What is evident are the surcharges and fines imposed on Brewers, although they were not alone in this. Money was constantly needed by the Council to run and maintain the Town.
At one time there were as many as 7 narrow closes leading south from the High Street each densely occupied. Today (1963, the time of Dr Mason writing his book)) only 3 survive. Hamilton's Close, an unnamed close and Brewery Close, leading from West Terrace to what once was the site of a former brewery, and now is a Courtyard Development, built in recent years.
However this came with its drawbacks. An act of Parliament decreed the people must solemnly at all times frequent the church, to hear the word of God, receive the Sacraments, enjoy the benefits of Burial and subject themselves to the discipline of the Minister. This was to affect the religious and social life of the people in many unusual ways.
Rules for keeping the Sabbath day were strict and exacting. Many 'offences ' had a fixed fine.
One such rule affected the brewers. It was deemed an offence for brewers of Ale to sell their wares in times of worship, a fine of 40s was imposed.
Fines collected were contributed to the 'Church Box', which was distributed to the Poor, Widows and Orphans and those in dire distress.
Between 1635-1638 during years of change and development in the burgh, the Magistrates held court and imposed many fines. Again, this meant fines against Brewers who of Ale who served beggars stopping on their way to cross the ferry, until they became 'beastly drunk'.
In 1635 the Magistrates fined Margaret Moubray, Janet Lowrie and Helen Young 40 shillings each, as they each brewed Ale on the Sabbath Day. It is interesting that in 1643, Margaret and Janet were burned at the stake for Witchcraft! Helen was arrested but not burned as deemed to be 'old'.
At this time the inhabitants of the Burgh were greatly inconvenienced by the quartering of soldiers in their houses. In an attempt to ease the situation, the council petitioned for a decree that the troop of Dragoons be moved and only billeted with families of 'Those who brew and sell Ale'. If the number of soldiers requiring billeting exceeded 30, then the billet master was given the power to billet them with families in private houses. (minute of meeting 1703)
Complaint was made about the weakness and quality of the Ale brewed in the Town although malt was at an easy and reasonable rate. The Council therefore ordained that each Brewer should produce good and sufficient wholesome Ale worth the price of 2 shillings a pint, under penalty of 30 Shillings each brewing. Officers were appointed to go through the town each week to keep check.
Thomas Miller the Brewer is mentioned in 1785 as one of the 'prosperous merchants' who contributed to the raising of funds for 10 oil lamps and the upkeep, to light the High Street. Oil cost 1 shilling a pint.
Competition must have been fierce, indeed Ale was brought
in from outside and there are records in 1830, of a Mr Cooper, a Brewer in Edinburgh bringing Ale in to Queensferry to sell. he would not have been the only one.
In 1889, George Sandercombe, in West Terrace, advertised in the 'Observer', Bass and Alsops Ales and Guiness's Dublin Stouts, well matured and bottled on his own premises at 2s 6d for a dozen pints.
There is a photo of the Brewery dated 1890 in Queensferry Museum.
1881 has the first mention of Brewery Close, but there are no Brewers there. Living there, in houses No's 1-5, are a Shale Miner, Dressmaker, Outdoor worker, Fisherman, Mason, Teacher Assistant, a Maltman, and their families.
In 1891, there are, a General Labourer, Farm Servant, Outdoor Worker, Shale Miner, Field Worker, a Warehouseman, and their families.
1901 is listed a Fisherman, Charwoman, Field Worker, Bridge Painter, a Dairyman (James Hardie) and their famiies.
1911 Valuation Form, lists, in West Terrace, House, Byre and Stable, Milkhouse and Cellar belonging to Jane Hardie, Dairy keeper, Brewery Close. There is also part of Maltbarns belonging to James Davidson, Butcher.
1921/22 Valuation Roll, lists in Brewery Close, a House, Byre, Milkhouse and Cellar belonging to Thomas and James Hardie- Dairykeepers. Slaughterhouse- John Davidson Butcher, Stable, Store, Tenant James Davidson a Butcher, A Stable lying empty, 3 houses, nos 1-5 owned by William Russell, a farmer living in south Africa, and let out to various families.
1970/71 Valuation, in Brewery Close, lists only, No2- House and Garage, owned by Mrs Bridget Inglis, Tenant John Henderson, No 1, Garage owned by William Carson , Garage, Tenant- Queensferry Garage, and an Office rented by HM Customs & Excise.
If we look at former information, where in 1833, John Dudgeon, the Farmer of Almondhill, owned the Brewery, Maltbarn, Kiln and Stable on the South side of the High Street and James Moir Todd, Brewer and Tenant of the Brewery, Maltbarn and Kiln on the South Side of the High Street. It looks more than likely this was a Brewery in Brewery Close. Given that in the 1911 Census the first hint may be that part of the Maltbarns, listed as in Brewery Close, belonged to James Davidson, Butcher.
Also given that there is no mention of any Brewer, Brewery, or Maltbarns in the scant earlier census records, it would appear that there has been no Brewer at Brewery Close from 1841. What happened to the Brewery between 1833 and 1841, 8 years, is the puzzle as to the last Brewer in Brewery Close. Remember the Brewery building was lying derelict by 1904!
It seems safe to assume the last Brewer was James Moir Todd, the Tenant of the Brewery. It is also safe to assume Victorian Brewery Close was not a pleasant place to be, with a Brewery, sour milk from the Dairies, stables for the delivery horses, outside toilets, and middens!
He had been elected a Councilor and Burgess in 1635.
In 1641 he decided he wanted a house fitting to his station in life.
The Stone building, standing at the West End of Queensferry, called Plewlands House, was erected. It stands 3 stories high, and has inner spiral staircase, placed centrally in the Eastern wall. The masonry is harled rubble. The Roof is timber with slate.
In 1952 the house had fallen into a semi derelict state and in 1953 it was gifted to the National Trust of Scotland. It was restored in 1955, as a pleasing example of 17th Century Scottish Domestic Architecture. Funded by £4,000 donated by the Pilgrim's Trust, the house was converted into 7 flats. The first residents moved in October 1955. It was sold back into private ownership in recent years.
© Queensferry History Group 2015