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18th century brewhouse … ‘no work too heavy for a woman’.

To have a house and not to brew was a rare thing indeed …” wrote William Cobbett in 1821; he could have been writing about East Meon at any time in the previous 800 years. As described, all farmhouses would have included services, such as the dairy and bake-house; most farms also had a backhouse with brewing equipment. Before the onset of scientific and industrial brewing in the 19th century most farmyards also had malthouses. The brew was steeped in a cistern for at least two days: plenty of floor space was needed for the next operation when the barley was left to germinate on a timber or lime plaster floor; once the grain sprouted, the malted grain was dried or heated on a kiln floor of brick or tile. The malt was then ground, mashed and brewed to make beer. Like the making of butter, cheese and bread, it was work for the women of the household: as William Cobbett later wrote: “The putting of beer into barrel is not more than an hour’s work for a servant woman, or a tradesman’s or a farmer’s wife. There is no work too heavy for a woman in any part of the business.”