Blue Monkey Brewery was first established in 2008 in Ilkeston, a town in the UK situated roughly half-way between Nottingham and Derby. For many years, Ilkeston’s biggest employer was Stanton Ironworks, which kept around 7,000 people in work.
Over the years the company produced a vast range of products such as spun iron pipes, street furniture, lighting columns and even the cast-iron tunnel segments used in the construction of the London Underground and the Mersey Tunnel. It was also a vital producer of artillery shells in both world wars.
My grandad, Tom Hickling, spent most of his working life operating the blast furnaces at Stanton. These furnaces were coal fired, so when they were in full flow they produced huge blue flames that could be seen around the town. These flickering blue flames, climbing into the night sky were known by some locals as the 'blue monkeys'.
Stanton Ironworks finally ceased production in 2007, and today most of the site has been demolished, with what remains largely standing derelict. Both my Grandad and the furnaces that he knew are now sadly long-gone, but at least the people of Ilkeston can see Blue Monkeys again!
John Hickling, Blue Monkey Brewery.