Henry ‘Orator’ Hunt (1773-1835) was one of the best known English radical leaders of the first half of the nineteenth century, active before the Chartist movement. Hunt was a speaker at Peterloo in Manchester in 1819 and was jailed for the words he spoke there about the vote.
Hunt was a well to do West Country farmer, someone who William Cobbett looked to for agricultural advice, and after his political activities led to the decline of his farming business, he diversified into a range of other business activities including tea and coffee substitutes.
I was researching Hunt- the modern biography is by John Belchem-primarily because of an interest in political leadership and Gentleman Leaders, of whom Hunt was certainly one.
In doing so I came across his ownership, in the first years of the nineteenth century, of a brewery in Bristol. It may be that there is other research on this, although I havent yet been able to find any, but I note below some details.
The Jacob’s Well brewery was based on the site of an old distillery at the foot of Brandon Hill on Jacob’s Wells Rd, Hotwells.
Hunt invested in the brewery at the behest of a relative and a young brewer was hired. Barley from Hunt’s farm was used, apparently of top quality and Hunt was keen that the beer produced was of a similar nature. The British Gazette reported it brewing a ‘genuine table beer produced from the best malt and hops and wholly exempt from any other ingredient whatsoever’.
Hunt was determined to avoid the use of additives in his beer and signed up with the Mayor of Bristol to this effect, but it appears the brewer had other ideas. Hunt had to intervene when losses at the brewery mounted and it became clear that the brewer was not only producing bad, adulterated, beer but also siphoning off cash as well. He fled and Hunt took direct control, moving from his farm to Clifton to do so.
Ive found one further issue related to the brewery. Hunt began using a natural colouring to produce porter style beer. This drew the attention of the Excise- very probably a political interest- and barrels were confiscated from the brewery. Hunt contended, correctly, that he had done nothing illegal and a Court ordered the return of the beer with an apology.
The brewery, still loss making, appears to have closed in 1809. The connection between beer and radical politics is well known, as is the Tory politics of most large brewery owners- the Beerage. However it is rare to find such a prominent radical figure as Hunt with a brewing heritage.
More information on the Jacobs Well brewery, gratefully received. I may continue to research it myself as time allows.