THE VANISHED BREWERIES OF READING
In 1900, there were nine established breweries in Reading, and one other just outside the
town, in Theale. Fifty years later, only three of them were left; two had gone by 1965 and the
last one disappeared in 1979, although it had lost its independence in 1960.
Just over a century ago, drinkers had a choice between the beers produced at –
The Weldale Brewery
The Castle Brewery
The Royal Albert Brewery
The Family Brewery
The Angel Brewery
The Lion Brewery
The Seven Bridges Brewery
The Truro Brewery
The Victoria Brewery, and
The Theale Brewery.
The largest brewery in the town – and still fondly remembered – was H. & G. Simonds Ltd. at
Seven Bridges, Bridge Street. Their hopleaf inn signs dominated the area. Simonds had been
founded at the corner of Broad Street in 1774 by William Blackall Simonds and moved to a
site in Bridge Street, on the banks of the River Kennett, in 1790. Over the years, the brewery
acquired many other firms in Reading, Salisbury, Newbury, Bristol, Devonport, London,
Blandford Forum, Fordingbridge, Cirencester, Newport, Swindon, Basingstoke and Staines,
until it was bought itself by Courage & Barclay of London nearly 60 years ago, with over 1200
Simonds’ poster showing the extensive Seven Bridges Brewery
Early Simonds’ labels showing the hopleaf
Courage vacated the Seven Bridges Brewery in 1979 and opened the Berkshire Brewery,
Imperial Way, Worton Grange, adjoining the M3 Motorway. The Seven Bridges Brewery was
demolished in 1983 and the Berkshire Brewery disappeared in 2010.
Simonds had acquired The Victoria Brewery at 16 Chain Street, run by Robert Hewett & Son
around 1900. It had been in existence in 1840, when Harris & Hewett were the owners.
Extract from the Goad Insurance Map showing the layout of The Victoria Brewery
Simonds also inherited, in 1920, on the purchase of the South Berks Brewery at Newbury, the
licensed premises of the Castle Brewery of Blandy, Hawkins & Co. in Bridge Street, which had
been absorbed by South Berks in 1910. Blandys had been founded in 1698 and owned by
Robert Noakes in 1720. A succession of ownerships followed until 1856 when Hawkins at the
Castle Brewery merged with Charles Blandy’s business at the Mill Lane Brewery, Reading.
In the village of Theale, west of Reading, Blatch’s Theale Brewery in the High Street had
functioned since 1752. The Blatch family had purchased the brewery from the Drapers in
1854. Ind Coope Ltd bought the brewery in 1965 following the death of the owner. The
brewery owned some 22 pubs – but at one stage had 27. The brewery tower – now offices
Remains of Theale Brewery
Blatch’s bottle labels issued before a limited company was formed in May 1938
Behind the Lion Inn at 20 Castle Street stood the brewery of S.H. Higgs Ltd., which traded
until its acquisition, with its 8 pubs, by Wethereds of Marlow in 1954. The brewery had been
founded before 1860, when it was operated by William Adeane, followed by James More and
then George More until 1877 when it passed to Samuel Higgs.
The Lion Inn and brewery have been demolished.
Wartime photo of The Lion Inn, with entrance archway to the brewery
1920s beer labels
Wethereds had also purchased the Weldale Brewery of Henry Bird at 17 Caversham Street in
1913, with its 9 pubs. Bird had taken over from William Alloway in 1876.
Henry Bird advertises his draught and bottled beers
The Abingdon brewery of Morland & Co. Ltd. had a number of pubs in Reading, as a result of
its acquisition of Dymore Brown & Co. Ltd. of the Royal Albert Brewery at 16/18 Queens Road
in 1927 and the Angel Brewery at 116/117 Broad Street owned by Fergusons Ltd.
Fergusons was founded in 1724 at Market Place, Reading as a wine merchant, and progressed
to brewing in 1865. Brewing ceased in 1914, and beer supplies were taken from Morlands,
reflecting its purchase in 1899, by Thomas Skurray of Morlands. The firm continued as wine
and spirit merchants.
Fergusons brands –brewed at Dymore Brown’s Brewery 1914 to 1927
Fergusons had bought the Truro Brewery of W.J. Justins Brinn adjoining the Truro pub at
29/30 Castle Street in 1900 with its 30 pubs. The brewery - founded around 1827 - was
originally the Castle Street Brewery of John Adams, and later operated by Nathaniel J. Hone.
It was bought by Thomas Justins in 1851. His great nephew, William James Justin Brinn, later
ran it and in the 1880s renamed it after the city where he was born in 1856. The Truro closed
in 1973 and was demolished along with the brewery to make way for a court house. At the
time, many old bottle and cask labels were unearthed. Brinn had purchased the 16 tied
houses belonging to Sims’s Lion Brewery at 26 Hosier Street, Reading at auction in 1890.
One of the bottled beers of William James Justin Brinn c1900
The Truro pub before demolition. The brewery was at the back
Dymore Brown’s Brewery had been founded in 1831 when James Dymore Brown succeeded
Charles Moody at 106 Castle Street, Reading. After moving to Friar Street around 1837, the
Royal Albert Brewery was erected in 1864. After Morland’s acquisition, the premises had
been used as a depot and bottling store, and beers were still labelled Dymore Brown to 1943,
even though they were brewed at Abingdon. The premises were vacated in 1970 and
Early Dymore Brown beer label
Another Broad Street brewery – Dowsett Brothers at their Family Brewery. Nos 46/47, ceased
brewing in 1906 and was auctioned. Originally founded by William Munt, a former brewer’s
agent, in 1850, the brewery passed to Russell & Martin in 1856 and then to Dowsett Brothers
in 1866. The brewery was renowned for its Golden Star Ale. The premises were demolished
and the site occupied for many years by British Home Stores.
Dowsett Brothers advertisement pre-1900
Reading has had its share of microbreweries. The following operated for a short period:-
• Flyer & Firkin, 53 Balgrave Street - 1996-99
• Innuendo Brewery, Horse & Jockey, 120 Castle Street - 1998-99
• Tudor Brewing Company, Brewery Tap, 23 Castle Street 1999-99
• Reading Lion Brewery, The Hop Leaf, 163-165 Southampton Street – 1994-2001
• Two Bridges Brewery, 37 Ardler Road, Caversham – 2009-2013
• Hop King Brewing Co., 82 Eastern Avenue – May 2014-2017.
Only the following breweries still carry the torch for this once important brewing town:-
• Double Barrelled Brewery Ltd., 5 Elmleigh Court, Caversham – Started in Spring 2018
• Zerodegrees Brewery, 9 Bridge Street – Founded 2007.
• The Dickens Brewery, The Great Expectations, 33 London Street – Founded 2015 but
brewing is intermittent.