Spirit of Harborough
This month’s entry has been written by our volunteer, Susan Hammond. To celebrate the Spirit of Harborough Festival, which took place at the end of May, this month’s object is Inclined Plane Beer from the Langton brewery. To find out more about other festivals, please visit the Explore Harborough website.
Object of the month
Found in the ‘Living off the Land’ display cabinet in the museum, this bottle of hoppy, straw-coloured ale named after the local landmark at Foxton Locks won the Bronze Award in the Best Bitter category in the Champion Beer of Great Britain Awards in 2014. Brewed at the Langton Brewery since 2004, it uses a North American hop called ‘Amarillo’ which is only grown on six farms in America2. Inclined plane is now the single most successful beer produced by Langton’s outselling any of their other beers three to one.
Beer has been an important part of rural life in Britain for many centuries. Besides being one of the staple drinks until improvements were made to the water supply, wouldn’t you really appreciate that refreshing pint after toiling all day in the fields under a hot sun? Before commercial breweries dominated the production of beers and ciders most people drank what was brewed locally.
After almost disappearing, small craft breweries are once again thriving, with their ales tailored to local tastes and celebrating their local communities. The Langton Brewery is just one great example and most of their fifty plus brews are named after aspects of rural life. For example ‘Caudle’ is named after the hills surrounding the local villages while ‘Bowler’ (also on display in the museum) was created for the local cricket club.
Although established in 1999 at the Bell Inn, East Langton, the Langton Brewery was relocated to more suitable premises at Thorpe Langton in 2005 where they were able to increase production and keep up with demand.
The Place: Thorpe Langton
Thorpe Langton (meaning “long town”) is situated about four miles north of Market Harborough and has a population of around 2000. The village contains many two storied red brick and slate roofed buildings, some dating to the 18th century, but also several stone built houses of its earlier days. As well as the Langton Brewery the village is home to the Baker’s Arms pub and St. Leonard’s church. Otherwise it is solely residential. The current 17th century manor-house may have been the home farm of the Roberts family, primarily a country residence rather than an agricultural estate.
St Leonard’s Church, built of ironstone with limestone dressings is of medieval origin dating from the 13th-15th centuries with its mother church based in the nearby Church Langton. In 1868 St Leonards was restored by Joseph Goddard and a burial ground added in the late 19th century. Two WWI war memorials are based at the church today and it has three bells which were all recast in 1846.
There is a sad little story associated with the belfry: “On a night in 1782, one of the bellringers left the tenor bell upside down and balanced so that it might turn over in the night and wake the village. It stayed put until the morning, when it killed a carpenter who had gone into the belfry.”