Song about two local brewers.
Drinking was an extremely popular pass-time on Tyneside, with 28 breweries operating in Newcastle by 1830. Beer, more so than spirits, was the tipple of most inhabitants. Ales were sold at various prices and were named as such. James Stawpert and partner Thomas Spencer, owners of the Sun Brewery, specialised in drinks such as Eightpenny Ale and Table Beer.
Many Newcastle brewers had promotional songs printed, all proclaiming the wonders of their ale. There was, therefore, an understandable degree of competition between local brewers. This song refers to the competition between two brewers, Henry Rennoldson and Vincent Errington. Wishing to steal Errington's recipe Rennoldson secures a thermometer and proceeds to take samples of his rival's ale. Learning of this Errington sets a trap for Rennoldson, ensuring that Errington would never again attempt to steal his recipe. A note on the broadside version of the song reveals that Henry Rennoldson was of Sandgate and died 2 January, 1828, aged 57 years.
Similar to the cheap press of today these poorly printed books and broadsides catered for popular tastes, being sold by chapmen in the country and booksellers in the town. Usually sold for no more than a penny, the production of these little books and broadsides were extremely profitable for most printers. Sold in bulk the material required little proof-reading, was widely plagiarised, and badly printed.
Newcastle was the second largest producer of chapbooks in the country at the time of this book's publication. 'The Newcastle Songster' was printed by J. Marshall, one of the most prominent chapbook printers in Newcastle during the early nineteenth century. This book forms part V of the 'Songster' series and is perhaps easier to date than the preceding parts. Although it is not clear whether parts I and II of the 'Songster' were published before or after John Bell's 'Rhymes of the Northern Bards, 1812, references to 'Hackney cabs' in part V, which were not introduced into Newcastle until 1824, give some indication of the publication date.
The book contains some of the region's best known traditional songs. From the 'Keelmen's Stick' to 'Hell's Kitchen', the book has offerings from well known Tyneside composers such as William Oliver and would have been extremely popular among the local population.