Tuesday, 12 February 2008



Brewing is certainly associated with the town as far back as the Elizabethan era, and most probably a long time before that. The date of the introduction of beer into England is uncertain. Since the preparation of beer demands a knowledge of agriculture it is probable that the art was acquired from traders who visited these shores. We know that alehouses were in existence as early as 721 AD, as they are mentioned in the laws of Ina, king of Wessex [1], whilst the custom of drinking to "pins" or "pegs" is said to have evolved from the temperance reforms of king Edgar (958-975 AD.). The druid priests were the brewers of Ancient Britain and their beer was used at feasts and gatherings. We also know that beer formed the chief beverage at a banquet in the time of Edward the Confessor, and that in 1266 AD., a statute was passed establishing a graduated scale for the price of ale throughout the kingdom [2]. Suffice it to say that at whatever date the ordinance enforcing the keeping of the Assize of bread and ale was passed, it was definitely before the end of the reign of Henry III [3].

For a short time after the Norman Conquest the popularity of ale waned in favour of French wines, but by the 12th century ale had regained its popularity. English monasteries became noted for the quality of their ales and frequent references may be found in the regulations of the old monastic establishments. The duty of hospitality being the foremost function of the monks, the post of cellarer was an important one and not infrequently the cellarer was appointed Abbott. It is more than likely therefore, that brewing to some extent must have been carried on at Reigate Priory during its days as a monastery, and this inference may be borne out by the specific mention of hop fields among the lands of Reigate Priory in 1538 [4].

On the dissolution of the monasteries, brewing passed into the hands of innkeepers and common brewers and became something more than a mere domestic industry. It became one of the duties of the frank-pledge to appoint officers, "ale-conners", to police brew houses within their tithing to ensure the assize was not broken, and to bring offenders to justice. Fines or other stiffer punishments for regular offenders were imposed at the view of frank-pledge [5]. Such offences against the assize could be committed by the brewers themselves, or by the hucksters or retailers. It would appear that by the frequency the same offender came to book (appearance at the view of frank-pledge was generally considered amongst the brewers as a hazard of the trade) it was more profitable to break the assize than conform [6].

The first documentary evidence to brewing in Reigate is from 1569, when Thomas Thornton, a brewer in Bell Street, had a tragic accident at his brewery. On the 17th July of that year it is recorded that two of his men lost their lives when they were "scalded in the mashing vat and they died" [7]. He was also repeatedly prosecuted in the Manor Courts and also once at the Court of Exchequer for selling his beer at excessive rates from 1583 onwards [8]. Henry VIII reinforced the enactment of Edward the Confessor and declared that brewers should charge for their ales "such prices as might appear convenient and sufficient at the justices upon pain of fyne".

During a series of excavations conducted by Mr. David W. Williams between 1979 and 1984 [9], the well preserved remains of a malting kiln was uncovered at the rear of 43, High Street, a property which boasts a long history, having records dating back continuously to 1382 when the site was owned by Richard Skinner, Burgess for Reigate [10]. However, it must be noted that it was not until the 16th century that it was specifically referred to as a brewery, when in 1575 John Skinner conveyed to John and Robert Thompson, brewers, " a messuage between the George on the east and a croft of Robert Skeete on the west and adjoining the Priory on the south..." [11].

Robert Thompson was repeatedly fined at the Manor Courts from 1583 onwards for breaking the assize by selling beer not sufficiently wholesome. It is also recorded that he often served on the juries that tried these offences [12].

Robert Thompson leased for 7 years from 1587 to Richard Cade the premises then described as " a brew house, a shed at the west end of the barn, a mill house, stables, a hay house, a chamber over the well house, a parlour next to the kitchen, a chamber over the parlour and a cellar under the same, two little rooms adjoining the parlour, part of the orchard, and equipment of the brew house" [13].

At about the same time, ( the property having been split up ) Robert Thompson also conveyed to Walter Cade, citizen and haberdasher of London, " a messuage excepting the kitchen, upper house, cellar under the last, two chambers over the same, hall, parlour, chamber over the hall, two inner butteries, and a corn chamber over the same, a barn next to the brew house, a loft over the brew house, a loft over the mill house and over the stables, but including the brew house." [14].

Richard and Walter Cade must have left Reigate and leased the brewery, or at least left it in the hands of Samuel Wilde [15] who continued brewing until Walter's death in 1621, when the equipment was bequeathed to the two sons, Simon and Andrew Cade. The equipment consisted of "a copper kettle, mash tunne, gyle tunne, sweetwort tunne, under back, two cole backs, gutter, maltmill, leadern cisterne, and a pipe of lead " [16].

In 1627 the property, still in the occupation of Jane Wilde, widow of Samuel Wilde, was leased under the description of "cellars, vaults, chambers and brew house, barn, mill house, malt mill, stable, and brewing vessels, garden and well house. " [17]. It is not clear whether the lease was made to Walsingham Heathfield, brewer, but he was most certainly occupying the property by 1654 [18].

During the Commonwealth, both he and another brewer, Michael Anscombe of The Bull Inn, lay under suspicion by Oliver Cromwell's Major Generals as malignants and their inns were threatened with closure as Royalist centres [19].

Walsingham Heathfield [20] also owned the Red Lyon Inn which once stood at the corner of West Street and Park Lane - just to the rear of a butcher's shop which until recently traded as Church's Butchers. The name is remembered by a cul-de-sac over the property called Red Lyon Close.

Heathfield sold the brew house and malthouse to his father-in-law George Taylor in 1688, who along with John Arnold, brewer, had been leasing the property for some years previously [21]. After George Taylor's death in 1695, the property passed into the hands of his son-in-law Henry Ware, an oatmeal man, who used the maltmill for grinding oatmeal [22].

It is interesting to note that in 1689 an agreement was drawn up between George Taylor, Jane Blatt and her son Thomas, also an oatmeal man, concerning " an ancient building of the said George Taylor " and which was "used for a stable, and now in the tenure of John Tooth, until which the said Jane Blatt and Thomas Blatt have the head of a barn lately built and now used for a mill house soe near adjoyning that by drippes of the said stable eves as well the said George Taylor as the said Jane Blatt and Thomas Blatt may susteyne damage " [23].

Henry and Mary Ware leased the property in 1712 to John Constable of Betchworth, maltster, for 11 years, and in 1717 also conveyed to him " a messuage or dwelling house, a building called a pump house, a house formerly a mill house, a mill house and stable, a malthouse, an oasthouse and chamber, and a chip house or hovel, the south part of a cellar under the dwelling house, parlour, and a yard and gateway between the dwelling house and the gateway to the next property " [24].

John Constable's brother-in-law, James Sutton, sold the property in 1749 to John Cocks, owner of the Manor of Reigate [25].

Bryant's Survey lists the property as number 203 and describes it as "a messuage, malting house, stable, yard, garden, and field. The messuage being made out of a brew house abutting south on the Priory wall worth £8 per annum. Formerly in the occupation of John Wheeler, John Constable, James Sutton, late of Thomas Sutton. John Cocks purchased it in 1749 from James Sutton for £420 " [26].

Another brew house in the High Street, described in Bryant's Survey as " a messuage lately repaired and beautified abutting onto the Crown ditch " was formerly occupied by a brewer named Benjamin Richardson, who carried on the trade in succession to his father John who died in 1704. John bought the brew house in 1661 from Allan Woodman, the property being described in Bryant's Survey, numbers 167 to 169, as "all that messuage or tenement, brew house, mill house, barn, stables, edifices, buildings, orchard, garden, with appurtenances, and half an acre then in the occupation of Allen Woodman. John Richardson polled in 1698; occupied by Mary, widow of John Richardson, brewer, and Benjamin Richardson, brewer, 1704; Benjamin Richardson polled in 1710; since of Thomas Peyto, who purchased it from Thomas Richardson, worth £10 per annum. Thomas Peyto polled in 1722 " .

John Richardson succeeded to the business from his father, George Richardson, who ran the Bull, and who required larger premises. George Richardson had acquired the Bull in 1627 from Edward Bysshe of Burstow for £240, and had sold it to Michael Aynscombe in 1639 for £280. Bryant's Survey observes that in 1661 Aynscombe sold it to Walsingham Heathfield for £300 [27].

Throughout the 17th century we have fleeting references to a great number of brewers, many of whom were probably retail brewers - landlords who had a brew house at the rear of their inn, rather than common brewers. We find names such as Andrew Ware, 1574 [28]; John Rogers, " bruer to the Lord Admiral at the Priorie " in 1602 [29]; William Lyfe, 1613 [30]; Samuel Bignold, 1614 [31]; Richard Edwards, 1616 [32]; Reference may also be found concerning Nicholas Cooke, 1642, who occupied maltings on the north side of Church Street which he subsequently sold to the Neale family [33].

John Richardson also built a brewery in Bell Street , which was later occupied by James Apted, maltster and brewer. James Apted's business was established just before 1786 when the property was listed in Bryant's Survey as "occupying the rear half of a shop and brew house adjoining the Crown Inn on the south side of the High Street ". Access was achieved from the High Street, but later a new road connected it with Bell Street.

A lease from Lord Somers, dated 25th March 1790, in the possession of Friary Meux, describes the property as “a messuage or tenement and piece of ground in the Borough of Reigate held at the rent of 5/8d payable half yearly” The lease, commencing on Lady Day 1796 was for a term of 61 years. This would take it up to 1857.

Also in the possession of Friary Meux is a more recent deed, an assignment of Reigate Brewery dated 16th November 1802, which distinctly states under the list of properties held subject to the conveyance, " also a malting house lately erected by James Apted ".

By 1839 the business was styled Apted and Son, maltsters and brewers. By 1845, directories give James Heath Apted as sole owner, and also lists him as brewer and newspaper merchant. James Apted must have sold out to Thomas Neale of the Reigate Brewery by at least 1851 as later maps reveal Mr. Thomas Neale's brewery extending right over the site of Apted's property. Directories immediately subsequent to 1851 support this conjecture by listing Apted as newspaper merchant only. James Apted died on 24th March 1855, aged 75. His father, James Apted, Snr., had died in 1831, aged 80, having moved to Beddington sometime previously, leaving his son in charge of the business.

Other 18th century names which appeared from time to time included Joseph Life, 1708, and John Shove, 1716, who had maltings on the north side of West Street [34]; Thomas Snelling had maltings and a brew house in Slipshoe Street, 1730 [35]; Henry Crunden had an Inn called the Bunch of Grapes in Bell Street - now part of Messrs. Knights the Drapers - and he brewed from a small brew house at the rear of the property until his death in 1807. The premises was still a brew house in 1816 when his son, Henry, seemed to be associated with it [36]. Henry Crunden Jnr. was also listed in the accounts for a dinner to 1200 persons to celebrate the passing of the Reform Bill given in Castle Court, Reigate, on Saturday 4th August 1832. He provided 72 gallons of beer at a cost of £5.8s.0d. [37].

At the sign of the Jolly Bacchus - now the Market Hotel on the corner of Tunnel Road and High Street - Richard Yerworth was proprietor and brewer around 1833. Almost 50 years later, in 1870, his son traded from the same establishment, advertising as a wine and spirit merchant and brewer. His brewing interests relied strongly upon private family and club patronage.


1. Ina, King of Wessex: Hayden's Dictionary of Dates. 1885. Booths were set up in England A.D.788 when laws were passed for their regulation.
2. One full quart of the best, and two quarts of small ale to be sold for one penny.
3. II VCH 381 - 387.
4. Hooper, W. p97; Hall & Russell, 29.
5. The court leet or view of frank pledge was empowered to make bye-laws, one being that it was unlawful to play games or drink at times of divine service. The order appeared in 1596, and under it Anthony Heathfield, Innkeeper, was in 1613 presented for permitting such in his house on Sunday within the prohibited hours. Hooper, W. p29.
6. The Court Rolls of 1532 mentions John Skepton being fined 6/11d for breaking the assize of ale; Hooper, W. p29; Note: for a further account of Manorial Courts, see Webb, The Manor and the Borough, 13, etc.
7. Hooper, W. p98.
8. Exch. K. R. Mem. Trin. 6 Eliz. 126d; Mich, 6 - 7 Eliz. 171d.
9. Williams, D. Excavations at 43, High Street, Reigate. 1981. SAC 75, pp111 - 153.
10. SRO 371 / 8 / 221 - 245.
11. SRO 371 / 8 / 229.
12. Lewis, F. B. (ed) 1984. Pedes Finium or fines relating to the County of Surrey. 7 Ric I to end of reign of Henry VII, No. 44, SAC extra Vol. 1.
13. SRO 371 / 8 / 230.
14. SRO 371 / 8 / 231.
15. SRO 371 / 8 / 240.
16. SRO 371 / 8 / 234. SAC. Feet of Fines, 148.
17. SRO 371 / 8 / 237.
18. SRO 371 / 8 / 239.
19. Bax, A. R., Suspected persons in Surrey during the Commonwealth, SAC XIV. pp 186 - 189; BM Add. Ms. 34013.
20. Leading Brewer, also J. Richardson. Psh Regs; London Gazette 18. 1. 1697; SP Dom (697) 41. 21. SRO 371 / 8 / 244.
22. SRO 371 / 8 / 249.
23. SRO 371 / 8 / 245.
24. SRO 371 / 8 / 250.
25. SRO 371 / 8 / 254.
26. SRO 445 / 1 / 203, Bryants Survey.
27. SRO 445 / 1 / 214, ibid. 1639 Release; 3 Chas 1., Edward Bysshe of Burstow sold it to George Richardson for £40.
28. SRO P49 / 1 / 1 - 2.
29. It is recorded "that several of the Lord Admiral's servants died of the Plague in 1603 and 1604. He maintained a large establishment at the Priory in keeping with the style demanded of a man of rank and position." Hooper, W. p131. We read of, among other servants, a brewer, John Rogers. Burial Regs; SRO P49 / 1 / 1 - 2.
30-32. All SRO P49 / 1 / 1 - 2.
33. SRO 792 / 5 / 78.
34. SRO 792 / 4 / 47.
35. SRO p49 / 1 / 7. Reigate Psh. Regs. 1654 - 1766.
36. SRO QS 5 / 10 / 4.37. HP.

Advertisment, taken from Palgrave's handbook to Reigate, 1860

Advertisment, taken from Palgrave's handbook to Reigate, 1860
Henry yerworth traded from the Jolly Bacchus between 1860 & 1876