Anthony, 65, was behind the successful renovation and rejuvenation of Barton Manor, converting what was once part of Queen Victoria’s Osborne House estate it into one of the Island’s leading tourist attractions of the time, and producing fine wines from its vineyards.
For the past 18 years he has been at the helm of the equally successful Goddard’s Brewery, winning numerous awards for real ales which remain as popular as ever, not only on the Island but also along the south coast.
At the brewery’s headquarters at Barnsley Farm on the outskirts of Nettlestone, Anthony reflected on the many highs and occasional lows of a career that has also embraced engineering, agriculture, and accountancy.
“I am very lucky that I have seen and done lots of interesting things. I have been fortunate that I have enjoyed good health, a long-lasting marriage, and good businesses. So really I am not complaining about anything,” says the man who once saw more than £1million of his assets wiped out in the Lloyds of London controversies.
Anthony revealed that he was conceived behind German lines in Northern Italy during the Second World War. His father John was an Army Officer who won the Military Cross for his actions in North Africa. Shortly after that he was captured, but after two years ‘in the bag’ he became an escaped prisoner of war and he met his wife Vilma – Anthony’s mother – after she sheltered him for eight months or so, while running messages and medicines for the partisans.
They came to England to live in Surrey after the war, and that was where Anthony was born and brought up before attending Uppingham School in the Midlands. He recalls: “I was planning to go to University to read engineering, but my father had a serious heart attack, so it was a time for work instead.”
He worked for twenty months in heavy engineering in the East End of London, which he says brought him down to earth with a big thump, which he probably needed. He then worked on the shop floor of the family engineering company for another year, before gradually working his way up the ladder.
When his father suddenly died Anthony was just 21, and found himself catapulted into a position of considerable responsibility at Hillaldam Coburn Ltd, which celebrates its 100th anniversary later this year. He headed production at one of the factories which employed some 150 workers. He said: “There were lots of politics in the company, all very unpleasant. My family were only minority shareholders, but managed to team up with a couple of others and forced a sale.”
That prompted him to gain chartered accountancy qualifications, and he also undertook a one-year farming course at the Royal Agricultural College, Cirencester. He admitted: “It suddenly dawned on me that the world keeps the score in pounds, shilling and pence, and if you understand how you keep the score it’s a useful tool.”
Anthony arrived on the Island with Alix – his wife of nearly 40 years – in 1976. The couple have two daughters, and Anthony recalls he was attracted to a property after seeing what he described as ‘a picture of a nice house with a duck on a pond’. It in fact proved to be Barton Manor with a black swan on its lake. He smiled: “We came to the Island to grow grapes. So we started the vineyard which grew from four-and-a-half acres up to 15 acres.”
As the wine empire grew he and Alix found themselves supplying such illustrious customers as Buckingham Palace, the Royal Yacht Britannia, Harrods, The Ritz, several embassies and Lancaster House for Government banquets. During its height the company also won the ‘English Wine of the Year’ competition.
“When we bought Barton Manor we were extremely lucky that the property market was very depressed, so we put in a very cheeky offer that was less than half the asking price, and it was accepted,” he said. The vendor even lent Anthony and Alix £15,000 interest free for 10 years to ensure the sale went ahead.
They remained at Barton Manor for 16 years, and it seemed little could go wrong. But as Anthony puts it: “I rather stupidly joined Lloyd’s as an underwriter, and got a damn good poke in the wallet for my trouble, along with about 20,000 others. It cost me a seven-figure sum, so we had to sell up, and came to Barnsley Farm in 1991.”
At the time the farm was a fire-gutted ruin, with no windows and dilapidated outbuildings. As the major renovation programme slowly got off the ground, the couple at one point lived on-site in a caravan.
“I was looking for a job, and was not too fussed about what I did. But as time went by the demands from Lloyd’s grew, so we had to put a lot of graft into Barnsley Farm. I did the electrics and plumbing myself very-much a DIY project. The house had been empty eight years after burning down, and it was all very primitive,” he said.
“I did find a part-time job doing work for a motor racing club in Silverstone, but realising I was completely unemployable, decided to start the brewery.”
The traditional real ale brewery opened in 1993, using the 18th century converted barns on site as its HQ, and it became Goddards Brewery Ltd a year later. It continued to grow along with the restoration of the farm, and the company’s annual turnover rose to in excess of £1.85million.
The brewery began with just Anthony and one brewer, with an outside firm used for distribution. But in 1995, as expansion continued, the whole operation moved to its current site. And Anthony can now proudly boast: “Someone has worked out that a pint of our beer goes down someone’s throat every 53 seconds!”
The company acquired its first pub, The Wishing Well, in 1999, and acquired what was the Billy Bunter’s in Shanklin the following year, and at one point had 65 employees. Both pubs were subsequently sold on, and four years ago the wholesale part of the business closed, so now there are a more manageable nine employees. But Goddards still produces in excess of 11,000 pints of beer every week.
Scrumdiggity, formerly Special Bitter, and Fuggle-Dee-Dum are among the brews that have won numerous awards for their quality and flavour. With around 400 customers that stock Goddards beer at some time, there are about 100 Island outlets that have it on tap throughout the year.
Anthony was the Island’s High Sheriff in 2004, a year which he says was extremely interesting, and confirmed to him that the Isle of Wight is a very special place to live. He said: “When I had the problems with Lloyds it was never a question of trying to find anywhere else to live. We wanted to stay here. Apart from anything else, we have lots of friends that are not easily replaced.”
Away from brewing beer Anthony’s big passion is historic motor racing, and for the past 11 years he has raced a succession of 1960’s cars from Formula 5000 to a shared sports racing car. Currently he takes his 1961 Formula Junior Tojiero on circuits throughout Britain, and abroad. He was also treasurer and company secretary of the Historic Sports Car Club.
“Last year I went mad and went to Monza, Hockenheim, Nurburgring, Spa, Dijon, Silverstone three times, as well as Brands Hatch, Knockhill, Oulton Park and Goodwood. It was a conscious decision to get on with it while I am still able – which is unlikely to be much longer at this rate!” he said.
“I have also had autogyros in the back of my mind, for some time. So I bought one a couple of years ago, and this summer I intend getting my gyro licence. So when I finish motor racing I shall play with the autogyro and see if I can do myself some damage in that! I also love skiing, which I started back in 1959, and looking back I feel I have been lucky.”
Many people have complimented Anthony on the way he bounced back from the Lloyds financial blow. But he insists: “You have two choices; you either sit around feeling sorry for yourself, or kick on. I had a lot of support from my family, and I found it easier to kick on.”
Anthony left it until near the end of the interview before revealing how the Goddards beer ‘Duck’s Folly’ got its name. He laughed: “It’s an anagram – and the second word is Lloyds!”