SEASONED ale drinkers and new converts alike raised their glasses to celebrate 170 years of Arkell’s brewery at a packed open day. Around 1,200 people made the most of fine weather on Saturday to enjoy a beer hall, tours and live music.

Three generations of the Arkell family mingled with crowds at the brewery, which began life in 1843 as part of a farm which used to occupy the landmark site.

Visitors sampled from a choice of 50 casks and took in displays of working steam engines, classic cars and scooters and an Arkell’s-sponsored vintage bus.

Tours of one of the last working Victorian breweries in the world also opened a window on time-honoured practices at the brewery in Kingsdown, Stratton.

Director George Arkell brought his children Oliver, seven, Isabella, six, Harry, five, and Monty, four, along to the festival, which raised funds for Prospect Hospice and Swindon Cares.

He said: “The weather’s been brilliant and it’s been a day for families, friends and people who live locally to find out what goes on behind the big white gates.

“To have three generations of our family here is fun and quite unique, but we also have the Mercers who have been at the brewery for two generations and the Dicks for three generations.”

Mr Arkell’s father James, the company chairman, was among other members of the brewing dynasty at the event.

Guests included Bill Baines, of Royal Wootton Bassett Classic Car Club, who displayed his finely-restored 1957 Rover 60.

Mr Baines, 73, said: “It’s an amazing event. It’s important for a company like Arkell’s to keep in touch with the local community and get people involved.”

Drinkers exhausted a supply of 1,500 half-pint glasses as they tried out beers, lagers and ciders from Arkell’s and other family brewers across the country.

Jennifer Snelham, 23, a financial administrator from Eldene, sampled Palmer’s Tally Ho.

“I’ve never been to anything like this before and it’s brilliant to see the old cars and try out the real ale,” she said. Pete Clark, 61, a retired toolmaker from Stanton Fitzwarren, was with friends enjoying the barbecue.

He said: “Arkell’s is the oldest company in Swindon going back to the dawn of the railways.

“It’s important to support these things otherwise we will lose them. I’m sure big breweries have tried to take Arkell’s over in years gone by but it’s stayed a family business, which is quite a rare thing today.

“The company deserves its place in history.”