A History of the County of Middlesex: Volume 2, General; Ashford, East Bedfont With Hatton, Feltham, Hampton With Hampton Wick, Hanworth, Laleham, Littleton. Originally published by Victoria County History, London, 1911.
This free content was digitised by double rekeying. All rights reserved.
In the Middle Ages when ale was the general drink of all classes, brewing was a necessary and often domestic industry, and few records of local courts are without some reference to its regulation. When, however, brewing became an extensive trade, and especially after the gradual change of taste which substituted hopped beer for the old English ale, we have few notices of any interest relating to brewing in rural Middlesex until comparatively modern times, though, as hereafter mentioned, a number of breweries are known to have existed near the river bank east of the Tower as early as the 15th century and perhaps before. The history of the licensing and regulation of ale houses belongs rather to Social and Economic History. William Hucks, who represented Wallingford in Parliament, was a well-known brewer of the 18th century. He was brewer to King George I, and paid that sovereign the doubtful honour of setting up his statue on the summit of the steeple of St. George's Church, Bloomsbury. This occasioned the following satirical quatrain:-
William Hucks was one of the principal inhabitants of the parish of St. Giles in the Fields, and of the new parish of St. George Bloomsbury, formed out of it in the year 1731. (fn. 1) He filled various parochial offices from 1689 to the separation of the parishes, was receiver of the subscriptions for building the workhouse, and took an active part in rebuilding St. Giles's Church. Parton attributes to him the well-known anecdote of the interview of King Lewis XV with the 'chevalier de malt' which is generally associated with Humphrey Parsons the East Smithfield brewer. (fn. 2)
On his death on 4 November 1740, he was succeeded by his son Robert Hucks. The site of the brewery is not known, but it appears to have been near the junction of Shaftesbury Avenue and Charing Cross Road. Mottley, who wrote (under the pseudonym of Robert Seymour) a Survey of London, published in 1735, gives a list of the streets and lanes in St. Giles's parish. (fn. 3) Among those included in 'the first part of the old town' are 'Brown's Gardens and therein Two Brewers Yard.' This is probably the site of the brewery, and the surrounding localities point to its position as indicated above.
The firm appears from the following note in the Annual Register for 1758, (fn. 4) to have had a branch establishment in Pall Mall: '30th May. At a store-cellar in Pall Mall, Mrs. Hucks's cooper, and a chairman who went down after him, were both suffocated as supposed by the steam of 40 butts of unstopped beer.' In the beer tax returns of 1760 'Huck' occupies a position eighth on the list with an output of 28,615 barrels. (fn. 5)
The Black Eagle Brewery at Spitalfields of Messrs. Truman, Hanbury, Buxton & Co., Ltd., is one of the oldest in London and covers an area of over 6 acres. The founder was one Thomas Bucknall, who in 1669 erected a brewhouse on 'Lolsworth Field at Spittlehope,' an estate then belonging to Sir William Wheler, bart. The business passed in 1694 into the hands of Joseph Truman the elder, the property consisting of six messuages and one brewhouse. (fn. 6) The remainder of the Wheler estate was built upon and covered with streets, and part of this property has since been acquired by the firm for the extension of their premises. Joseph Truman was a successful business man, and in 1716 took into partnership Joseph Truman, jun., Alud Denne, and others. He died in 1719, and a curious document of that date is in the firm's possession described as 'An inventory of the goods, chattels, and credits of Joseph Truman, which since his death have come into the hands, possession and knowledge of Benjamin Truman, Daniel Cooper, and the executors named in the will of Joseph Truman.' (fn. 7) Benjamin Truman who was an executor of Joseph Truman, sen., joined the firm in 1722. An anecdote which exhibits his shrewdness as a business man is told by J. P. Malcolm. (fn. 8) On the birth of the Duchess of Brunswick, granddaughter of George II, in August 1737, the Prince of Wales ordered four loads of faggots and a number of tar barrels to be burnt before Carlton House to celebrate the event, and directed the brewer of his household to place four barrels of beer near the bonfire for the use of those who chose to partake of the beverage. The beer proved to be of inferior quality and the people threw it into each other's faces and the barrels into the fire. The prince remedied the matter on the following night by ordering a fresh quantity of beer from another brewer. This was supplied by Truman, who took care that it should be of the best, thus earning for himself considerable popularity.
Another early document possessed by the firm, dated 1739, is endorsed, 'A "rest" (fn. 9) taken and general account stated of all debts and credits, and also of the malt, hoppes, coales, beer in the several store cellers and brewhouse, with all the other goods, utensells as affixt, used and employ'd in the brewing trade carried on by Benjamin Truman, John Denne, Francis Cooper, and the surviving executors of Alud Denne, at their brewhouse and several warehouses, situated in Brick Lane, in the parish of Christchurch, in the county of Middlesex.' At this time the brewery was very extensive, and had on its books 296 publicans, one of whom was the second partner in the firm, Alud Denne. The business greatly prospered under the management of Benjamin Truman, who was knighted by George III on his accession in recognition of his loyalty in contributing to the voluntary loans raised to carry on the various foreign wars. Sir Benjamin was a man of refined taste and a lover of the arts; his portrait by Gainsborough is preserved in the board-room, formerly the drawing-room, of the house in Brick Lane. Sir Benjamin Truman died 20 March 1780, and left a daughter, his only child, whose two grandsons (Sir Benjamin's great-grandchildren), John Freeman Villebois and Henry Villebois, succeeded to his interest in the business. The Hanbury family now became connected with the firm, Sampson Hanbury becoming a partner in 1780, and being joined later by his brother Osgood Hanbury. The brothers belonged to an old Essex family, their father, Osgood Hanbury, having a seat at Holfield Grange. Sampson Hanbury was greatly devoted to agriculture and a keen sportsman. He was an excellent man of business, and is said to have excelled all his clerks in his knowledge of book-keeping. His brother Osgood took a less active part in the business, devoting himself more to country life and the management of his Essex estate. Anna, the sister of Sampson Hanbury, married Thomas Fowell Buxton, of Earls Colne, Essex, and their son, Thomas Fowell Buxton, born in 1786, entered the service of his uncles at the brewery in 1808, at first as an assistant and three years afterwards as a partner. The young man had had a brilliant career at Trinity College, Dublin, and soon after his admission as a partner, the seniors, struck with his capability and energy, entrusted him with the responsible task of reorganizing the entire system on which the brewery was conducted. This he accomplished with great success, overcoming objections from the senior officials with great firmness and tact. Among other measures of reform, he resolved to remedy the state of gross ignorance which prevailed among the workmen. He dealt with this in a summary method, by calling the men together and threatening to discharge at the end of six weeks everyone who could not read and write. He gave them a schoolmaster and other means of instruction and fixed a day for examination, when he was gratified to find that he had not to send away a single man. He was also very careful to prevent the servants of the firm from working on Sunday. Mr. Buxton entered Parliament in 1818, and distinguished himself there by his efforts in the cause of philanthropy and in the reform of our judicial and penal systems. The great work of his life and the cause which lay nearest to his heart was that in which he was associated with William Wilberforce-the abolition of slavery in the dominions of Great Britain. In 1816, when almost the whole population of Spitalfields was on the verge of starvation, a meeting was called at the Mansion House, and Buxton delivered a forcible speech. He narrated the results of his personal investigations; the large sum of £43,369 was raised at the meeting, and an extensive and well-organized system of relief was established. He was for twenty years the representative of Weymouth in Parliament, and was made a baronet in 1841. He did not live long to enjoy his honours, but died in 1845, worn out by his great labours in public and private life.
Mr. Osgood Hanbury was succeeded by his son Robert, who was born in 1796 and entered the firm in 1820. He possessed great business abilities, and when Mr. Buxton's Parliamentary duties withdrew him from the active management of the brewery, the superintendence and control of the business passed entirely into his hands. Amongst other alterations which he carried out was the institution of the ale department, an example speedily followed by other London breweries. One of Mr. Hanbury's sons, Mr. Charles Addington Hanbury, became a member of the firm, and a son of the last-named, Mr. John M. Hanbury, is a director. The Pryor family became connected with the brewery in 1816, when Messrs. T. M. Pryor and Robert Pryor, who were owners of the Shoreditch brewery, and came from an old Hertfordshire family, joined the firm. Mr. Robert Pryor died in 1839, having the previous year introduced his nephew, Mr. Arthur Pryor, who became a partner and succeeded him in his duties. Mr. Arthur Pryor died in September 1904; two of his sons, Mr. Arthur Vickris Pryor and Mr. Robert Pryor, became directors. Mr. A. V. Pryor is now the head of the comcompany's brewery at Burton-on-Trent, but Mr. Robert Pryor died in July 1905.
The premises in Spitalfields are of enormous extent. At the entrance to the brewery yard is the weighbridge, where the van-loads of malt as they arrive from the railway are easily unloaded by one man, who tips the sacks over the tail of the van into a bin or receiver. From this receptacle the malt is conveyed to the top of the brewery, where it is screened, and then passed along one of two Archimedean screws which deliver the grain into the maltbins. The malt stores adjoin the brewhouse on its western side, and are contained within a building 200 ft. long, 30 ft. wide, and 60 ft. high; this great storehouse is divided off into twenty-one bins, each of which holds from 500 qrs. to 1,200 qrs. of malt. When required for use the malt is conveyed by screws to crushing-mills erected on a gallery in the brewhouse, supported on massive columns and girders. Eight pairs of rolls or cylinders are employed, each having its own screening machinery, and being fitted with dust destroyers; these rollers are driven by the main engine or by another of 30 h.p. on the same floor, and crush over 100 qrs. of malt per hour. The malt is bruised or crushed sufficiently to detach the husk from the grain, so that the latter may be easily reached by the water and the whole of its valuable qualities extracted. The grinding accomplished, the bruised malt or grist is next conveyed by large copper tubes to the elevators into the six grist cases at the top of the building, each of which contains 160 qrs. The next process is that known as mashing, and the water used for this purpose is obtained from a well bored to a depth of 850 ft. For 200 ft. it has a diameter of 8 ft.; here the chalk of the London basin was reached, and the curious discovery made of a bed of oysters 18 in. thick, and probably extending for a great distance, as a similar bed was afterwards found on sinking a well at Stratford. A bore-pipe of 12 in. diameter carries the well down to its full depth of 850 ft. Good water, hard and free from organic matter, is indispensable to the manufacture of good beer. The object of the process of mashing is to mix the malt with water at such a temperature as shall not only extract the saccharine matter existing in the malt, but shall also change the still unconverted starch into grape sugar. The appliances for this process at Truman's brewery are said to be among the finest in England. There are six mashtuns having a total capacity of 700 qrs.; each is provided with a Steel's mashing-machine and other modern contrivances, and has a copper cover lifted up by springs and pulleys. The mash-tuns are supported by circular iron frames raised on stout iron columns to enable the mashmen to get beneath the tuns. The wort is drawn off into a copper receiver by means of several pipes running from different parts of the mash-tun; each of these is fitted with a trap top to enable the brewer to test the strength of the liquor from every part of the tun. The furnaces employed for heating the boilers were fitted with Jucke's smoke-consuming contrivances in 1848. Mr. Fraser, who introduced their use into the brewery, was so satisfied with their efficiency that he read a paper before the Society of Arts strongly recommending Jucke's furnaces for general use. For this he received a letter of thanks from Lord Palmerston, the Home Secretary, who also referred to his paper in reply to a deputation which waited upon him in reference to the smoke nuisance. (fn. 10) Whilst the wort is in the coppers the hops are added, the whole being boiled under a slight pressure. The storage-room for hops is an apartment 200 ft. long by 50 ft. broad, and darkened to keep away the light from the delicate hops, of which some 3,000 pockets are kept ready for use.
When the wort has boiled the necessary time it runs into the hop-back to settle. The ale hop-back is a square vessel with a copper lining and gun-metal plates at the bottom to retain the hops when the wort is drawn off into the coolers. The porter hopback is of similar construction. The cooling is hastened by refrigerators in the room beneath, these refrigerators being supplied with water which has come from two ice machines. The next process is that of fermentation, which is carried on in a splendid room below, the floor of which is constructed entirely of slate. It is known as the 'Havelock Room,' having been built at the time of the Indian Mutiny, and is shaped like the letter L with dimensions of 210 ft. and 132 ft. Here are contained fermenting vessels of slate and wood, each provided with a copper parachute for skimming yeast, communicating with the yeast tanks below. Each of the vessels holds from 120 to 190 barrels and contains an attemporator to raise or lower the temperature of the gyle at pleasure. This contrivance consists of a series of pipes fixed within the tun and having its inlet and outlet on the outside; by this means it is possible to run hot or cold water through the pipes at any hour. The object of the natural process which we know as fermentation is to convert the saccharine matter into alcohol, this requiring the most careful attention on the brewer's part. To obtain a quick and regular fermentation yeast, or barm as it is sometimes called, is employed, and this must be perfectly fresh and healthy. The appearance of a 'gyle' of beer in the earlier stages of fermentation is very beautiful. (fn. 11) At first the surface is covered with a thick white foam which within a few hours curls itself into a variety of fantastic shapes. As the froth rises higher it presents the appearance of jagged rocks of snowy whiteness. Then the froth becomes viscid and the whole surface subsides. The operation of cleansing next follows, and consists of removing the yeast from the beer in order to stop the fermentation. This is performed in another large apartment called 'King's College,' which contains ten cleansing batches holding together 3,000 barrels, all fitted with copper parachutes. A series of cleansing batches each measuring 18 ft. by 11 ft. is also fitted up in 'Long Acre.' This was once a long street, dividing two extensive blocks of buildings, extending nearly a sixth of a mile, which was roofed and inclosed at each end by the firm many years ago, and is now the longest building in the brewery.
On the ground floor is a spacious room paved with stone containing a large number of shallow yeast tanks or batches. These receive the yeast from the copper parachutes above, and are kept cool by means of a false bottom in each vessel, through which a stream of cold water is constantly running. The extent of the cellars in the basement is enormous. They are divided off into great main avenues which appear of endless length, and these are intersected by others branching in all directions.
The main brewhouse, in which most of the operations which we have described above are carried on, is a fine structure. A glance at its fine roof, the spacious galleries which surround it, and the massive columns which support its various stages, shows how successful the architect has been in producing so excellent a combination of utility and beauty. The vathouses and racking rooms open out of one another and occupy an area of 1½ acres. One of the largest of these storehouses was first opened on the 9th of November 1841, when the workmen had a dinner in honour of the event. Whilst they sat at table word was brought that an heir was born to the English throne, whereupon the largest vat was named the 'Prince of Wales,' its name with the date being painted on it. On a visit which he paid to the brewery, the Prince (his late Majesty King Edward VII) drank a glass of stout from this vat, whose age was identical with his own. To reach the top of these huge vats metal staircases are fixed to the wall in certain places; the view from above is remarkable, and affords an idea which no words can describe of the vast capacity of these gigantic receptacles.
Space does not permit to speak of the cooperage, sign-writing, and many other departments which are on a similar extensive scale, the firm having from a very early period made all the wooden vessels and utensils required for the brewery. From a printed return for the beer tax made in 1760, (fn. 12) a copy of which is in the firm's possession, Truman's Brewery appears third on the list of London brewers, with 60,140 barrels, but they are not placed among the six principal ale brewers in London in 1806-7. In a return of porter brewed in 1813-14 they stand third on the list of London brewers, with 145,141 barrels. In 1886-7 they were second among their competitors, having brewed in London and Burton 500,000 barrels.
In the residence attached to the brewery, which was in former days occupied by members of the firm, is the historic dining-room, the scene of many a famous banquet graced by distinguished company. One of the most notable of these convivialities was that described as the 'cabinet dinner' in the Memoirs of Sir Thomas Fowell Buxton. (fn. 13) In June 1831 several members of the government and other gentlemen came to look over the brewery in Spitalfields and afterwards dined there with Mr. Buxton, professedly on beefsteaks cooked in one of the furnaces. The company included the Premier Earl Grey, Brougham Lord Chancellor, the Duke of Richmond, Lord Shaftesbury and others, making twenty-three in all. Brougham astonished everyone by his versatility and the accuracy and extent of his knowledge, being equally at home in discussing Paley's Moral Philosophy, the construction of machinery, and the points of a horse. Since 1873 Messrs. Truman, Hanbury, and Buxton have carried on a large brewery of pale ale at Burton in addition to their London establishment. In recent years a great demand has arisen for beer in bottle, and to meet this Messrs. Truman & Co. have established an extensive bottling department. The partnership business was converted into a company in 1889, with a share capital of £1,215,000. The present directors are Messrs. E. U. Buxton, A. V. Pryor, J. H. Buxton, J. M. Hanbury, Gerald Buxton, H. F. Buxton, J. A. Pryor, and Anthony Buxton.
Stow (fn. 14) says that St. Katharine's, a district on the Thames bank east of the Tower of London, 'was famous for brewhouses in ancient times. One Geffrey Gate in K. Henry VII his days spoiled the brewhouses at St. Katharines twice; either for brewing too much to their customers beyond the sea, or for putting too much water into the beer of their customers that they served on this side the sea, or for both.' In the year 1492 John Merchant, a Fleming, was licensed by the same king to export fifty tuns of ale called Berré. Pennant (fn. 15) says: 'Below St. Catherine's on the riverside stood the great breweries or Bere House as it is called in the map published in the first volume of the Civitates Orbis.' This was the public brewhouse where the citizens of London could bring their malt and other materials, and for a fee paid to the government brew therein their own ales. Pennant also states that the demand from foreign parts for English beer increased to a high degree and that in the reign of Queen Elizabeth 500 'tons' were exported at one time.
The Red Lion Brewery, which stands on the site of the ancient Beer House, can be traced back to the 16th century. In 1705 the brewery belonged to Alderman Humphrey Parsons, (fn. 16) who was elected alderman of Portsoken Ward in 1721, served as sheriff in the following year, and was Lord Mayor in 1730 and again in 1740. The following anecdote is told of him in a contemporary journal:-On one occasion, during his mayoralty, he went out riding with a hunting party which included Louis XV and his suite. He was exceedingly well mounted, and, contrary to the etiquette observed in the French Court, outstripped the rest of the company, and was first in at the death. The king, observing this, inquired the name of the stranger, and was indignantly informed that he was 'un chevalier de malte.' On receiving this information the king entered into conversation with Mr. Parsons and asked the price of his horse. Bowing in the most courtly style, the 'chevalier' replied that his horse was beyond any price other than His Majesty's acceptance. In due time the horse was accepted by the king, and from thenceforward Chevalier Parsons had the exclusive honour and privilege of supplying the French Court with his far-famed porter. In the year 1802 the brewery came into the hands of the Hoare family, and since that time has descended from father to son without changing hands. The Red Lion Brewery is of considerable extent, consisting of a large range of buildings facing the River Thames, and covers 3 acres of ground.
The brewhouse is situated in Lower East Smithfield and has a convenient wharf at the river side. The malthouse is the most ancient part of the premises, with its crossbeams and joists of enormous thickness and curious old staircases with broad landings and quaint turnings; the elevator or 'Jacob's ladder' in this building is said to be a hundred years old, but does its work to-day as well as ever. Like many other London breweries, the Red Lion Brewery is supplied with the purest water by means of a well of great depth sunk on the premises. This well has a diameter of 5 ft. to the depth of 100 ft., below which it is carried by two bore-holes, of 12 and 9 in. diameter respectively, 300 ft. down to the chalk. A further supply of water is obtained from the London Clay by ther wells of less depth which are only used in summer, when the Thames water is not cold enough for supplying the refrigerators. Up to the beginning of the 19th century, says Mr. Barnard, (fn. 17) the peculiar flavour of porter hitherto thought inimitable gave rise to an opinion that no other than Thames water was calculated to produce good porter. This opinion became so general that not only in the United Kingdom but in the world at large, wherever porter was known and prized as a beverage, the genuine brew was considered as locally confined to London. Here, in the oldest brewery in London, Thames water was never used, the supply from the wells being considered superior for mashing and for preserving the intrinsic quality of the beverage. It is a well known fact that up to quite recently the London brewers were not quite agreed among themselves on the process of brewing porter, each pursuing a different road to the same object, and all pretending to some secret with which the others were supposed to be unacquainted.
The brewing of porter is not now confined to London, but is carried on in various parts of the United Kingdom with great success, particularly in Ireland, though Mr. Barnard, speaking from personal experience, has not met with a brew of porter or stout superior to that of Messrs. Hoare in the three kingdoms. One of the storage cellars, 48 yds. long and containing a series of twenty bricked vaults, is said to have been built in the time of Elizabeth. Another, in which the finest stouts are stored and matured, has been known as 'Old London' from time immemorial. The returns already quoted for the year 1760 give the output of this brewery in the time of Lady Parsons as 34,098 barrels, which places it sixth in rank among the principal London brewhouses, and just above that of Thrale the famous Southwark brewer. The brewery is now conducted under the style of Hoare & Co., Ltd.
A small brewhouse existed about the year 1730 on the east side of High Street, Shoreditch, which deserves mention from the interest attaching to its proprietor. This was one Ralph Harwood, who is said to have invented porter. In Curtain Road, Shoreditch, a public house, known as the 'Blue Last,' formerly displayed a board inscribed, 'The house where porter was first sold.' The beer-drinkers in the early part of the 18th century had the choice of three beverages, known as ale, beer, and 'twopenny.' Those who preferred a combination of any two of these would ask for 'half and half,' whilst some would favour a mixture of all three, and call for a pot of three threads or three thirds. The drawer could only supply this compound by drawing from three different casks-a wasteful and inconvenient process. To meet this growing taste it occurred to Ralph Harwood to brew a liquor which should combine in itself the virtues and flavours of the 'three threads'-ale, beer, and twopenny. And so was produced a drink which he called 'Entire,' or 'Entire Butts.' This completely met the public taste, and the beverage has never since lost its popularity.
Another famous Middlesex brewery of early date was the Griffin Brewery, in Liquorpond Street, now known as Clerkenwell Road. The locality is one of much interest; close by are Gray's Inn Road and Hatton Garden, and in Brooke Street, near the brewery, the poet Chatterton brought his life to its sad end. The buildings, which covered upwards of 4 acres, extended from the north end of Gray's Inn Lane, across Leather Lane, to Hatton Garden. The business was established some time in the 17th century, and was always noted for its black beer or porter. In 1809 the firm dissolved partnership, Mr. Meux acquiring a business for himself in Tottenham Court Road, and Mr. A. Reid retaining possession of the old brewhouse in Liquorpond Street. Various distinguished persons from time to time visited the brewery, among them the Emperor Napoleon III, who showed his appreciation of the firm's famous stout by emptying a tankard.
Pennant (fn. 18) gives statistics of the barrels of strong beer brewed by the chief porter brewers of London in 1786-7, in which Richard Meux, who then owned the Griffin Brewery, figures ninth on the list with an output of 49,651 barrels. The same writer, speaking of this brewhouse as it existed in his day, says (fn. 19) :-
The sight of a great London brewhouse exhibits a magnificence unspeakable. The vessels evince the extent of the trade. Mr. Meux of Liquorpond Street, Gray's Inn Lane, can show twenty-four tuns, containing in all 35,000 barrels. In the present year he has built a vessel 60 feet in diameter, 176 feet in circumference, and 23 feet in height. It cost £5,000 in building, and contains from ten to twelve thousand barrels of beer, valued at about £20,000. A dinner was given to 200 people at the bottom, and 200 more joined the company to drink success to the vat.
Another vat of even greater dimensions was, about the time that Pennant wrote, constructed by this firm in their no. 3 store. This was called the 'X.Y.Z.,' and exceeded in size all similar vessels constructed before or since; its capacity was for 20,000 barrels of porter, and it cost £10,000. At that time the London porter brewers strove in rivalry for the possession of the largest vat. These enormous receptacles were afterwards disused, their places being taken by about five thousand casks of ale. A plentiful supply of water was obtained from two wells and from the New River Company, being pumped for storage into four large reservoirs on the roofs of the buildings. In the fermenting rooms were four huge rounds, the largest of which contained 56,700 gallons, besides two smaller ones. Two of these vessels were regarded as being the largest of their kind in London, and rose 12 ft. above the floor.
A well-furnished library was provided by the firm for the use of their staff of officials and workmen. This was founded in 1860, but the new building containing it, known as the Griffin Library House, was built in 1883. In June 1898 this brewery was amalgamated with the Stag Brewery of Messrs. Watney & Co., the buildings in Clerkenwell Road being pulled down.
The Woodyard Brewery, of Castle Street, Long Acre, situated midway between the City and the West End of London, took its name from the original occupation of Thomas Shackle, a dealer in timber, who founded it in 1740. Shackle is said to have delivered his beer in small casks with his wood, and by his energy and diligence to have built up a valuable business. He was succeeded by a Mr. Gyfford, of whom no further record remains, but at the beginning of the 19th century the brewery was acquired by Mr. Harvey Christian Combe, who was remarkable for his energy and great business ability. He became Lord Mayor in 1799, and was returned five times as the City's representative in Parliament. Alderman Combe was a man of liberal tastes, fond of good company, and quick at repartee. A dinner which he gave on 7 June 1807 became known as the Royal Brewhouse Dinner, and was widely talked of in all parts of London. From a newspaper report of the time we learn that the company included the Duke and Duchess of York, the Duke or Cambridge, the Earl of Lauderdale, Lord Erskine, Sheridan, Stepney, and others, who were received by the alderman and his family and conducted to an upper floor of the brewhouse, where a table was prepared for their reception furnished only with such requisites as the brewhouse could supply. The tablecloth was a hop-sack nailed to the table, the plates were wooden trenchers, with wooden bowls for salads, wooden salt-cellars, bone spoons, and Tunbridge-ware pepper-castors. The provisions consisted of rump steaks cooked by the brewhouse stoker, and served in a new malt-shovel covered with a tin lid, porter being the only beverage. After an inspection of the brewery the company were taken by the alderman to his house in Great Russell Street, where they were entertained with a second course and dessert which included every delicacy of the season.
The business was largely increased under the management of Mr. Combe, who expended a considerable sum in the repair and rebuilding of the brewery premises. On his death in 1832 the brewery passed to his son, Mr. Harvey Combe, and his brother-in-law, Mr. Delafield, by whom the premises were still further enlarged. Mr. Harvey Combe, who was a great sportsman and well-known as the master of the Berkeley Hounds, died unmarried in 1858. He was succeeded by his two nephews, Messrs. R. H. and Charles Combe, Mr. Joseph Bonsor and his two sons, and Mr. John Spicer. Under the management of these partners the brewhouse property was still further extended, and ultimately covered more than 4 acres. The premises comprised three extensive blocks of buildings, the first being the brewhouse quadrangle, offices, and fermenting rooms; the second, malt stores, other fermenting rooms, and cellars; the third, stables, dray-sheds, and general stores. The water, or 'liquor' as the brewers term it, required for brewing purposes was supplied in part by the New River Company and partly by three deep wells sunk by the firm upon the premises. The cooperage department, in which casks were both constructed and repaired, was on an extensive scale. The brewery employed about four hundred and fifty hands, and the annual output exceeded 500,000 barrels. In June 1898 this business was also acquired by Messrs. Watney & Co.
The Horse Shoe Brewery of Messrs. Meux & Co. at the junction of Tottenham Court Road and Oxford Street forms a picturesque object in an old print of the 'Entrance to London from Tottenham Court Road.' It was founded by a Mr. Blackburn, and was from the days of George III famous for its black beer. The brewery was purchased by Mr. (afterwards Sir Henry) Meux when he retired from the famous firm in Liquorpond Street, of which he was the principal partner. This gentleman, who was very prominent in his day and a cousin of Lord Brougham, was made a baronet by William IV in 1831. The great porter vat of this brewery, which was one of the sights of London, was 22 ft. high and contained 3,555 barrels, sufficient to supply more than a million persons with a pint of beer each. A terrible catastrophe occurred in 1814, caused by the bursting of this huge vat owing to the insecurity and defective state of some of its hoops. The brewery was then surrounded by a multitude of small tenements which were crowded with tenants of the poorer classes. Many of these houses were flooded by porter, and some of them collapsed with fatal results; no less than eight persons died from drowning, injury, poisoning by the porter fumes, or drunkenness. The loss to the firm was also most serious, and threatened their existence; but an application to Parliament procured for them the return by the excise commissioners of the duty paid upon the lost liquor. The retail department of the brewery, known as the 'Horse Shoe' tap, is now converted into a restaurant and hotel, but was formerly a comfortable inn and place of refreshment patronized by tradesmen and well-to-do people in the district. It was also early in the last century a favourite place of call for farmers and porters, who refreshed themselves with the porter for which the house was celebrated.
This firm supplied with Meux's porter most of the old-fashioned inns in the western suburbs of London, of which the 'Watering House' at Knightsbridge was a typical example. The house was a quaint, comfortable little structure where gentlemen's horses and grooms were put up, and farmers and graziers resorted. In front was a stone bench where porters might rest themselves or place their loads. The malt used in this brewery is specially manufactured for the firm and shipped to their wharf in Grosvenor Road, Pimlico, from whence it is conveyed to the brewery in their own wagons. Messrs. Meux have long been famed for their porter-a beverage which is said to take its name from the partiality shown to it by porters. It began to be generally brewed by the London brewers about the year 1722, and was then sold at 23s. per barrel. From this price it gradually rose to 30s., which it reached in 1799, when in consequence of the increase in price of both malt and hops porter was raised to 35s. per barrel, and was retailed at 4d. a quart instead of 3d. as heretofore. Since 1872 Messrs. Meux & Co. have brewed ales to meet the public demand for that beverage; they had previously brewed stout and porter only, and for many years were the only brewers in London who did not brew ales. The firm is now styled Meux's Brewery Co., Ltd.
On the borders of the City of London, but within the parish of St. Luke's, is Whitbread's brewery in Chiswell Street. The business was established in 1742 by Samuel Whitbread, son of a yeoman possessed of a small estate in Cardington, Bedfordshire. He first set up as a brewer in Old Street, but these premises soon became too confined, and in 1750 Mr. Whitbread purchased a brewery in Chiswell Street, which had been established for over fifty years. The business rapidly grew, and in 1760 had reached the position of the second largest brewery in London, with an annual output of nearly 64,000 barrels. Pennant gives a list, (fn. 20) taken from a newspaper of his day, of the chief porter brewers of London and the barrels of strong beer they brewed for the year 1786-7. In this list Whitbread stands first with 150,280 barrels; the number of breweries is twenty-four, and the total quantity of beer amounts to 1,176,856 barrels. The number of breweries had largely decreased in 1796, when there were not more than twelve of first-rate importance, Whitbread still heading the list with 202,000 barrels. This brewery was one of the first to take advantage of the introduction of steam power, and in 1785 set up a sun and planet engine, supplied by the firm of which the celebrated James Watt was a partner. This engine, originally of 35, was increased to 70 horse-power in 1795, and until the year 1887 was still in use at the brewery. It is now exhibited in the Victoria Museum, South Australia, and bears an inscription recounting its history. In 1787 King George III and Queen Charlotte, attracted by the fame of this brewery, paid a visit of inspection, when the king entered minutely into the details of the various processes, and took care not to overlook any department. The royal visit forms the subject of a lengthy humorous poem by Peter Pindar (Dr. Wolcot), who, speaking of the king's conversation, says his Majesty
Whitbread represented Derby in Parliament, and in 1795, after acquiring a large fortune, he purchased Lord Torrington's estate at Southill in his native county. He was a man of strict religious principle, and of a benevolent disposition; his portrait by Sir Joshua Reynolds is in the hall of the Brewers' Company. To this company he left various charities for the relief of decayed master brewers and of poor freemen (or widows of freemen) of the Brewers' Company. On the death of his father in 1796 Samuel Whitbread the younger succeeded him as head of the brewery with which he had been connected for the previous ten years, and from 1799 the business was conducted under the style of Whitbread & Co. The younger Whitbread is best known as a keen politician and supporter of Fox and the Whigs. He obtained more leisure for his parliamentary work by taking partners into his business, which continued to increase considerably. In 1806 Whitbread & Co. ranked fourth among the London brewers, brewing 101,311 barrels. In the following ten years the business more than doubled itself, the quantity of beer brewed in 1815 reaching 261,018 barrels. In 1834 ale-brewing was commenced here, porter and stout only having previously been brewed. Mr. Whitbread the politician left two sons, the younger of whom was M.P. for Middlesex for several years and died in 1879. Mr. Samuel Whitbread, grandson of the politician, represented Bedford in Parliament from 1852 to 1895, and was a Lord of the Admiralty from 1859 to 1863. Although situated so closely on the confines of the City of London, where land is of such high value, the brewery of Messrs. Whitbread is fitted up with every necessary for carrying on their business under the most approved conditions, and with the help of the latest inventions and improvements.
The Swan Brewery, Fulham, dates from the early part of the 18th century, when it started in a very humble way at Walham Green, and was afterwards successively owned by John Stocken, William Chambers, and Sidney Milnes Hawkes, all well-known members of the trade. The following advertisement appeared in the London Evening Post from Tuesday, 26 August, to Thursday, 28 August 1740:-'To be lett, and enter'd on immediately for the remainder of a term of about eight years to come. A very convenient and well-accustom'd Brew House at Walham Green, in the parish of Fulham, with the malt-house, dwelling-house, and all manner of useful offices thereto belonging, and also four acres of hop-ground lying behind the same. For further particulars, &c.'
In 1746 Henry Temple of St. George's Hanover Square, was admitted to 'two pieces of customary land at Wansdon's Green,' on one of which was erected a messuage 'known by the name or sign of the White Swan.' He shortly afterwards surrendered the property to John Carwell. (fn. 21) Nothing more is known of the Swan Brewery until its great development by Oliver Stocken, who acquired the business in 1769. He came from an ancient family, a branch of which was settled at Linton, Cambridgeshire, where Richard Stocken, the grandfather of Oliver Stocken the brewer, was buried on 19 March 1714-15. (fn. 22) Young Oliver came to seek his fortune in London and first settled himself at a small ale-house at Walham Green. He afterwards purchased the Swan Brewery and converted it into a flourishing business, which he continued to manage until his death in 1808. The brewery then passed into the hands of his sons William and John, the latter of whom died in 1820, leaving William the sole proprietor. William Stocken, who died in 1824, was succeeded by his son Oliver Thomas Joseph Stocken, who was then only twenty-four. Under his management the business again greatly developed until his unfortunate failure in 1840, when the brewery passed by public auction into the hands of Mr. William Chambers, Stocken's son-in-law. About the year 1852 Mr. Sidney Milnes Hawkes bought the brewery, and two years later sold it to the Right Hon. Sir James Stansfeld. The firm became known later as Messrs. Stansfeld & Co., Ltd.
In the days of the Stockens, the Swan Brewery had a wide and justly-earned celebrity; among its aristocratic patrons were George IV, the Duke of York, and the Prince of Saxe-Coburg. The Old Swan tap in connexion with the brewery developed eventually into a well-known tavern, and remained in the hands of the Stockens until the year 1840. Included within the brewhouse property was Wendon or Wandon House, a fine old mansion which faced Walham Green. This building, known also as 'Dowlers,' from the name of a tenant, John Dowbeler, was the manor-house of Wendon, and had been the abode of many families of note. To an old price list issued by the firm early in the 19th century is attached a pictorial frontispiece which shows the quaint and comfortable-looking inn (with its recreation ground and gardens) which was then attached to the brewery. In 1880 the old buildings of the brewery were required for improvements, but the proprietors secured another site close adjoining and consisting of 3 acres, on which to build their new premises. The new brewery was designed with considerable attention to architectural effect, a result very rarely attained or even possible in buildings devoted to this trade. The walls are built of red bricks with Corsehill stone dressings, and the roofs are covered with Broseley tiles; the interior arrangement of the brewery is notable for its extreme simplicity. The main supply of water is from a well sunk on the premises to a depth of 450 ft.; for the first 30 ft. it is inclosed in iron cylinders, 7 ft. in diameter, which are sunk into the London clay and prevent any contamination by surface water. One of the special features of this brewery is its wellappointed chemical laboratory fitted with every apparatus necessary for the examination of malt and all other brewing materials. The Swan Brewery, though not ranking among the largest metropolitan breweries, is notable for its excellent design, cleanliness, and completeness in every detail.
The Stag Brewery at Pimlico, of Messrs. Watney & Co., arose from small beginnings. In the first half of the 18th century it consisted of some few buildings attached to a small brewhouse standing in the midst of green fields and far away from any habitations. The site now covered by Messrs. Watney & Co.'s premises is one of great interest. It formerly was part of St. James's Palace, being occupied by the royal mews, which were removed when Buckingham House became a royal palace. Underneath the cooperage of the brewery runs the King's Pond watercourse, a stream which issues from the lake in St. James's Park. In 1782 this lake was simply a marshy pond surrounded by a green pasture for cows, whose milk was disposed of on the spot. In 1820 no one dared to set out for London from that quarter at night, as Pimlico was infested with footpads. So late, too, as 1859 there stood, on the site now covered by the brewery yard, Pimlico House, with its pleasure grounds extending beyond the confines of the present Victoria Street. In 1763 an old plan of the estate shows the brewery situated on its town side amidst a cluster of tea gardens, and places of amusement famous for dancing, concerts, and firework displays. Close by was St. Peter's Chapel, of which the notorious Dr. Dodd was incumbent, and within the brewery gates was the residence of Richard Heberr the accomplished scholar, and owner of perhaps the most famous private library ever known.
At the close of the 17th century the brewery belonged to a Mr. Green, of whom nothing definite is known; nearly a century later, in 1786, the proprietor was one Matthew Wiggins, who two years afterwards disposed of it to Edward Moore and John Elliot. This Mr. Elliot, who was an active man of liberal education, built Pimlico House, already mentioned, and used it as his town residence. He was prominently connected with public affairs in the city of Westminster, where he was held in high esteem. Sir John Call joined the firm in 1792, and somewhat later Mr. Elliot was succeeded by his son J. Lettsom Elliot. The latter took into partnership Mr. James Watney of Wandsworth in 1837, and himself retired in 1856 in favour of Mr. Watney's two sons, James and Norman. From this time the firm consisted solely of members of the Watney family until the year 1884, when Mr. James Watney, the head of the firm, died, and the business was turned into a private limited company. The fame of the Pimlico Stag ales began to spread early in the 18th century, and in 1830 the business had developed into a great and important brewery, taking rank among the first-class breweries of London.
As may be expected, the buildings are on an extensive scale. The malt stores contain fifteen iron bins, four of which rise from the ground level to the top of the building. The largest has a capacity of 5,300 quarters, and the smallest holds 1,200 quarters. The mashing-room is a fine apartment 200 ft. long and 110 ft. broad, and its arrangements are unique in their completeness. On the right hand is the malt department, on the left the cooling and refrigerating rooms, at the end the fermenting department, carried on in another series of rooms. All is so arranged that each process follows the other, almost under the eye of the head brewer, whose private office is on the same level, and situated to the right of the entrance into the hall. The Stag Brewery employs upwards of 600 hands, for whom model dwellings abutting on the brewery premises have been built by the firm, the occupants forming quite a colony among themselves. Attached to the dwellings are a club-room, library, and bagatelle-room, for purposes of recreation. In June 1898 Messrs. Watney acquired the two celebrated breweries of Messrs. Combe, Delafield & Co. and Messrs. Reid & Co. The premises of the Stag Brewery have had extensive development: a new fermenting-room has been added, one of the pontoon rooms is now fitted with dropping tanks, a large bottling department has been established in a separate building, and new cooperage works are in course of construction. The firm also possesses a fine laboratory, a model brewery for experiments, and improved and extensive stabling.
The Anchor Brewery of Messrs. Charrington & Co. is situated on the north side of Mile End Road, occupying the frontage between Cleveland Street and St. Peter's Road. The earliest record of the firm is in 1743, when the brewery belonged to Messrs. Wastfield and Moss, of whom nothing further is known. About the year 1766 Mr. John Charrington purchased Mr. Wastfield's share of the business, and the firm became Charrington & Moss. John Charrington was a son of the vicar of Aldenham, Herts., and was the first of his family to enter upon business pursuits. Mr. Moss soon afterwards retired, and the brewery then remained wholly in the possession of the Charrington family until the year 1833. The business rapidly increased, and in 1806 ranked second among the ale breweries in London, the output for that year being 15,556 barrels.
There were two Nicholas Charringtons connected with the firm, one of whom died in 1827, and was succeeded by his sons Edward and Spencer; the other died in 1859 at the advanced age of eighty-three, and was succeeded by his sons Charles and Frederick. Mr. Head, of the firm of Stewart & Head of Stratford, became a partner in the brewery in 1833, and introduced the brewing of porter and stout; previous to this Messrs. Charrington had been ale brewers only. They now gradually dropped their large private and family trade and devoted themselves entirely to supplying licensed victuallers. From this time the business was exclusively a trade brewery, and the name of Charrington became one of the most familiar in London. In consequence of the rapid increase of the business it was necessary in the year 1871 to establish an ale brewery at Burton-on-Trent to supply the demands of their customers for that class of beer. On the death of Mr. Frederick Charrington in 1873 and of Mr. Charles Charrington in 1877, they were succeeded by their sons, Mr. John Douglas Charrington and Mr. Charles E. N. Charrington. Mr. Head, who had during his partnership for nearly fifty years taken a responsible part in the management of the business, died universally regretted. His sound judgement and great experience gained for him much reputation among the London brewers as a high authority upon all matters connected with the brewing trade. Mr. Head had no son to succeed him, and the firm once more consisted of the Charrington family only until 1884, when Mr. George C. Croft was admitted into partnership. A severe loss was sustained by the firm in 1888, when Mr. Edward Charrington, the senior partner, who had for fifty-seven years been a member of the firm, died at Burys Court, Reigate. He was a man of great gentleness and affability, and a warm supporter of every philanthropic movement in the east of London. After the death of Mr. Edward Charrington Mr. Spencer Charrington, who represented in Parliament the Mile End division of the Tower Hamlets, became the head of the firm. The business was turned into a limited liability company in 1897, and Colonel F. Charrington is the present chairman of the board of directors. Every attention is paid by the firm to the needs and comforts of their numerous staff; there are several houses for the higher officials, and a long row of excellent cottages for the most deserving of the workmen. The malt required in the breweries is made by the firm themselves at Norwich and other places in the eastern counties, under the superintendence of a member of the firm and the head brewer, by whom the various maltings are periodically visited. Among the special features of this great brewery, whose operations are carried on upon a vast scale, is a well-appointed experimental or model brewery, which is excellently adapted for the various scientific experiments conducted in it from time to time.
The Albion Brewery of Messrs. Mann, Crossman & Paulin lies on the north side of Whitechapel Road, at its junction with Mile End Road. Just at this spot formerly stood the Mile End turnpike gate, and adjoining the brewery is the 'Blind Beggar' public house, which commemorates the legend associated with the neighbouring parish of Bethnal Green.