Stone - a 'foodie history'
We are very pleased to welcome thousands of visitors to Stone during the Food and Drink Festival. Here we have included some information about the town which we hope you will find interesting and helpful. If you require any further information please contact us. We hope you enjoy your stay.
As far back as the 12th century, Stone was famous for the qualities of the ales brewed by the canons at Stone Priory. This tradition was carried on by various brewers, over the centuries. Perhaps the most famous brewery, associated with the town, was that of John Joule and Sons.
Francis Joule came to Stone in 1785 to take over one of the established breweries. Legend has it that the brewery was located on, or near to the site of the old monastic brew house. And as it was the custom of the monks to mark their casks with "the sign of the cross", Joules decided to adopt the red cross as their trademark. As well as supplying the home market, the company also exported beers to Australia , New Zealand and California.
In addition to brewing, Joule's also had a superb reputation for the quality of its wine cellar.
Joules was taken over by Bass Charington who closed the brewery in 1972. The site is now occupied by the Co-op supermarket. The wine shop still exists a few doors down the High Street but is currently unoccupied.
Another of the town's breweries was Bents - located in the northern part of Stone. The brewery was originally founded by Mr Montgomery, from Liverpool , who was attracted to Stone by the quality of its brewing water. The brewery was eventually taken over by Bents, another Liverpool brewer.
The beer was taken to Liverpool by train from the nearby railway station.
Brewing continued until 1967 when the company was acquired by Bass Charrington.
Brewing returns to Stone!
After a gap of several decades, brewing returned to Stone in 2008! Ian Bradford, (former head brewer at Titanic Brewery) formed Lymestone Brewery and now produces real ales from the old Bents Brewery site on Mount Road.
Look out for ales with a 'Stone' name in pubs in and around the town!
Lymestone Brewery are staunch supporters of the Food and Drink Festival and sponsor the ever popular Stepping Stones real ale trail - a walking trail around town centre pubs with loads of goodies to be won!
Stone became well known for annual gooseberry shows. And from 1860 to 1901 the All England Gooseberry Growing Competition was held in Stone. The world's biggest gooseberry was grown in Stone in 1842 by John Flower and weighed 37 pennyweights and seven grains. That record remained unbroken for just over a hundred years. The scales, used to weigh the gooseberries, is now in the County Museum at Shugborough.
Another fruit widely grown in and around Stone was damsons. However, these were not for eating. Vast quantities of damsons were in fact taken by canal, the Crown Street Wharf, to the dye factories, in the north west, where they were used to produce the purple dye, so popular with the Victorians.
Cheese fairs where held in the town from the mid-19 th century. Again the canal played an important part in transporting cheese to other parts of the country.
Raising Bread the Hovis ® way
Perhaps the town's greatest claim to fame, with a food link, is Richard ‘Stoney' Smith (1836-1900), who was born at Stone Mill. He invented a bread called 'Smith's Patent Germ Bread' which was to revolutionise breadmaking. Smith, by perfecting a method of steam cooking, invented a genuinely new brown flour, rich in vitamins and nutrients. After a nation-wide competition, Smith's bread was renamed Hovis ® - taken from the latin 'hominis vis' which means 'strength of man'. Its success was overwhelming – and by 1895, Hovis ® sales had reached 1 million loaves per week!
Thanks to local historian Phillip Leason and Hovis Flour for their contributions to this section.