The Anchor Brewery

Pages 78-80

Survey of London: Volume 22, Bankside (The Parishes of St. Saviour and Christchurch Southwark). Originally published by London County Council, London, 1950.

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The buildings of the Anchor Brewery date only from the middle of the 19th century or after, and their high brick walls have a grim and forbidding aspect; but the brewery as an institution has a long history and it stands upon historic ground. It has also exerted a considerable influence on the social life and topography of the neighbourhood. A brief account of it is therefore given here.

The brewing industry seems to have become of importance in Southwark soon after the introduction of hop growing into Kent in the 15th century. (fn. 169) Thames water was considered peculiarly good for the purpose. In 1509, the Bishop of Winchester and the Prior of St. Mary Overies granted a licence to the brewers of Southwark to have passage with their carts "from ye Borough of Southwark untill the Themmys . . . to fetch water . . . to brew with" so long as the brewers made no claim to the passage as a highway. (fn. 170) This licence was renewed by later bishops.

The nucleus of the Anchor Brewery appears to have been the brewhouse established early in the 17th century by James Monger. (fn. 123) The brewhouse is first specifically mentioned in the Token Books in 1634 though Monger's name occurs several years earlier. (fn. n1) The site, which lay between Deadman's Place and Globe Alley (see the plan on Plate 59), had been leased to him in 1620 by Sir John Bodley and formed part of the property owned by Sir Matthew Brend which included the Globe Playhouse. (fn. n2) James Child, citizen and brewer, owned the brewhouse towards the end of the century. He died in 1696 and was succeeded by his "loving son-in-law," (fn. 171) Edmund Halsey. Halsey was M.P. for Southwark from 1722 until his death in 1728. (fn. 17) He bought additional ground and extended the brewery. His purchases included ground on the east side of Deadman's Place (now Park Street) abutting north on Clink Street and west on the Clink Garden (see p. 50). Naked Boy Alley, named after a house with that sign, and a number of tenements stood on this ground. They were subsequently cleared away by Henry Thrale to make room for a garden called Palmira (fn. 123) opposite his house. (fn. n3) Halsey left his freehold ground to his only daughter, Anne, wife of Richard Temple, Lord Cobham, (fn. 173) but the business was taken over by his nephew, Ralph Thrale, who had worked in it for many years. (fn. n4) Ralph Thrale and his son, Henry, enlarged and developed the brewery, purchasing some freehold ground, including that left to Lady Cobham, and leasing some from the Bishop of Winchester. Among other properties, the sites of the Globe Playhouse on the south side of Maid Lane and of the parish workhouse in Fountain Court were absorbed into the brewery grounds. (fn. 123) The dwelling house of the brewery stood on the west side of Deadman's Place (see Plate 60a). There Henry Thrale and his wife entertained Dr. Johnson, Sir Joshua Reynolds, David Garrick, Oliver Goldsmith and other celebrities. (fn. 175)

Henry Thrale had not the business acumen of his predecessors but the brewery continued to flourish under the managership of John Perkins who had joined the firm circa 1763 (fn. 176) and whose presence of mind saved the premises from damage during the Gordon Riots. Henry Thrale died in 1781 and the brewery, described by Dr. Johnson as "the potentiality of wealth beyond the dreams of avarice," was sold by auction to Robert Barclay for £135,000. John Perkins was made a partner and took possession of the dwelling house. (fn. 176) The extent and layout of the premises at this period can be seen on the plan made by George Gwilt in 1792 and reproduced on Plate 61.

One of the biggest extensions of the brewery made after the formation of the partnership was that southward to include the burial ground and meeting house in Deadman's Place. A lease of this ground (shown on the 1792 plan) was obtained from the Bishop of Winchester in 1781. (fn. 123) The origin of the name Deadman's Place is unknown. It is, however, older than the burial ground since it dates back to Elizabeth's reign and perhaps earlier. (fn. 129) In 1613, Sir Thomas Bilson obtained a lease of the "great garden called Deadman's Place" with the tenements there and a gatehouse, (fn. 177) the latter presumably the Park Gate referred to in many documents relating to the Bishop of Winchester's Park (see p. 45). John Applebee had a brewery on part of this ground in the second half of the 17th century. An Independent meeting house there was opened in 1640 (fn. n5) (fn. 176) and existed until 1788 when it was removed to a new building in Union Street. (fn. 180) Two volumes giving lists of burials in the burial ground in Deadman's Place are preserved in Somerset House, the first entry being dated 1716 and the last 1837. Among the persons of note buried there was Alexander Cruden, author of the Biblical Concordance. The freehold of the site, which is now covered by the cooperage of the brewery, was purchased by the firm in 1857.

The last considerable enlargement of the brewery was made in 1820 when the firm obtained a lease of the site of Potts' Vinegar Works from the Bishop of Winchester. The freehold was purchased in 1864. (fn. 97)

In 1832, the greater part of the brewery, including the dwelling house in Deadman's Place, was burnt down. The premises were quickly rebuilt (fn. 181) and some of the buildings erected at this time survive to the present day. An interesting account of the brewery is given in the Illustrated London News for 1847.

Southwark Waterworks

Until the beginning of the 19th century, the Thames was both the source of water supply for Southwark and the depository for its sewage. The records of the Sewer Commissioners show that in the 17th century the "sweet" sewer and the "foul" sewer often had a parallel course and their openings at the river edge were side by side. (fn. 129) In 1715 James Whitchurch obtained from the Bishop of Winchester a licence to supply the inhabitants of the Clink with river water and to lay and repair pipes in the streets for this purpose.' (fn. 97) This right became vested in the Borough Waterworks Company circa 1770 (fn. 72) and the company took over a waterhouse erected by Henry Thrale a few years earlier to pump water to the brewery. (fn. 123) The waterworks were situated near Bank End behind the Castle Inn (see p. 60) on ground leased from the Corporation of Wardens of St. Saviour's. They are shown on the plan on Plate 59.

For many years the Borough High Street area of Southwark had been supplied with water from the Thames by means of two waterwheels under the bridge. By the Act of 1822 (fn. 182) for removing the waterworks at London Bridge, the London Bridge Waterworks Company was dissolved and their licence to supply water to the inhabitants of Southwark was acquired by the New River Company, which planned to raise the water by means of steam engines. Soon after the passing of the Act, however, John Edwards (later John Edwards Vaughan), the proprietor of the Borough Waterworks, bought this licence from the New River Company. By this time the Thames was anything but a pure source of supply. The London County Council has in its collection a scurrilous poem on the subject, illustrated with a lurid caricature by George Cruikshank. It was not until after 1834, (fn. 183) when the Southwark Water Company was established by Act of Parliament, that reservoirs and filter beds were constructed at Battersea and the old waterworks were closed down. (fn. 184) The site is now incorporated in the brewery.


  • n1. In the return of new buildings to St. Saviour's Wardens made in 1634/5, there is an entry relating to "a brewhouse and dwelling house" in the tenure of James Monger built of timber on old foundations about "18 yeares since."
  • n2. In 1758 when Henry Thrale obtained a 99 years lease of the site, the freehold was still in the possession of the heirs of John Partridge who had bought it from Hillarie Memprise in 1633.
  • n3. Mrs. Thrale, afterwards Mrs. Piozzi, in her autobiography accounts for the name as follows: "For a long time, then—or I thought it such—my fate was bound up with the old Globe Theatre, upon the Bankside, Southwark; the alley it had occupied having been purchased & thrown down by Mr. Thrale to make an opening before the windows of our dwelling house. When it lay desolate in a black heap of rubbish, my mother, one day in a joke, called it the Ruins of Palmyra; and after they had laid it down in a grass-plot, Palmyra was the name it went by, I suppose, among the clerks and servants of the brewhouse." Mrs. Piozzi was confused about the position of the Globe, which was west of her dwelling house not on the east side of Deadman's Place where the garden was made.
  • n4. Ralph was the son of Ralph Thrale of Offley, Herts., and Anna Halsey, sister of Edmund Halsey.
  • n5. Among the preachers there in the 17th century were Thomas Wadsworth (who had resigned from the rectory of St. Mary Newington in 1660 and whose father owned property in Globe Alley and Deadman's Place), Andrew Parsons, and Richard Baxter (author of the Saints' Everlasting Rest and many other works). Robert Wilkinson, in his Londina Illustrata, published in 1819, confused the Deadman's Place meeting house with the one in Globe Alley, Maid Lane, where the Rev. Charles Skelton officiated towards the end of the 18th century. Actually there were two meeting houses in Globe Alley; one, at which John Chester had a licence to preach in 1672, was used for the parish workhouse between 1718 and 1727. The other, which is marked on Rocque's maps, was a little further east. It was here that Skelton preached until about 1776. The baptismal register at Somerset House runs from 1756 to 1798. The building was subsequently used for a warehouse and mill. A picture of it is reproduced on Plate.
  • 17. Inns of old Southwark, by W. Rendle and P.Norman, 1888.
  • 58. Records of the Corporation of Wardens of St. Saviour's. Sundry papers (2).
  • 65. Dict. Nat. Biog.
  • 72. Concannen and Morgan, History and antiquities of the parish of St. Saviour's, Southwark, 1795.
  • 97. Church Commissioners: Lease books and files.
  • 123. Barclay Perkins: Deeds of the Anchor Brewery.
  • 129. L.C.C. Min. of Surr. and Kent Sewers Com.
  • 169. Victoria County History of Kent.
  • 170. Church Commissioners: Register of Leases; 155642, p. 5.
  • 171. P.C.C., 220 Bond. Will of James Child.
  • 172. Autobiography, Letters and Literary Remains of Mrs. Piozzi, ed. H. Hayward, 1861.
  • 173. P.C.C., Auber 37.
  • 174. Notes and Queries, 13th November, 1948.
  • 175. Life of Samuel Johnson, by James Boswell, the Diary of Fanny Burney, etc.
  • 176. John Perkins, 1730–1812, a typescript volume in the library of Messrs. Barclay Perkins.
  • 177. Church Commissioners: Register of Leases, 155642, p. 118.
  • 178. P.R.O., S.P. 29/320.
  • 179. R. Wilkinson, Londina Illustrata, 1819.
  • 180. Somerset House. Non-parochial registers. "A Journal of the Corps inter'd in the Burying Ground in Deadmans Place."
  • 181. Illustrated London News, February 6th, 1847.
  • 182. Act, 3 Geo. IV, c. 109.
  • 183. Act, 4 & 5 Wm. IV, c. 79.
  • 184. Sketches of Southwark Old and New, by Robert W. Bowers, 1905.