Tuesday, 28 September 2010

G. & W. E. Downing, Maltsters, Gloucester (2)

Yesterday I presented the sign painted by George and William E. Downing on the second malthouse of their Gloucester site. Further expansion took place in 1901 with the addition of malthouses 3 and 4. Like malthouse 2, they were designed by Walter B. Wood and built by the Gurney Brothers. Both malthouses were of a similar interior design, with a basement working floor, a malt room, two more working floors, and two attics. A kiln was located at the north end of each. Malthouse 4 was slightly wider though, with an extra bay supported by pillars over the canal quay.

MaltstersG. & W. E. Downing...s
Head Office Spon Lane Smethwick

In 1931 G. & W. E. Downing was taken over by rival maltsters Samuel Thompson & Sons, also of Smethwick. However it was decided to retain the name Downing for the Gloucester side of the business. Founded in 1805, Samuel Thompson had almagated in 1928 with Gilstrap Earp, Edward Sutcliffe, and W. J. Robson to form Associated British Maltsters (ABM), but each company retained its trading name.
In the 1950s the original malthouse was largely demolished and replaced by a concrete building and the two more recent ones were slightly modified to improve productivity. Yet the face of the industry was changing, with the introduction of new technology and the arrrival on the British market of international groups. In 1972, ABM was taken over by Australian company Dalgety that was expanding rapidly its UK interests. Once the purchase was completed, Dalgety decided to replace the name Downing by ABM. Production at the Gloucester malthouses came to an end in 1980 after Dalgety opened a brand new plant at Wallingford. The site was sold then to the West Midlands Farmers.

When Malthouses 3 and 4 were built, a bridge was erected across Merchant Street to link them to the earlier ones. In the 1970s it was painted with the ABM initials. The sign posted yesterday is on the first wall on the left. Behind the bridge is the contrete malthouse that replaced the original 1876 facilities.

For more information about G. & W. E. Downing, you can refer to the excellent article "Downing's Malthouses" published in 2008 in the Gloucestershire Society for Industrial Archaeology Journal.

Location: Merchant Road, Gloucester, Gloucestershire / Pictures taken on: 24/07/2010

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