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My Collection

Worcester City Museum's model beer engine
1808 beer engine
Like any collector, it is not so much the possession of the items themselves, but the sharing of their knowledge so that other like-minded people can appreciate them also, that gives the greater satisfaction. So here, then, is my collection of Victorian and vintage early 20th century beer engines and beer-pump handles (see also my Beer Pumps, Beer Pump Handles and Patent Sample Beer Engine pages for more detail and additional items).

The photo that can be seen on the first page of this site ("Pulling Pints - Victorian Style") shows a number of beer-pump handles, together with a rare Victorian "cash-register" design 2-motion beer engine by J Warner & Sons in mahogany, with ebony and ivory handles. Next to it is a Gaskell & Chambers chrome plated brass counter pump dating from the turn of the 19th century, together with three brass pillar counter pumps - the one on the right being of similar vintage (manufacturer unknown). The other two examples, probably slightly earlier, are also by J Warner & Sons; one has a stop-cock on the spout, the other does not. Both spouts are fashioned literally to resemble a swan's neck and beak. Further pictures are shown below.

Click here to view the complete photographic catalogue of my Victorian and vintage beer-pump handle collection. That page also gives an individual description of each handle, and considers the general characteristics that define both the vintage and the modern beer-pump handle.

Worcester City Museum has a miniature model 4-motion beer engine made by William Stokoe c1900 as an apprentice piece, and is believed to be unique. The image, shown below, was reproduced from their website.
©Worcester City Museums
It is very similar in design to the Victorian beer engine I have:
Close-up of the brass plaque on my Victorian beer engine
The Crescent, off Jewin Street, no longer exists. The area suffered heavy bombing during the Blitz, and in the post-war redevelopment that followed the Barbican Centre was built on the site where it once stood.

I am not sure of the beer engine's exact age, but suspect it dates from the mid to late 19th century. I also have a 3-motion "cash register" beer engine that came from The Eagle, Skerne - see my Eagle and Eagles Beer Engine pages.

The George Inn, Borough High St, London SE1 has a similar 4-motion example (see my In The Pub page), which I remember being used to serve me several pints of Bass back in the mid-1970s. It has a mahogany casing with a mirrored backplate bearing the name "SOUTH, 21 George Strt, Blackfriars", ebony and ivory-topped handles, and pewter spouts. Although no longer in use, the engine is still visible at the back of the small servery. The George features in CAMRA's National Inventory of Historic Pub Interiors Part Two. Click here to visit their web-page, which includes a close-up photograph of its historic beer engine.

Another 4-motion example, probably the only one of its kind in the country still in daily use, can be found at The Old Crown, Kelston, Somerset (more details on my In The Pub page). It, too, is included in CAMRA's National Inventory of Historic Pub Interiors, link here.

This "cash register" design seems to have altered little during the course of the 19th century from that of the earliest beer engines - see below.
This is the earliest illustrated example of a beer engine I have seen. It is an engraving taken from "Pantologia - A New Cyclopedia" by John Mason Good & Olinthus Gilbert Gregory, published in London, 1813 (although this plate is dated August 1st 1808). The design forms the basis of the modern beer engine. Aesthetics aside, its basic mode of operation has remained essentially unaltered for the past 200 years.

One thing about this diagram intrigues me - there are four inlet pipes, four cylinders and four pump-handles. However there are only three taps above the sink on the left-hand side to which all the outlet pipes lead!

The very first design for a prototype beer engine was patented by Joseph Bramah on 31st October 1797 (No. 2196). It was entitled "Certain new methods of retaining, clarifying, preserving, and drawing-off all kinds of liquors commonly used for the beverage of mankind, more especially those liquors called malt liquors, such as porter, ale, beer &c., together with sundry improved casks and implements necessary to give contrivance the full effect". Bramah's invention involved the use of sand pressure. Heavy boxes of sand, with an accompanying pulley-system, operated a crude piston forcing the beer through pipes. For this purpose he used old musket barrels; the first pewter tubes for raising beer appeared in 1860. In order to utilise the device, the beer had first to be transferred from the barrels into open vessels. However the size of the machinery made it impractical for use in smaller cellars.  His patent specification is shown below.
Diagram of an 1808 beer engine
Joseph Bramah's Patent Specification No. 2196, dated 31st October 1797
Click here to view my collection of Victorian and vintage beer engines, spirit barrels and miscellaneous items of vintage breweriana. It also includes some noteworthy examples I have come across that are not part of my collection, but form an important contribution to the visual record that this site is seeking to establish and preserve. If you know of other examples, please email me with details and a photo and I will do my best to include them.