Bob searches for memories of town’s former breweries

Vallance's Sidmouth Brewery was demolished and replaced with flats

Vallance's Sidmouth Brewery was demolished and replaced with flats - Credit: Archant

A researcher looking into the history of Sidmouth’s breweries hopes to tap into residents’ memories for a display at the town’s museum.

Bob Warren wants to track down staff from the three breweries that operated in the Victorian era – one of which lasted until the 1970s – as well as other artefacts related to them.

All were bought out, demolished or converted into flats, so he is appealing for help to fill the blanks about what happened to them.

“Preliminary research has shown that there were three active breweries in the Victorian era,” said retired Bob, who worked in television broadcasting. “The most prominent, Vallance’s Sidmouth Brewery, was still in business until the late 1970s, when the impressive listed building was demolished and a block of flats was built upon the site.

“I would like to get in contact with any reader of the Sidmouth Herald who worked at Vallance’s or has any photographs, documents, artefacts or general information about any of the breweries, their tied houses or off licences.”

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Bob has always been curious about the history of Brewery Lane, off Temple Street, which he would pass on his way into town. His nextdoor neighbour happens to be the curator of Sidmouth Museum. When Nigel Hyman confessed he knew little of the valley’s breweries, he asked if Bob would like to do some digging to put on a display.

He holds two history degrees and now works in the archives at South West Heritage, so he is no stranger to the research process. As well as the museum display, he also hopes to write a paper on the topic.

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“You can assume nothing when people tell you facts – memories fade or they tell you things that have been made up,” said Bob.

“You’ve got to check everything. Historical research is quite fun when you can do it at your own pace.”

What he has learned so far is that Vallance’s had 31 tied houses, among them the Balfour Arms in Woolbrook and the Cannon Inn in Newton Poppleford. They bear the initials of the owner, George Vallance, above their doors.

A Herald report from 1979 says brewing started at Vallance’s in 1830 and continued until 1956. It was then used as a depot by Devenish.

Another brewery is still standing, but has been converted into flats - now Lennards Court in Old Fore Street. Bob believes it went out of business in the early 1900s.

The third brewery was called Marsh and operated from 1842 to around 1900. Bob does not know its exact location but thinks it was around Mill Street.

Anyone with information about any of the breweries is asked to contact Bob via or 01395 576925.

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