George Bateman – Managing Director, first generation
It all began in 1874, when my wife Susannah and I decided to sell our farm in the nearby village of Friskney and rent a small brewery in Wainfleet.
For £505 and 10 shillings (about £30,000 in today’s money) we bought the brewing equipment from the owner Edwin Crowe and, a year later, and with some financial difficulty, bought out the lease for £800.
You could say that Susannah was the first-ever Batemans brewer. She would make beer in our kitchen in Friskney, while baking the bread for us to eat after a hard day on the land. That aside though, neither of us had very much knowledge of brewing or the business of running a brewery.
Fortunately, Edwin passed on all he knew before he retired. However, his brewer was not ready for retirement and, despite being blind, stayed with us for several more years.
“An instinctive craftsman, he would check the temperature of a brew by sticking his elbow into the fermenting vessel.”
The brewer (unfortunately I cannot remember his name) had an acute sense of smell and taste; hardly surprising after all those years of practice. An instinctive craftsman, he would check the temperature of a brew by sticking his elbow into the fermenting vessel. If he could keep it in for a long time, then the brew wasn’t hot enough; if he had to take it straight out, it was too hot!
The move to Salem House
The original Brewery was based just by the railway. However, in 1880 I decided we had enough money to buy Salem House: a Georgian property about 200 yards away, which had just come on to the market. Susannah and I moved in and built a brewery in the coach houses. We not only brewed beer but also bottled whisky, rum and gin. Susannah also went back to baking bread, which we sold with the beer to supplement our income.
Susannah was indeed a very good cook. On Fair Day, which was held twice a year, the farmers would come to Salem House to pay for the beer that we had supplied their workers during the previous six months. It was very common for this payment not to be in cash, but in meat and potatoes.
Once payment had been made, we would invite the farmers into our kitchen for a massive feast. This tradition continued until 1930.
Our son Harry took the reins from 1919 – and did us proud in continuing the Batemans name.