Tuesday, October 18, 2011

1st Portsea Island Beer festival..

The "Retreat to the Coast" game continues and I have a massive update as soon as I can get my act together to tidy it up and put some lucid thoughts round it...

Life has been a tad more busy than I expected just recently, in a good way I hasten to add, and has delayed the completion of the game - to be honest I'm gagging to get back "at it" but the ability to leave a game up in situ is a huge benefit...

So what's taking up the time? Well since the last update a couple of things - all of Sunday was taken up with family duty's and sailing - the end of the sailing season is fast approaching so I'm getting in as much time on the water as I can to tide me through the long winter months...

All of Saturday though was taken up with a visit to the 1st Portsea Beer festival [click here] which my brother-in-law-in-law (we're married to sisters..) and I cycled to on what must have been one of the most glorious October days I can remember... 35 miles, but well worth it to partake of a large number of local ales - over 50 in fact from a variety of local breweries - some absolute crackers but the venue for the event was particularly impressive - it was held in the Groundlings Theatre which is located in a Grade 2 listed schoolhouse built originally in 1784, so dating back to the Georgian period...

So the story goes, in 1754 a Beneficial Society was created by local man John Shakespear and five colleagues with the aim of supporting each other in times of need. Each member contributed one shilling per month and it was agreed that any spare money collected would be donated to pay for the education of poor children from the local area. The society membership was extended the next year, which in turn allowed the building of the school in 1784.
The Old Benificiary School Portsmouth, HampsireDownstairs was the class room and upstairs was used by the Society for meetings, concerts and theatrical events.

Apparently the school applied a very disciplinarian attitude to education and there is still a hook in the building, to which originally children were tied to receive punishment by the birch!

Girls were allowed to enrol in 1837, a junior (primary) school was also formed in 1873, but the school had to be closed during WWII (presumably because it's only a couple of hundred yards away from the dockyard) - in fact rumour has it that a Nazi sympathiser used the roof to signal German bombers attacking the dockyard.

The school finally closed in 1962, and re-opened as the theatre in 2010 - and very lively it is as well. A brilliant venue - the festival was in the old meeting room upstairs, a lovely airy room...

Two interesting facts about the building, in 1812, whilst attending a dance in the building, Elizabeth Dickens went into labour and shortly afterwards gave birth to her son ....Charles - you may know him.... also, the man who became the Premier of South Australia 7 times and after whom Ayres Rock was named, Henry Ayres, was a pupil at this school.... oh, and apparently it's haunted by at least 15 ghosts, and a friendly poltergeist..

Not a bad venue for a beer - will definitely be going again next year!


  1. Sounds like you had a wonderful day, Steve.

    Too bad you can't send all of us some of those ales over the internet.

    -- Jeff

  2. Fascinating! Love this sort of stuff. So which beer was your favourite (or can't you remember!)?

  3. Cheers guys - I was looking for a picture that showed the hall which was particularly fine - huge Georgian windows... this was the best I could find, and is the current theatre..


    Legatus - no problem at all remembering - it was such a clear cut winner that it towered over other finalists... if you see it around, I would very much recommend a pint of "American Pale Ale" by the Dark Star Brewing Company (of Brighton) - 4.7% of sheer, unadulterated, golden, (very) hoppy, bitter, loveliness...


    ...to be fair though I've had it before and knew I was in for a treat!

  4. Cycled there. I suspect that the ride home was rather longer after consuming 50 beers!
    Beer is having something of a revival at the moment - a good sign being the amount of shelf space supermarkets are clearing for bottled beers now.