St Austell where he learned the art of brewing.

The business Walter Hicks founded had no name at the time. In 1910 he decided to register as 'Walter Hicks and Company Ltd' but now is known throughout the world as St Austell Brewery.

In 1911 tragedy was to strike the family and Brewery with the death of Walter junior following a motor-cycle accident at Helston.

The Brewery did continue despite the tragic event within the family but it did mean Walter Hicks had to return to running the company at the age of 82. His only other son, George, was not suited to a life of business and was clearly not about to take the place of the young Walter.

It was Hester Parnall, one of Hicks married daughters who was to keep the brewery in the family.

Hester Parnall
Hester became the chairman of the Brewery

She became the chairman of the Brewery from the death of her father in 1916 until she died in 1939.

But she was a feared woman. One story tells of the warning message sent to staff when she arrived each morning at the Brewery.

The first person to spot her chauffeur-driven Daimler arriving in the brewery yard of a morning would tap out a message of warning on the water pipes which would then be telegraphed right around the Brewery in a flash.

The business had rapidly outgrown its original site in a short amount of time. In 1893 a new site was found and that is where the St Austell Brewery remains to this day. It was built on a site that was originally two open fields beside Tregonissey Lane in the town.

Over the years since then there have been alterations and improvements, but the essential 'brew house' of 1893 is still the working heart of the brewery today.

Today nearly all of Walter Hicks' numerous descendants are involved in the Brewery as shareholders, and some more actively as directors and employees.

Of the present board, three directors, including the Managing Director Piers Thompson, are descended directly from Walter Hicks through his daughter Mary, whilst the present chairman, David Staughton, is married to Walter Hicks's great-granddaughter.

The Brewery has 155 pubs and hotels, 109 Tenancies, 5 Leases, 41 Managed pubs, including 21 Small and Friendly Inns.

It has a further 2000 free trade free trade accounts. Nearly 900 people employed Annual turnover in excess of £60 million

More than 20,000 barrels of its beer are sold annually.

For a full explanation of the brewing process the brewery gives guided tours Monday to Friday, twice a day.

The admission price is £4. Booking is advisable on 01726 66022

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