Leamington Spa Breweries – Introduction

The Brewery, Lillington Avenue

The Brewery, Lillington Avenue

While the history of Leamington’s pubs is comprehensively covered in the 2014 publication ‘Pubs of Royal Leamington Spa – Two Centuries of History’ [by Allan Jennings, Martin Ellis & Tom Lewin], we should not overlook the breweries that were once part of Leamington’s social fabric, albeit a great many years ago; their respective histories were researched and compiled for inclusion in the above publication, but excluded at the ‘eleventh hour’ due to capacity constraints. But first some background information . . .

The 1830 Beer House Act enacted that any householder assessed to the poor rate [a tax levied by parishes to support the poor] could retail beer from their premises without obtaining a licence from the local justices, simply an Excise licence costing two guineas [£2.2s] per annum; many of the resultant ‘beer houses’ [as they were known] also brewed their own beer. Some of these retail brewers gained a reputation for quality, commenced supplying other ‘beer houses’ in their area and became known as ‘common brewers’; a good regional example of ‘common brewers’ were Henry Mitchell and William Butler, who first brewed beer independently in their respective Birmingham pubs before merging to form Mitchells & Butlers [M&B].

Lucas Bottles, photo Allan Jennings

Lucas Bottles, photo Allan Jennings

At this point in time pubs were still ‘free-houses’ so called because they were not owned by, or ‘tied’ to, a particular brewery and could therefore source their products from wherever they chose. However, by the latter part of the 19th century this situation had changed and a large number of pubs had become ‘tied-houses’, contracted to a specific brewery to exclusively sell their products. Also, Britain’s brewing industry was undergoing fundamental change, with an increasing number of breweries becoming public companies to generate the capital required to buy-up more ‘free-houses’ – and buy-out their competitors to gain control of their ‘tied-houses’.

Thornley's Label, photo Allan Jennings

Thornley’s Label, photo Allan Jennings

Those baby-boomers – and members of the preceding generation – that grew up frequenting the local pubs will recall the regional and national breweries ‘tied-houses’ in Leamington by the names once adorning their pubs’ signs, the most prominent arguably being: – Ansell’s, Bass, Flowers, Hunt Edmonds, Davenports, M&B, Watney’s and Whitbread; the history’s of which are already well documented elsewhere.

There is plenty of evidence that many of Leamington’s 19th century pubs were actively involved in retail brewing ‘post’ the 1830 Beer House Act, some examples being: – Carpenters Arms [Chandos Street], Golden Lion [Regent Street], Kings Arms [Warwick Street], Newmarket Inn [Tavistock Street] and Oak Inn [Radford Road]. However, this brief focuses on those brewers that were more than just a ‘beer house’.

Potted histories and longer research papers have been completed for the following: –

  1. Clarendon Brewery [Clarendon Street]. (July 2016)
  2. Leamington Brewery [Lillington Avenue]. (May 2016)
  3. Thornley-Kelsey [Radford Brewery]. (June 2016)**
  4. Castle Brewery [Brunswick Street]. (Updated February 2017)
  5. Leamington Spa Ale & Porter Brewery – aka Regent Brewery [Wise Street] (September 2016)
  6. Warwick Brewery [Wallace Street, Saltisford, Warwick] (September 2017)

Martin Ellis,  February 2016

 

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