Wednesday, February 4, 2015

Stony Stratford's Breweries

The 19th century was a period of transition in the practice of brewing and over this period in house brewing eventually ceased in favour of having barrels delivered weekly by specialised brewers. As with all these enterprises a lot of small outfits gradually merged into larger more centralised breweries, a process that continued throughout the 20th century. Newport Pagnell managed to retain its brewery until 1920 but the Stony Stratford breweries had a relatively short life before being obliterated by the larger breweries. By the end of the century Stony Stratford pubs were served by either of the two large Northampton breweries, Phipps and NBC or by the Newport Pagnell brewery, which was taken over by Charles Wells of Bedford in 1920.

Two operations in this period seem to have made the transition from ann in-house brewery to something on a larger scale. One was associated with the Bull and the other with the White Hart on the Square.

The first specialist brewer of record was Thomas Carter. He is described as a “Common Brewer” in the 1841 census and is listed as a Brewer in the 1844 Pigot Trade Directory. He was also listed as the proprietor of the Bull and as a beer retailer in New Wolverton. It is probable that the brewery was in an outbuilding at the back of the Bull or at the back of one of the adjoining properties. When the Bull was up for sale on 26th July 1832 the brewhouse was described as “lately considerably repaired.” He did not live at the Bull but instead at a house further down the street, Number 46, presently occupied by a bookmaker. There is no reason to suppose that brewing took place at this address.

The two Wolverton Public Houses were the Radcliffe Arms and the Royal Engineer, both presumably in the early days of Wolverton selling great quantities of beer to the new and growing population. The Bull may not have been doing so well and it seems that the prime asset was the brewery. The owners, John Congreve and Joseph Clare, may have been interested in realising some capital from this, but would also settle for a lease. The brewery must have been state of the art for the time and by being able to supply three houses began a trend that saw future breweries increasingly tying houses to their brand.

The two storey building on the left in the Bull yard was once a brewery,

Edwin Revill  had the ironmonger’s shop next door and it is possible that George Thorne’s drapery business was in the shop on the other side of the Bull, now occupied by the Vaults. They formed a partnership and, as well as continuing their main business activities, established the Revill & Thorne Brewery, later known as the Britannia Brewery.
Edwin Revill senior died in November 1853 and was succeeded by his son, also Edwin. His father’s death may have been the stimulus to bring in Thomas Phillips to manage the brewery.
The Phillips family had extensive brewing interests across the country and founded several major breweries. Thomas Phillips was from the Bicester branch of the family. He moved to Stony Stratford in 1854 and it appears that his brother William established an agency for this brewery in Northampton in November 1855. In November 1857 Thomas Phillips, together with his brothers William and Arthur founded the Northampton Brewing Company and he mode there the following year. His association with Stony Stratford was therefore brief.
And this history of the Britannia Brewery in Stony Stratford is sketchy indeed. Apart from this record in the Phillips family archive the Britannia Brewery is mentioned in one trade directory, that of Musson and Craven, which made one appearance in 1853. There was also an advertisement in the Northampton mercury  on Saturday  May 12th 1855 offering the Wheatsheaf at Loughton for let and asking applicants to apply to Mr. T. Phillips, Britannia Brewery, Stony Stratford. He was still in Stony Stratford at that date. 
The brewery does not appear to have survived Phillip’s departure because no more is heard of it. A few years later, the younger Edwin Revill sold the ironmongery business to James Odell, which business is still in the same family.
Northampton offered greater opportunities to Thomas Phillips and within a year or two the Northampton Brewery Company had been founded. In the years that followed NBC, together with Phipps, came to dominate beer sales in Stony Stratford. Only the Newport Pagnell Brewery had a toehold in the town, supplying the Plough.
In 1875 two of the Phillips brothers sold their share of the business. One was Thomas who then moved to Newport in Monmouthshire where he bought the Newport Brewery. One of his sons, Frederick, who was born in Stony Stratford,  entered and continued the business.
7 Market Square. The Tompkins brewery was on these premises in the middle of the 19th century. The brewery supplied the White Hart best door.

The other brewery of significance was operated by William Tomkins at 7, Market Square. He owned the White Hart next door which must have been his principal outlet.
 He was listed as a brewer and maltster and Joseph Rogers was recorded as the licensee for the White Hart. Tomkins will of 1856 makes clear that he owned the property  and he described the White Hart as “partly occupied by me and partly occupied by Joseph Rogers”. He makes his first appearance in 1847 in the trade directory. After his death in 1856 one of his sons, John Tomkins took on the brewing business and the White Hart continued to be leased to tenants. The brewery certainly satisfied the thirst of the  customers of the White Hart, which, according to Markham, “brewed the best beer in town,” an endorsement of Tomkins’ expertise as a brewer. 

One assumes that Tomkins also provided other houses with his ale and made the business viable.  This brewery stayed in business until about 1880.  By 1883, this business seems to have gone for good. It is a similar story with the Golbys, who appear to have taken up the brewing mantle after Revill & Thorne dropped the ball. Their last entry is in the trade directory is 1877.

In the same period the Royal Oak was also characterised as a brewery. This brewing business was taken over by Samuel Nichols in the 1870s but it does not appear to have had much of a life after that. 

William Whiting was another “cottage brewer” of the period, plying his trade on the High Street in 1851 and then on Church Street in 1861. The ready movement of men like Carter and Whiting is an illustration of how simple brewing was on this scale in the 19th century; they were able to pick up and move with some ease.

By 1880 larger breweries in Newport Pagnell and Northampton were able to service pubs in Stony Stratford.


Thereafter Stony Stratford public buses were entirely dependant on breweries further afield and as these larger breweries became richer they began to buy up public houses and either let them to a tenant or install a manager, thereby creating the “tied house”, ensuring that only their products could be sold.

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