Wednesday, 21 November 2012

Winston's Temper

‘I am not enjoying myself very much’, said young Winston Churchill in a letter to his mother.  It was a Wednesday, the second of September 1885 and the 11 year old boy was staying at my house, Chesterfield Lodge, in Cromer that in those days lay on the edge of town, close to the newly opened Cromer Beach railway station. The weather had been fine and he was looking forward to Saturday when his mother would join him and then he would have her all to himself for a whole ten days. He was not getting along at all well with his governess, whom he felt was very unkind, strict and stiff. Adding to his woes he had a stomach upset and a temperature, which he put down to some liver he had eaten.

Chesterfield Lodge, Cromer about 1900 very much as it is today

“My temper is not of the most amiable”, he wrote. “I am counting the days till Saturday. Then I shall be able to tell you all my troubles.”

Young Winston in 1884, aged 10

Those troubles included a contretemps with his governess when he petulantly threw an ink pot at her with damaging effect. She may well have met Dr Robert Fenner when Winston was ill, but she summoned Cromer’s only doctor, to act this time in loco parentis. Young Winston was led upstairs by Dr Fenner “who played an active part in making ‘the punishment fit the crime’”.

Dr Robert Fenner, (right) and his partner Dr Herbert Dent, who recorded the incident in his memoirs.

No doubt this episode will one day help to sell my house, as it is documented by Winston himself that he stayed here and augmented by the memoirs of Dr Dent, who was partner to Dr Fenner. I thought I would commemorate the fact back in 2010 by brewing a dark and brooding beer which I called “Winston’s Temper”. This was before I had the Poppyland Brewery but I wanted to brew it again. So yesterday, I did. This was only the second brew on the premises and the first I had done solo. I have to say that I am pleased with my efforts as, despite the shenanigans of the Russian Doll kit, I produced 240 litres of what promises to be a very tasty strong and black IPA. It should be in the bottles shortly after Winston's 138th birthday, on 30th November. Cheers Winston.

A couple of other little things link us to Winston. Firstly, he died (by then a great statesman) on my thirteenth birthday, 24 January 1965. I can vividly remember watching his state funeral on our old Pye television. Secondly, there is a brick in the back wall of the kitchen that is carved with a large letter W. I can’t prove it of course, but I like to think that Winston was showing off to his little brother Jack and getting his own back for the unhappy time he had at Chesterfield Lodge.

Who carved this initial many years ago?

Like all my beers, this one is based on the amazing Maris Otter malt that I obtain from Branthill Farm near Wells next the Sea. This is what gives the beers such amazing depth of flavour. This and the variety of hops - Centennial principal among them.

The Barley to Beer Project is funded by:

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