A large Victorian glass brandy dispenser or brandy fountain etched to Benskins Brewery Watford.
The super quality spirit dispenser has a circular foot with reeded base column on which the body of the dispenser rests. The body has an aperture to the front in which sits a plated tap stamped to the maker, “R&I Black” and secured by means of a cork. The top of the body is surmounted with a circular cut glass lid with diamond decoration and pointil to the top.
The front of the body is beautifully sign written with the words, “Fine Pale Brandy” around a circular motif and floral designs to either side. The back is etched with both the manufacturers name, “JA Cox Manufacturer, Soho, London West” with the registered design number of “RD97380” for the year 1888. The name of the brewery company is also etched stating, “The Property of Benskins Watford Brewery Co, Watford”.
Little information seems to exist in regards to the manufacturer of this beautiful piece of pub memorabilia but I have seen other examples with the same stamps on a Scottish whisky dispenser so the company are likely to have made their living on supplying the brewing industry. The company of Benskins was originally founded by a Watford Miller, John Pope in 1693 and remained under family ownership, finally passing to Sarah Pope and her husband William Dyson in 1741. The Dyson family maintained the ownership until 1867 whereupon the death of John Dyson, the company as sold at auction to London Hotelier Joseph Benskin and Draper, William Bradley for £34,000. The partnership lasted until 1870 whereafter, Benskin continued to run the company alone.
Under the Benskin family, this small brewery was transformed and eventually bought out all other Watford breweries and had numerous other outlets across adjoining counties and Greater London. It was finally bought out in 1957 by Ind Coope by which time it had 636 pubs and 16 off-licences to its name and remained a working subsidiary of Ind Coope until the 1980’s. Although now defunct, the trademark now rests under the ownership of Carlsberg Breweries.
These public house spirit decanters would have been sited at the back of the bar in one of Benskin’s Public Houses during the late Victorian and Edwardian periods and could hold up to 15 bottles of spirits. They are not only a wonderful piece of breweriana with a great aesthetic but also remain as useful as they were when they were being produced. We wouldn’t recommend filling it to the top though, there would be a lot to get through!