Tolly Brewery, Ipswich - Nov '14

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UrbanX

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Personal Connection:
This was to be quite a special one for me - I grew up in a pub ”That explains a lot...” I hear some of you scoff….

My family moved into the pub in 1986 when I was just 4 years old and Chris De Burgh’s ‘Lady in Red’ was #1 for 3 weeks.

It was a Tolly Cobbold pub, and I have memories of building dens out of old Tolly crates with my brother in the garden. I remember the Tolly lorry that had to reverse down our narrow drive, and the Draymen that would carry full barrels like they were just empties.

I remember almost every branded beer mat, bar towel, and promotional poster from my childhood. A lot of them were stored up in our attic, which also had my play room.

I remember at school they said they were organising a trip to a brewery. I got really excited that we’d be going to Tolly Cobbold, and I could see where all the beer my parents sold would be made. But my heart sunk when they told us we’d be going to Sleaford Bass Brewery instead! Little did I know then that in over 20 years time I would indeed be wandering round the old Tolly brewery!

The Cliff Brewery as it stands now is basically the brewery that was rebuilt and extended between 1894 and 1904.

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The brewery finally changed shape again in the 1990s when production moved away from the Victorian apparatus and into, effectively, a modern microbrewery out the back. This left the old building free for brewery tours and gave the economy the modern business required. Everything, of course, changed again in 2002 when the brewery finally closed and it remains today, in a virtually mothballed state, protected by its Grade II listed status but slowly decaying.

I reminisced in the labelling room for ages:

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Going back to 1746 it is easy to see why Thomas Cobbold set up where he did. He had been plagued by the troublesome water supply at Harwich for some time and although moving up-river disconnected him from some of his customers he could obtain good water and malt in Ipswich and use the Harwich operation as a staging post.
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Exploring each room, its easy to see how the old brewery had evolved bit-by-bit and the new one was designed to do exactly what it was supposed to do - brew beer in an age when the brewery process had been industrialised.

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To achieve that designs of the day made use of gravity - the so-called tower brewery - so the raw materials started at the top and made their way downwards, via the brewing process, to be matured and put in casks at the bottom.

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So - over a two year period from 1894 to 1896 a new brewery replaced what went before but it was a staged process and was probably carried out by Cobbold's own people. Certainly the driving force behind the design was William Bradford & Sons, the eminent London brewery architects but due to the organic nature of the brewery’s expansion (I mean just look at my first pic!) it’s hard to tell which bits each architect was responsible for.

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After this period of frenetic development it seems that the brewery underwent little change until it was closed in 1989. Of course equipment was modernised and capacity upped as the tied estate increased and the merger with Tollemache meant that beers once brewed at the brewery in Upper Brook Street now had to be brewed at Cliff Quay.

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After the management buyout things changed and with no large tied estate to guarantee sales the capacity offered at the Cliff Brewery was just overkill. The decision was therefore made to build a new, smaller brewery in buildings on the site and the old plant turned into a museum. Thus tourists could be staring into the old mash tuns whilst beer was being sparged out the back in the new ones. It was an interesting decision and one that worked well.

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Unfortunately no business stands still and the 2002 merger with Ridley's meant that the Cliff Brewery was really surplus to requirements and new rumours about potential redevelopment of the site quickly surfaced.

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The 1989 closure, however, had prompted English Heritage to list the brewery building and its contents and the proximity of the Vopak Terminal mean that scope for redevelopment is very limited.

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The Explore:

To be honest I was very glad to leave here. I was really skittish the whole time I was there. There are travellers on site, operating out of the building. They are ‘reclaiming’ items from the building: Beer pumps, chairs, a pool table, gas canisters & barrels, etc. which they are selling out of one of the loading bays. Knowing my camera is a lot easier to ‘reclaim’ than a pool table made me nervous this was made worse just after entry, seeing the floor is littered with used syringes and disposable metal spoons for cooking up H - I’m never keen on the idea of there being a junky with a needle between me and the only exit hole. In the end my photos didn’t get stolen and I didn’t die.

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Thanks for looking.
 
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Paulytwotanks

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Very interesting, thanks for sharing. That first photo looks very much like an abandoned hotel I know of in Mundesley, although I've a feeling it may be bought now for restoring. The 'hook room' several pictures down looks like it could be used in a chilling sadists movie :lol:
 

DirtyJigsaw

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Yeah, i am liking this! Nice photos as per and great write up mate!
 

Mikeymutt

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I loved this place when I went..you have some lovely shots as always..I hope you liked the blue room..I thought it was fantastic..cheers for sharing
 

LittleOz

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Nice one Urbanx. Great that you could relive some of those childhood memories through a 'splore. And a bonus that you got out with both your camera and your life.
 

Pilot

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The personal connection with Tolly beers really makes this report come alive. A long unfulfilled ambition for you turned into a great explore for us! Top job!
 

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