BBC NEWS Americas Africa Europe Middle East South Asia Asia Pacific

BBC News World Edition
 You are in: UK  
News Front Page
Middle East
South Asia
N Ireland
Talking Point
Country Profiles
In Depth
BBC Sport
BBC Weather
Friday, 5 July, 2002, 15:48 GMT 16:48 UK
Jubilee tour diary: Beer in Burton
The BBC's arts and media correspondent Nick Higham is following the Queen on her Jubilee tour of the UK.

This is the 13th in a series of dispatches from around the country.

Wednesday 3 July

In its heyday there used to be over 30 different breweries in Burton on Trent. Today, in the world-renowned capital of Britain's beer industry, there are just two - but they are huge.

It takes 20 minutes to walk from Burton railway station to the Queens Hotel in Bridge Street, down on the River Trent whose famously hard waters gave Burton ale its lightness and sparkle.

For much of the way the vast Bass brewery is a looming presence along the route, sometimes on both sides of the road, its vast silver silos steaming and gleaming silently in the night.

The Queen visits Burton
Hectic schedule: The Queen visits Burton
Over 2,000 people work here. Once it was ten times that many. In 1900 the company chartered 17 trains to take more than 11,000 employees on the annual company jaunt to Blackpool.

You get some idea of what the town looked like a century ago from the scale model of the Bass and Worthington plants, upstairs in the Bass Museum.

They wrap the town centre in a beery embrace, their brewhouses and chimneys towering over the houses, their private railway sidings threading through the town like veins.

The museum was carved out of one corner of the giant site - the old engineers' department - in Silver Jubilee year.

Some of its displays have almost become museum pieces themselves, notably the fully-furnished 1970s lounge bar, complete with Worthington E keg beer; the latest in pub design and mass market drinking 25 years ago, but today a reminder of quite how cheap and nasty the world looked back then.

Queen 'dazed'

Today the Queen is coming here to be entertained by local schoolchildren performing a brief pageant of Burton's history, to meet locals dressed in period costume, to see the museum's dray horses and to push the button to start the mash for a special Golden Jubilee celebration ale.

The royal motor arrives, preceded through the gates by a brewer's dray drawn by two magnificent shire horses.

From a distance the Queen seems relaxed and smiling broadly.

But a colleague who gets close to her during her tour says she looks dazed and a little glassy-eyed. If so she has some excuse.

Prince Philip feeding a Burton dray horse
Prince Philip had a whale of a time
Before the museum she has already been to the Market Place and the Abbey Garden in the centre of town to unveil a plaque commemorating a thousand years of brewing here (the monks started it).

She has been introduced to no fewer than 27 people in less than half an hour.

At the museum there are another 20 introductions, plus visitors books to be signed and posies to be accepted and video displays to view.

Later she will go on to the local arts centre, the Brewhouse, where she will meet another 29 people, including leaders of local ethnic minority communities and the mayors of Burton's twin towers from countries as far afield as the USA, Bulgaria and Malawi.

A royal tipple

From there she flies by helicopter to the National Arboretum at Alrewas, where 40,000 trees have been planted in memory of those killed in action and in the emergency services, before going on again to the Royal Show at Stoneleigh - and all before lunch.

If the Queen seems a little bemused the Duke of Edinburgh is having a great time.

Prince Philip tries Burton's 1977 ale
Silver Jubilee ale "tastes like Madeira"
He happily feeds the dray horses from a bucket of ale for the benefit of the photographers, and enthusiastically accepts an invitation to taste a special ale brewed 25 years ago for the Silver Jubilee.

The Duke observes, correctly, that the 1977 version tastes of Madeira. It is also a distinctly acquired taste - rich, dark, rather sweet and not remotely like any beer I have ever drunk before.

The Queen leaves for the arts centre, the Duke for a visit to the Marmite factory started in Burton a century ago, when some bright spark realised the nutritional potential of the brewers' yeast produced in profusion as a waste product by Burton's breweries.

A welcome boost

The BBC catches up with them again in the sunshine at Stoneleigh, where they are driven around the huge showground in a coach and pair with scarlet-coated outriders, ending up in the Grand Ring for the presentation of prizes to the best cattle breeds - men and women in white coats stand smiling broadly next to huge beasts, as the Queen hands over the silver cups, before the stolid cattle are paraded around the ring.

Despite the sunshine there is a sombre tinge to the afternoon. The 2001 Royal Show was cancelled, thanks to foot and mouth. This afternoon the Queen meets representatives of the charities, largely run by the churches, which have been helping desperate farmers whose livelihoods have disappeared.

The Arthur Rank Centre at Stoneleigh, run jointly by the churches and the Royal Agricultural Society of England, created an entirely new charity in response to the crisis, the Addington Fund, which has so far distributed 10.3 million to 22,500 farmers.

The Royal Agricultural Benevolent Association has helped 10,000 families who have found themselves in dire domestic hardship.

The Farm Crisis Network - which provides a helpline and practical and pastoral support - and the Rural Stress Information Network were receiving hundreds of calls a day at the height of the outbreak.

That many of these organisations were already in existence long before foot and mouth is a reminder that much of British agriculture has been in crisis for years.

Yet the Rev Dr Gordon Gatward, who runs the Arthur Rank Centre, says one of the greatest problems has been persuading foot and mouth-stricken farmers to come forward and apply for help - partly out of pride, partly out of reluctance to be seen to pander to the popular prejudice that farmers are always looking for handouts.

The few minutes the Queen spent in the Centre, meeting representatives of all the charities, will have been a welcome endorsement of the value of the work they do.

Key stories



See also:

Links to more UK stories are at the foot of the page.

E-mail this story to a friend

Links to more UK stories

© BBC ^^ Back to top

News Front Page | Africa | Americas | Asia-Pacific | Europe | Middle East |
South Asia | UK | Business | Entertainment | Science/Nature |
Technology | Health | Talking Point | Country Profiles | In Depth |