THE STORY OF BREWING IN REIGATE AND REDHILL, SURREY
Homepage: Foreword and Abbreviations
Introduction: Background History & Political Influences
Brewing in Reigate prior to the mid 19th century
Mellersh & Neale, the early years
The Reigate and Darking Bank
Mellersh & Neale, Growth and Prosperity
Mellersh & Neale, Territorial Expansion - Pagdens, Sayers, Boxalls, Lucocks, & Swan Brewery
Mellersh & Neale Ltd., the end of an era, - The Meux take-over.
"Blessings of your heart, you brew good ale” - images of beer labels etc.
Further brewing concerns in Reigate from the mid 19th century onwards -
The Eagle Brewery, The South Park Brewery, Cooper's, and Landregan's.
Reigate "Foreign". The development of Redhill
(1) The Redhill Brewery
(2) The Warwick Brewery & The Roses Brewery.
The Pilgrim Brewery, a revival of the brewing tradition in Reigate
Synopsis of Breweries
Inventories of Church Street & High Street Breweries 1806
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Although not mentioned by the name Reigate until the 12th century, it is an old town. According to Manning & Bray, Reigate derived its name from the Saxons rigge or ridge, or hill which surrounded the settlement. Gait is a Middle English word for way, passage, or road to walk in, and derives from the Old Norse word gata. The whole name being an allusion to the pass through the North Downs at this point, always an important line of communication between the London basin and the Weald. It was formerly called Cherchefelle, and it is supposed that after the Saxons had thrown off their paganism, they built a church in the fields, and from that it derived its name of Churchfield. The domesday book makes no mention of the church, although the name Churchefelle is recorded, which King William kept in demesne. It had been held by Queen Edith from the Confessor's time and was computed at 37 hides and a half (a hide is about 100 acres). It had 67 villeins, two mills, and 12 acres of pasture land. The woods were large, furnishing the Lord of the Manor with 150 fat rent hogs, and 43 lean ones. The value of the whole being £40 per annum.
Queen Edith died in 1075 and the manor passed to the Crown. In 1086 it was passed to William de Warrenne, Earl of Surrey, as a gift. William de Warrenne fought at Hastings and was married to Gundrada, King William's stepdaughter. The gift was his reward, partially for his loyalty, and partly to serve as a check upon Prince William Rufus's adversary, De Clare of Bletchingley.
De Warrenne built a strongly fortified castle here. Nothing of it remains above ground except the mound upon which it stood, now in the pleasant gardens called Castle Grounds, with traces of the ramparts and dry fosse. A central underground vault, descending 200 feet, 150 feet long, and 10 - 12 feet high, called the Barons' Cave lies beneath the mound, off which lead a number of mediaeval tunnels. Some of these penetrate for long distances beneath the town and reaching the Priory on Reigate Heath, and even so, it is said, as far as Bletchingley Castle some miles distant. The author believes this unlikely considering the rivalry that existed between the de Warrennes and the de Clares. Local tradition has it that the Barons' Cave was the covert site of the barons ' deliberations before their meeting with King John at Runnymede and the signing of the Magna Carta.
During both World Wars, the caves and tunnels were put to good use, serving as stores and air-raid shelters (more of which later). Most of the tunnels have now been sealed off, but the main cave and part of the old system are still open to the public.
The De Warrenne coat of arms is still used on the great seal of the Borough Council.
Reigate Priory was endowed by the 5th Earl, sometime in the earlier part of the 13th century, the order being according to that of the Augustinians or Black Canons Regular. It was dissolved in 1536, at which time its revenues were valued at £78.16s.8d., and within five years was awarded to Lord William Howard, whose daughter, Catherine, became the fifth wife of King Henry VIII and who tragically met her doom on the scaffold in 1542. The Priory passed to William's son, Charles of Effingham, the admiral who led the English fleet to defeat the Spanish Armada. After the latter's death in 1624, the Priory passed through various hands and finally ended up in the possession of the Somers family, circa 1808 from which date the estate devolved with Reigate manor until 1921 when it was sold off.
The Church of St. Mary Magdalene, one of the largest parish churches in Surrey, is very ancient, and most probably lies on the site of the original church which gave the town its original name of Cherchefelle. It is built of local stone, except for the tower, which was rebuilt in 1874. The oldest part dates from the 12th century, and there are some interesting tombs including that of Admiral Lord Charles Howard of Effingham. The living is a Vicarage, with a glebe house.
In the vestry is one of the oldest public libraries in England; it was founded in 1701 by the vicar, and now contains about 2,000 volumes, mainly on theological subjects, and is open to the public on advertised weekdays.
Reigate lies in an area called "Holmesdale" at a point as mentioned above where the Chalk and the Lower Greensand escarpments are breached by a gap through which pass main roads and railways that link up the South Coast and the Metropolis. Being situated within easy reach of London, Reigate has become to a large extent, residential rather than industrial and has consequently grown considerably in recent years.
Redhill, two miles to the east, is part of the Borough of Reigate and almost a railway creation. Up until about 1851, it, together with other surrounding areas, was collectively known as Reigate "Foreign", and the census that year revealed it to have 3269 inhabitants (about 1600 more than Reigate Town), but within 10 years , after the completion of the railway, the population of Redhill had swollen to 7000, whilst that of Reigate had only grown by another 160. Redhill quickly grew in importance until it outstripped its parent to become virtually the commercial centre of the borough, a role that was further increased by the creation of Gatwick Airport, three miles to the south.
The outstanding topographical features of the area are two parallel ranges of hills crossing in a direction roughly east to west, namely the North Downs, and the Surrey Hills, separated by the wide valley of Holmesdale in which Reigate is situated.
The scarp of the chalk hills or North Downs forms a bold striking feature running abruptly on the north side of Holmesdale, and continuing, except where broken by gaps, completely across the district. The ridge includes such promenances as Box Hill (633 ft), Betchworth Hill (782 ft), and Reigate Hill (763 ft). The crest remains at a fairly constant height of about 700 ft above OD.
Gaps break the ridge at Dorking and Merstham. The former has approached a mature stage being occupied by the consequent river Mole. Its floor lies about 150 ft above OD. The Merstham gap is a wind gap, the floor of which lies 430 ft above OD.
The Surrey Hills, formed by the Lower Greensand, rise gently southward from Holmesdale, and culminate in an escarpment overlooking the low areas of Weald Clay and Tunbridge Wells Sand which occupy the southern part of the district. On the west this escarpment forms the well-known landmark of Leith Hill (965 ft), around Brockham and Betchworth it has been completely eroded by the river Mole, but it rises again at Reigate and runs through Nutfield and Bletchingley to Oxted as a prominent ridge. A gap occurs in this ridge at Redhill, being occupied by an obsequent stream flowing southward to join the Mole.
It forms no part in the plan of this website to dwell at length on the geological aspect of the district. However, it is important to note that the dip slopes of the Lower Greensand, in the area between Redhill and Oxted are practically all under the cultivation of wheat and barley. The latter cereal being a staple ingredient of the brewing process. One subdivision, the Hythe Beds, has been found to be particularly suitable for the growth of hops. This is also true of the marls of the Upper greensand, which, according to the Revd. J. Wilkinson (Journal Roy. Agric. Soc., Vol. xxii).
"...is a kind of white land, neither chalk nor clay, neither fit for the pasture nor for the plough, yet kindly for hops, which root deep into the freestone...This white soil produces the brightest hops."
It is interesting to note that hops have long been the characteristic crop of the Upper Greensand in West Surrey, those of Farnham being especially celebrated .
The third ingredient for brewing is of course, water. The Royal Commissioners on Water Supply laid great stress upon the excellent quality of water to be obtained from wells in the area. They stated that the water flowing from the Lower Greensand is excellent for all domestic purposes, being bright and limpid, of a degree of hardness varying only from about three to nine of Clark's test, and generally very free from organic matter.
In 1839 there were 82 breweries in Surrey, but by 1899 there were just 46, one half that number. During the intervening years it appears that the number of licences fell and fell without any true explanation. Taking at random various years, the figures were shown thus:
1855 - 78; 1859 - 75; 1874 - 77; 1878 - 81; 1882 - 79; 1891 - 59; and 1895 - 53.
At the turn of the 20th century there were some 50 small concerns, one or more in nearly each major township throughout the county, and a great many of these had been absorbed by the few major breweries in the Area.
Over the ensuing decades there remained fewer and fewer breweries in Surrey, until 1964 when the last one, Friary Meux Ltd ., was acquired by Ind Coope Ltd and was deleted from the Register of Public Companies. This left Surrey unique in the British Isles as being the only county totally devoid of any brewery.
As a result, the entire trade was held in the monopoly of the "Big-Six" - Allied Breweries, Bass Charrington, Courage, Scottish & Newcastle, Watney Mann & Truman, and Whitbread, and both choice and quality was restricted.
Out of this came a groundswell of opinion and the organisation CAMRA was born in March 1971 with their campaign for real ale, live beer from the cask, and more choice. Individuals commenced small scale brewing operations, and out of these small beginnings, a new breed of brewer began to dominate the market, the pub-brewery, as it was found to be more commercially viable to brew your own beer for a pub, rather than purchase from an outside source.
It is not my intention to dwell on this absorbing aspect of the brewing industry, but to concentrate on the growth of the industry, using the market towns of Reigate and Redhill as a case study.
Please double-click on the chapters to the lefthand side of this page to navigate through this absorbing story.
Richard Symonds 2008.