Who’d have thought it would be hard to pin down when a brewery closed. Maybe it just wasn’t that big a deal. In the 1851 census, William Wilson is recorded as a brewer employing five men. Wealthy enough to support himself, his wife, four children and two house servants. Wealthy enough that in the 1855 valuation roll, he is listed as tenant of the brewery, its house and land and a field or enclosure on Sandilands (where I live). But maybe that wasn’t all that wealthy and that sort of business disappearing never makes the news. Nothing in the newspapers.
To recap, there are records of the brewery as a going concern up to 1854, when Mr Wilson is cited as an authority in the object names book accompanying the mapping of that year. He’s not in Limekilns in the 1961 census and the Dunfermline parochial record of 1861, under brewers and maltsters, has no William Wilson. Wilson has gone, although the brewery might remain.
The next bit of evidence I’ve found is a report from the Dundee Courier of 15 June 1867, which suggests that by January 1865 the brewery had become an “old brewhouse”, available to have its copper and boilers stolen, and that ownership had passed to George Ainslie (the one fined for cheating the excise in 1864).
The British Newspaper Archive (source of the material above) also throws up some other references to Wilson (perhaps not the same one, although how many could there be?). One of his carts killed a child in October 1856. (While you’re here, marvel at the reporting of the incident and the lengths the newspaper goes to excuse it). You have to wonder what is meant by the last sentence – the royalty. My guess is that this is refers to compensation paid to the child’s parents.
And it seems that by February 1860, William Wilson was bankrupt. That might explain why he has left Limekilns before the 1861 census.
So my guess now is that when Wilson went bankrupt in 1860, the brewery closed and although Ainslie might have taken it over, alongside his malting business, it never got going again and was sufficiently run down to be the “old brewhouse” and ripe for theft by 1865. Wilson crops up again in a reference to his daughter’s marriage in Edinburgh in January 1873.
Finally, in May 1879, Ainlsie was also in court as bankrupt.