Serving the communities of Bures St Mary and Bures Hamlet

The Maltings, Station Hill - Part II



We know from records published in 1868 (Morris' Directory) Malt was extensively manufactured in the village, the duty paid being over twenty thousand pounds per annum.

There are known to have been six malt houses in the parish, the three oldest of them in the High Street which were producing malt up until 1939. There was the malt house in Church Square where it joins Nayland Road, now replaced by the disused textile factory (demolished now residential housing).
Across the bridge in Bures Hamlet close by the river, was the 1836 malt house put up by John Garrad who also put up the larger 1851 malt house beside the railway line. John Garrad was also a proprietor by this time of the three malt houses put up around 1750 in the High Street.

The profits from this thriving business, enabled James Dalton to build his imposing house (Bures House) next door to his Church Square maltings, and set up John Garrad in a very fine way of business. By the time he died in 1874, he held considerable amount of land and property.

Malting Process at Bures.
Malting is the process of converting starch, stored in the grain of cereal into a sweet substance, called malt sugar or Maltose. The malt sugar is soluble in water, this can easily be extracted from the grain.
Malt is artificially germinated grain. Malting was and to some extent still is a seasonal process and historically took place between the months of October and May. Barley is usually the raw ingredient for making malt. The making of malt is a standard process but the exact method of production usually varied little from one malthouse to another.
A number of factors affect the details of the process, including the type of malt to be made, the barley's being malted, and the micro-climate around the buildings and its effect on growing temperatures and ventilation.

This was the basis of the Malting process at Bures.

Three men were employed here as Maltsters.
This was very labour intensive work. The demand was for muscular young men, able to carry 18 stone (225lbs) sacks of barley upstairs on their backs.

Bures Malsters
Date unknown
Arrival of Grain
Cleaning through screens

The incoming grain arrives by lorry or wagons in large two hundredweight sacks from the local farms. It was manhandled into the Maltings, where it was taken out of the sacks and passed though screens to remove dust, small stones and loose husks. Once the grain s cleaned it is then transferred to a large water cistern. this held 2,500 gallons of water and could treat 4 tons of barley

This is called "Steeping" where the grain is soaked for three days to allow shoots to appear.

The water in the cistern was ideally about 54°F (12.5°C). Lower than this and growth would be retarded, and higher more water would be taken up. The steeping period lasted between 60 and 72 hours.
During this time the water was changed several times and the barley was rested for periods varying between eight and twelve hours. The aim of steeping was to give the barley sufficient moisture to ensure perfect and regular germination. The moisture content of the barley after steeping should be 40 to 45 per cent.

Emptying steeped grain

The steeped grain is then transferred to the malt floor, during which time the grain sprouts puts out a root.

The depth of the grain on the floor would vary from four to eight inches depending, upon the weather conditions. The temperature on the floor ranged from 56°F (13°C) to 65°F (15°C) or even 70°F (22°C), with the higher temperature being reached at the end of growing. As growing progressed the rootlets began to grow and it was necessary to turn the growing grain to prevent it from matting together and to ensure the growth was even. Originally this was done by hand using a broad flat bladed shovel. Later, ploughs, which were! three pronged, flat bladed 'forks', were used, and more recently, in the 20th century, mechanical shovels were introduced.
The grain is turned daily to allow the air to circulate and to prevent mould and fungus attack. The temperature is regulated, by controlling the draughts of air coming in through slatted windows. It is essential to keep a close watch on the process at all times.

Daily turning of the grain
Bures Maltings with:-
Norman Cudmore, Jim Fisher &
Ralph Warden

During this time the starch has been converted by enzymes within the grain, into malt sugar;

Jim Fisher who started work in 1951 at the Old Maltings by the railway line remembers: "Sweat! We started work at six in the morning and we'd lost a couple of pounds of weight by breakfast time. It never did us any harm and we'd come home after the day's work and have tea and go out and dig the garden. There were three of us working down there, and before mechanisation we produced nine hundred tons of malt a year, which later rose to three thousand tons a year"

"Malting went on night and day for eleven months of the year. We didn't malt in August; we closed down for cleaning whilst we were waiting for the new harvest of barley. The schoolchildren were let in to help; the floor of the kiln was made of perforated tiles that let the hot air come up from the fire below, and the children were paid a farthing each to prick out the malt grains from the holes in the tiles"
"If the kiln were being used on Christmas day, someone would have to be there at three in the morning to attend to the fire. Coal wasn't used because of the danger of arsenic fumes from the coal getting into the malt, which happened around about the year 1900. Anthracite was a safe fuel to use. "

Firing the Kiln
Loading the kiln with grain

To stop the sprouting process, the grain required substantial heat.

After five days on the drying floors the barley was taken to the kiln; access was provided by a door at second floor level and the barley was lifted from the lower floors by bucket elevators.

When the green malt, as partially germinated barley is called, had reached the required extent of growth, it was ready to go to the kiln, this would stop the growing process.

In the kiln the green malt was laid on the floor which was often of perforated ceramic tiles, a foot square. By the end of the 19th century the drying floor was often of wedge wire, although earlier drying floors of woven wire were used. The depth of the green malt on the kiln floor was usually about 8-12in. (20-30 cm). It was turned during kilning, by hand in the early days, or later on by mechanical turners. The malt was on the kiln for three or four days.
The temperature varied according to how well the kiln was constructed and the type of malt being made, but could be as high as 220F (105°C). The fuel used in malt kilns by the 19th century was mainly anthracite or coke and as the combustion products usually passed directly through the malt, a fuel of low arsenic content was essential. An exception was the production of brown malt where wood faggots were always used.

The kilning of the malt arrested germination and therefore halted the breakdown of the starch molecules. It also reduced the moisture content to about three per cent, which was necessary for safe storage, and produced an ideal grain for grinding to grist in the brewing process. Kilning also gave colour and flavour to the malt.

It was a very anxious business. It was not until the sprouted grains had been heated, dried in the kiln and the malt safely stored, could the workmen relax.

The dried product is malt, of an aromatic smell and of a sweet taste. The shoots and the roots named Culms can be used for the extraction of their vitamin B; in pre vitamin days, they were a great favourite with the victorian gardener for the dressing of a fine lawn, a favourite food of the earthworm.

Loading sacks and departure to the brewery at London.

Circa 1890

Malt screen and brusher. Used in the Maltings until 1945.
Malt was fed into the hopper and down into the brush lined funnel. Brushes were turned by the handle; these cleaned the malt of dust and small seeds before being bagged as it came out of the chute.

Courtesy of the East Anglian Museum of Life

Finally, the kilned malt was dressed (the rootlets moved and the grain cleaned) and then stored until it was required for brewing. It was usual to store the malt for at least a month before it was used.

No brewing was undertaken at Bures, all the Malt was transferred to Trumans at Brick Lane, London.
The Malt was transported initially by rail, with wagons loaded in an adjacent siding. Later lorries
took over the task.

1. Photographs are not necessarily taken at Bures.
2. Information supplied by Jim Fisher who worked at the Maltings until it closed on July 10th 1981.

The soluble malt sugar, is dissolved out in hot water. When this "sweet wort" has been run off and cooled, suitable yeast is added which proceeds to convert the malt sugar into alcohol and carbonic acid gas.
When the yeast has been removed at a suitable stage, the resulting liquid is Ale, the favourite drink of our eighteenth century ancestors, who preferred to drink it sweet and strong. The addition of hops to this brew, produces beer. The more malt sugar there is in the sweet wort the sweeter the ale; fermentation by yeast taken to its limit removes all the sugar.

Malt can be produced from any cereal grain whose starch can be converted into sugar as the young plant germinates, and barley is by far the most suitable grain for the making of beer. Malt can be used for the making of drinks other than beer; the details vary, but the basic principle has been described.

The grains of malting quality barley must contain a generous quantity of starch for conversion into malt sugar, yet must not contain too much nitrogen (which produces a cloudy beer which cannot be cleared)

In 1757 Edward Lisle wrote about the malt house on his farm where "he steeped as much barley as the floor would carry, which was four quarters at a wetting". In Edward Lisle's day, that operation meant a considerable amount of physical exertion in carrying sacks of barley to the malting floor, steeping it in water, and later spreading the soaked grain out on the floor. As it sprouted the grain had to be turned and aerated, the temperature regulated by controlling the draughts of air coming in the slatted windows and keeping a close watch at all times.

The 1851 Maltings of Bures was the last to operate in the village. It was closed down on July 10th 1981.
Advances in automation, finally forced its closure.

Malting was transferred to Sudbury. located on the existing Waitrose Supermarket site. This was an enormous size, stretching from the (now) Waitrose site along to the Granary/QuayTheatre.

Malt is now made by an enclosed process and reduced to automation, but there are brewers who prefer Floor Malt. They prefer the old fashioned traditional product, which contains no additives.

In the nineteenth century, Bures was a very busy, thriving industrial village, farming being by far and away the commonest occupation of its inhabitants. Ancillary to its farming interests came the blacksmiths and wheelwrights and many others including tanning and malting.

The entry for John Garrad in the 1851 Census reads: 28 men employed in malting, 23 men employed in farming, 8 men employed in brickmaking, & 9 men employed in tanning. Some of John Garrad's men must have lived outside Bures, being recorded elsewhere in the census; he was not the only employer of men working in Bures in the malting industry, and the tannery after 1851 was leased out to other employers.
We do not have an 1828 account of the occupations of the people of Bures but ten years later a Tithe Apportionment lists the following employers:

Five separate Maltings
One Tanyard
One Wheelwright's shop
Three Blacksmith's shops
One Brickyard

Also a short distance downstream of the bridge there were the Granary and Wharf, dealing with water borne traffic carried on Stour barges.

Extract of historical paper by Dr K Brown (Dec)

Press Cutting taken from Bury & Norwich Post
Dated, July 11th 1871

There was an inquest at the Queens Head Hotel at Bures on the body of William Eary aged 63 years, a groom employed by Mr James Dalton a merchant and malster of Bures St Mary. On Saturday evening deceased was feeding a mare belonging to his master when it kicked him in the body. The animal was vicious and the deceased, was the man best able to manage it.
Verdict:- Accidental Death.