Tuesday, 9 December 2008

Beware of cold small beer

In the grounds of Winchester Cathedral in the south of England, you will find the tombstone of Thomas Thetcher, known as the Hampshire Grenadier.  He has gained some fame because of the manner of his death as described on the tombstone which has been declared a Hampshire Treasure.  It reads:

In memory of Thomas Fletcher a Grenadier in the North Reg. of Hants Militia, who died of a violent Fever contracted by drinking Small Beer when hot the 12th of May 1764. Aged 26 years.

In grateful remembrance of whose universal goodwill towards his Comrades, this stone is placed here at their expence, as a small testimony of their regard and concern.

Here sleeps in peace a Hampshire Grenadier, 
Who caught his death by drinking cold small Beer,
Soldiers be wise from his untimely fall
And when ye're hot drink Strong or none at all.

This memorial being decay'd was restor'd by the officers of the Garrision A.D. 1781

An honest Soldier never is forgot
Whether he die by Musket or by Pot.
The Stone was replaced by the North Hants Militia when disembodied at Winchester, on 26th April 1802, in consequence of the original Stone being destroyed.
And again replaced by The Royal Hampshire Regiment 1966.

I'm fairly sure the Pot referred to in the last line is a pot of beer rather than anything else.

Small beer is a weak beer popular in medieval times because so there were so many water-borne diseases.  Most of the germs causing these diseases would be killed either by the process of brewing the beer or by the resulting alcohol content.  If the alcohol content was too low the protection may not have been there, possibly explaining poor Thomas' violent Fever.

Cold small beer is to be avoided then, an idea embraced by Strongs of Romsey, a Hampshire brewer, whose slogan until the 1970s was "drink Strong or none at all".
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  1. That is ia great card!

  2. I love grave/cemetery postcards, and I think I only have one!

  3. One forgets sometimes that people were the same back then as now - soldiers having the same friendships and regard for each other as now - very nice tombstone


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