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It is made from just four basic ingredients malt, water, hops and yeast, yet beer is THE champion drink of Britain. I was lucky enough to work in the brewing industry at both Romsey and Portsmouth. During my time their I built up an historical record of the development and the eventual demise of these great companies. I hope you enjoy reading the articles here. If I have got it wrong anywhere please do let me know and I will do my best to rectify it.


Strong & Co. of Romsey Ltd

Based in the lovely market town of Romsey, this once mighty brewing company produced its last pint under it’s own umbrella in 1969 and it’s last pint ever (Under the Whitbread name in May 1981)

Brickwoods of Portsmouth Ltd

Based in the bustling naval city of Portsmouth, the Brickwood empire once covered half of southern England. It brewed it’s last pint under it’s own umbrella in 1971 and it’s last pint ever (Under the Whitbread name) in July 1983

George Gale & Co. Ltd

Based about 10 miles outside of Portsmouth this lovely old traditional brewer finally ceased production in 2005. It’s world famous HSB dying with it. It’s prize Old Ale in the famous ‘corkers’ and XXXXX winter brew made it a must drink in the 1970’s.

Hops are the female flowers of the plant HUMULUS LUPULUS. After harvesting they are dried and bagged into sacks called pockets. Traditionally they were picked by east enders as seasonal labourers. Special trains were laid on to take them to the gardens of Kent.

There is an old saying that all roads lead to Rome, perhaps that should have read Romsey. Between about 1920 and 1969 as motorists and train travellers approached the little Hampshire town they were greeted by brightly coloured advertising signs. On these signs was a painting of a thatched cottage surrounded by a typically rural landscape. Emblazoned on it were the word's 'You're in the Strong Country - Famous for Strong's ales and stouts"…

Here is the story behind that painting.

On Friday 26th June 1981 an era came to an end. At approximately 5.45 am 36 quarters of ABM malt were mashed and the final brew at the ROMSEY brewery was begun. Ironically it was not Strong's Special Ale or Black Bess stout not even Strong Country Bitter but the ubiquitous Whitbread Trophy that was being made. This final brew, Gyle numbers 251 & 252,was fermented in FV's 35 and 36. The following week it was racked, filtered and kegged. It was the end of an era. All future beers would be brewed at the Portsmouth brewery and the plant at Romsey would subsequently be destroyed. This ended 123 years of constant brewing in Romsey. The site lingered on for about another 5 years taking in rough beer for filtration and kegging. (Bottling had ceased in April 1981). The site finally closed in 1987. It subsequent destruction was an affront to civilisation. Contained in pictures elsewhere on this site you will have a unique chance to view the majesty of this fine brewery. What follows is a personal polemic about this wonderful and revered place. Join me as we pay homage to the irreplaceable Romsey brewery.

The Romsey Breweries - A history


The Horsefair Brewery had been in operation many years before it was acquired by David Faber. Details of its early history are a little uncertain, but it is known that in the last quarter of the 18th century the partners owning the brewery were Richard Trodd, who was Mayor of Romsey in 1 778, and Thomas Hall I. The Trodds seem to have been the senior partners, and were said originally to have been maltsters at Cupernham.Apparently Thomas Hall I died sometime before 1795, when his share descended to his nephew Thomas Hall II. The latter and Richard Trodd both died in 1796 when the business was carried on by William Trodd, son of Richard, and Sarah Hall, widow of Thomas Hall II. Unfortunately William died in 1803 leaving only minor children, and there was considerable litigation between the heirs of the Trodds and Halls until 1811, when Sarah died. Consequent upon an Order by the Court of Chancery in August 1811, the Trodd interest was bought out, and the brewing business passed into the hands of two brothers, Thomas Hall III and Charles John Hall, the sons of Thomas Hall II. The heir of the Trodds, William Stewart Trodd, the grandson of Richard, having converted his share of the brewery into cash, seems to have decided that money was for spending, and in this was highly successful. Poor William soon found, as did so many before and since his time, that it was much easier to spend money than to acquire it, and after some exciting and hopeful ventures with racehorses, went bankrupt. His love of horses then led him to obtain employment as the driver of a stage coach. But even this did not seem to last very long, and he is said to have ended his days as a gatekeeper in the employ of the London and South Western Railway at Crampmoor Crossing.  The partnership between Thomas and Charles John Hall lasted until Christmas 1834, when the elder brother retired, leaving Charles John Hall as the sole owner of the business. This he carried on successfully until 1858, when he retired and leased the Brewery with 23 licensed houses to Thomas Strong. He retained the ownership until his death in 1870, when his widow Catherine Hall inherited. After her death in 1875 all the properties were sold in that year by her heirs, Charles Loddington Hall and his wife Emily Hall, to Sir Edward Bates M.P. In July 1883 Sir Edward Bates sold the Brewery and attached houses to Thomas Strong, so that once again ownership and occupation were united. Thomas Strong died three years later, and it was then that the Brewery was acquired by David Faber.


The Bell Street Brewery premises were occupied from 1740 to 1819 by three generations of a family named Comley, but it is not certain when they started to brew, as they were originally maltsters. Thomas Comleyy 1st leased the original premises in 1740 from a family named Wale, and purchased them four years later for £267 .10. Od. His son, John Comley, succeeded, and from him the business passed to the grandson Thomas Comley 2nd, who died in 1819. The latter left his property in trust, desiring that the business should be maintained until his children were 21 years of age, when they were to have the option of taking it over. Charles John Hall, as surviving Trustee, continued the business until 1847, although it seems to have been managed by the Southampton Brewer, William Aldridge. When it was found that all the children refused their option of taking over the business, it was sold to Josiah George the younger, who conducted the Brewery until his death in 1862. The business was managed for some time by the Executors, and was eventually acquired by his nephews, William Bentley George the younger and Samuel Cartwright George, who traded under the style of George Brothers. In 1872 Samuel Cartwright George retired, and 14 years later the business was bought by David Faber. The "Comley" ledger formerly preserved at Horsefair, relates to the period 1770-1788 and shows that the Comleys had a considerable trade over a wide area around Romsey - Victuallers at Gosport, Whiteparish, Winchester etc., being mentioned, as well as local notabilities such as Sir Jacob Woolfe at Melchet Park.


It is not known when this Brewery was founded, but that there was a Brewery in the Hundred in 1781 maybe seen from an advertisement in the "Winchester and Salisbury Journal", when it was stated to be lately in the occupation of Messrs. Pulling and Rant, common brewers. This Brewery was said to be near the turnpike gate at the junction of the Winchester an& Botley roads, but whether it was identical with Cressey's Brewery purchased by David Faber in 1886 is not clear. Cressey's Brewery was certainly in existence in 1855, when it was owned by Mrs. Sarah Jesser who leased it to her son, Alfred Pitt Jesser and her son-in-law, Francis Cressey. Sarah Jesser died in 1864 and left her interest in equal shares to her son and daughter, but the son died in 1865, and Francis Cressey took over control. After the death of Francis Cressey in 1873, the Brewery was managed by his son, Francis Jesser Cressey, but the death of the latter at an early age, and the litigation among the heirs of Sarah Jesser, led to the sale to David Faber in 1886. It is interesting to note that yet another Romsey brewery was merged with Cressey's, for in 1855 Jesser and Cressey purchased the "newly erected brewery" of William George Lawes, which was situated in Church Street. This property had an interesting history, for it stood on the site of a former mansion of the Marquis of Lansdowne which had been burned down in 1826, and a malthouse belonging to one William Tarver. The Lansdowne property had been developed by a Romsey brewer, Joseph Humby, but later came into the hands of William Lawes, a maltster, the grandfather of William George Lawes, who greatly extended it. After the purchase by Jesser and Cressey the Brewery became redundant, and was used only as a public house, the "Lansdowne Arms".



The early development of Strong's was divided into three main groups, Romsey, Weyhill and Christchurch. Within two years of absorbing George's and Cressey's of Romsey, David Faber acquired Gibbon's Brewery of Weyhill, and a year later King's Brewery of Christchurch.

Weyhill near Andover was famous for many centuries for its fair, which was referred to as Wy Fair by Piers Plowman, and during Fair time places of refreshment must have abounded. Many of these were temporary booths erected for the duration of the Fair, but being situated at the junction of eight ancient drove ways across the Downs no doubt led to the permanent establishment of inns and alehouses. It is probable that from one of these the original Weyhill Brewery started, although nothing very definite seems to be known about it until a century ago, when it was owned by Charles Child. He sold it in 1878 to a London Distiller, George Gibbons, who pursued an active policy of development. It appears to have been Gibbons who brought into the Weyhill group two smaller local breweries, one at Chilbolton which had been conducted for some years by a family named Tilbury, and the other at East Cholderton, which was owned by a family with the curious name of Wonfor. When in 1888 George Gibbons ran into financial difficulties, his Brewery at Weyhill together with 27 "licensed" houses were purchased by David Faber. Six years later, when Strong's became a Limited Company, the Weyhill division controlled fifty houses. The old Weyhill Brewery building is still in existence, but it is now occupied as a school.


The Christchurch Breweries have a long and interesting history, and it is a pity that lack of accurate information makes it difficult to tell the whole story. In the latter half of the 18th century there were two brewing businesses in Christchurch, each with several "licensed" houses. One was conducted by John Cook and the other by William Mitchell and William Wing Mitchell. John Cook appears to have been the most enterprising, and erected a new brewhouse in Dolphin Lane, but after his death some of his houses were sold off in 1793 by his widow, Susannah Cook, to the Mitchells. The Cooks must have been prominent citizens of Christchurch, for one of the Executors of Susannah Cook was George Rose, the famous Secretary of the Treasury who was a faithful friend of Pitt and the "Old George Rose" castigated by Cobbett. The new brewery of John Cook, called the Mansion Brewery, and the remaining "licensed" houses were sold in 1796 to the Portsea Distiller, Sir Samuel Spicer, who conveyed them in 1819 to his brother, John Spicer. Spicer sold out in 1834 to John Peerman, who extended his operations, but went bankrupt. The Mansion Brewery then passed to Henry Rowden who sold it in 1845 to Joseph and James King, they being already established as Brewers in Christchurch. The Kings were originally Brewers in Poole, Dorset, but had moved into Christchurch in 1832 when they purchased the brewery previously owned by the Mitchells. William Wing Mitchell had sold his Brewery in 1796 to John Elliott, who sold in 1814 to Ambrose Daw and William Blake. It was the latter's successor, Thomas Daw, who sold in 1832 to the brothers Joseph and James King of Poole. James King moved to Christchurch to manage the Christchurch side of the business, and by the absorption of the Mansion Brewery in 1845, the Kings established themselves as the leading local Brewers. Both the brothers died in 1852, when the Christchurch business passed to Joseph King, son of James King. For thirty years Joseph King conducted it, but dying unmarried in 1882, control passed to his half brother, John King, who bought out the interests of his brothers and sisters. Nine years later he sold to David Faber.

1945 to 1969


In 1949 Strong's business was further strengthened by the acquisition of the well-known brewers Thomas Wethereds & Sons Ltd., a Company which (like Strong's itself) dates back to the 18th Century. Wethereds Marlow Brewery is thought to have been built in 1758. It was not, however, acquired by Thomas Wethered (who had inherited his father George's brewing business at Marlow) until 1788. That was the year when Thomas leased from one William Clayton premises described as "formerly Miss Freeman's Boarding School and the Three Tunes Tavern". Eight years later, when Thomas bought the freehold, mention is made of a "new brewhouse". That was the start of the business which was to grow into Thomas Wethered & Sons Ltd. The sons were Owen and Lawrence William, who carried on the brewery after Thomas's retirement in 1845. He died four years later. The business stayed in the hands of the family until it became a limited liability company in 1899, with Owen Peel Wethered, a grandson of Thomas, as Chairman. The start of the 20th century saw big developments in Wethereds. A new bottlery, fermenting room, chimney shaft and electric light plant were installed. Mechanical transport by small steam traction engines towing trailers was instituted in 1905, and six years later petrol lorries were introduced. Over the years, Wethereds expanded and took in other breweries. Birds of Reading was acquired in 1913, adding nine licensed houses to Wethered’s properties, and in 1927 Williams' Royal Stag Brewery at Wooburn, with 35 licensed houses, was bought. The 1949 merger with Strong's was followed a year later by the acquisition of Stranges' Aldermaston Brewery, with about 50 licensed houses. In 1953 Higgs Lion Brewery at Reading was acquired, adding a further eight licensed houses.

This aerial photograph of Marlow shows the position of the former Wethereds brewery in the main high street. The brewery has since closed and is now expensive flats. I was fortunate enough to have drunk Winter Royal in the sample room. One cold December day I travelled from the Portsmouth brewery with a firkin of Pompey Royal and exchanged it for a firkin of Winter Royal.

The latter was well received in the Portsmouth sample room !


The final addition to the Strong's group came in 1965 with the purchase of W. B. Mew, Langton & Co. Ltd., of Newport, Isle of Wight. The Mew family were brewers at Newport from the early 17th century, and by the end of the 18th, Mew & Co. owned prosperous breweries both at Newport and Lymington, Hants. They had a large Army canteen trade, and extended their branches to Aldershot, London, Malta, and the Mediterranean, and even to India and China. In the 19th century Walter Langton became a partner of the Mew Brothers, William Baron and Joseph, and Charles Templeman Mew, William Baron Mew's eldest son. The final accolade for the firm came in 1850 with the granting of a Royal Warrant to supply Queen Victoria when she was in residence at Osborne.

The firm became a limited liability company in 1887, and continued to expand. A new malthouse was built in 1898, with the latest method of pneumatic malting, and the manufacture of mineral waters was begun in a brand new factory. After the First World War further expansion took place, bringing new houses and plant, and adding a tobacconist's business in 1931. When Mew, Langton merged with Strong's in 1965, it brought the groups total of licensed houses to 920. The Chairman of Mew, Langton & Co. Ltd, Lt. Col. Francis T. Mew, M.A., T.D., L.R.I.B.A., became a Director of Strong's in 1965.

The brewery at Newport, Isle Of Wight. Mew's were taken over by Strong Of Romsey in 1965. The brewery was demolished in later years and is now the site of a 'Curry's'.


In March, 1955, Whitbread & Co. Limited acquired a substantial shareholding in Strong's, and their interests were represented on the Board by the appointment of Colonel W. H. Whitbread T.D., and Mr. F.O.G.A. Bennett, T.D. This link proved of advantage to Strong's, who were thus enabled to join in the benefit of the wide experience and technical resources of a larger group. Early in 1969, Whitbread & Co. Limited, who then held some 30%' of Strong's Ordinary Shares, made an offer to acquire the entire Share Capital of Strong's by means of an exchange of shares in Whitbreads, with the intention of further development and expansion in what was 'The Strong Country'. The offer was accepted.

David Faber

Behind most successful commercial enterprises is to be found a man with the vision to see the opportunities which circumstances have to offer, and the drive and ability to make the best possible use of those opportunities. Such a man was John David Beverley Faber, D.L., J.P., known in association with Strong's as David Faber.

David Faber was born in 1854 and came of a distinguished family. His father was Charles Wilson Faber of Northaw, a successful barrister, and his mother Mary, was the daughter of Sir Edmund Beckett, so that to his innate ability were added valuable family connections which must have assisted him greatly in the early development of his Company. Two of his brothers, Walter Vavasour Faber (1857-1928) sometime M.P. for Andover, and Charles Louis Faber (1862-1897) were for a time associated with him in the acquisition and running of different breweries, whilst two other brothers, Edmund Beckett Faber (1847-1920) afterwards Lord Faber of Butterwick, and George Denison Faber (1851-1931) afterwards Lord Wittenham, were partners in the banking company of Beckett and Company of Leeds. Another distinguished member of the Faber family, Sir Geoffrey Faber, founder and Chairman of the well known publishing company, and a Fellow of All Souls, a distant cousin of David Faber, was for a short time a Director of Strong's. Because of the zeal and business acumen of David Faber the small Horsefair Brewery in Romsey grew into a large company of high repute, whose trade covered much of the South of England. In 1886, the small Horsefair Brewery in Romsey was acquired by David Faber, to whom it was clear that technical developments and changing circumstances would make success for a small business ever more difficult. Population was, at that time growing rapidly, and industry developing throughout the country. The time for expansion was opportune, and in the same year that he acquired the Horsefair Brewery, David Faber bought out two of his Romsey competitors, George's Brewery in Bell Street, and Cressey's Brewery in the Hundred.

Below is Davis Faber's former house at Ampfield about 4 miles out of Romsey. It is now used by a seed company.

Some latter day Romsey brewery facts and figures.

First brew of 'Strong Country Bitter' was on 26th September 1979 Gyle number 760 into FV43.

Last brew of Mild was on 24th March 1980 Gyle number 213 into FV50.

Last brew of English Ale was on 9th April 1980 Gyle number 245 into FV13.

Last brew of 'Strong Country Bitter was on 22nd June 1981 Gyle 248 into FV13.

Last brew ever at the Romsey brewery was Whitbread Trophy on 26th June 1981 Gyles 251&252 into FV's 35&36

The total amount of 'Strong Country Bitter' brewed between 26/9/79 & 22/6/81 was 6,539,918 litres* (11,508,640 pints !!!)

* source Romsey duty ledger from 26/9/79 to 26/6/81.


This picture gallery is dedicated to Mr.J.M. "Jim" Nowell.

A former brewer at Romsey, Marlow, Portsmouth & Cheltenham and my inspiration.

Welcome to the Romsey picture gallery. Here you will find many pictures of the Romsey brewery. I have also included labels, pub signs and other brewery 'bits and pieces'. As you have come this far I assume that you will be happy to wait whilst some of the jpegs download. If you like any of the images please feel free to copy them. Many of the Romsey pictures were taken either by myself or by Jon Biglow a former colleague at the brewery. The Portsmouth pictures were all taken by me. The rest are from various publications and the local Romsey newspaper.This is a non-profit informational site, if you feel I have violated your copyright please e-mail me and I will remove the offending picture.

 Romsey brewery from the air in around 1969

The front entrance to the Romsey site, known as the Horsefair. Here stood two magnificent Horse Chestnut trees, sadly now removed. Note the sign showing both the Strong's portcullis logo and the Whitbread tankard. Passing through this gate would take you to the brewhouse about 70 yards in on the right.

The brewhouse at the Romsey brewery.   A traditional tower brewhouse which allows gravity to do a lot of the work. In here were the hot liquor tanks, mills, mashtuns and some malt storage. The outside extension was a hoist system for taking bagged malt to the top of the building. Note also the Mackeson advert (not brewed in Romsey). The picture also shows the stone laid by David Faber (q.v.) in 1929 to commemorate the rebuilding of the brewery. There is a close up picture of this later


June 26th 1981 - the sad end in the brewhouse. Mashtuns 1 & 2.

This photograph was taken on the 26th June 1981. The last day they were ever used.

On the left is copper No:2 (1 & 3) are in the background. A little known fact is that to get to the copper house from the laboratory/fermenting areas you had to cross a footbridge over the river Test. Yes its true the river actually flowed through the copper house. The old boys there used to tell tales of fishing during night brewing, catching and cooking trout in the hot liquor tanks..umm?

Next stage was the wort coolers. Here the boiling wort from the coppers was run 'against' chilled brine. This had the effect of reducing the temperature from over 200F to about 58-62 F.

Here are some of the fermenting vessels at Romsey. Note the copper lining. Here the cooled wort is pumped in and then the yeast is added. Fermentation takes between 5 & 7 days. These vessels were made of oak. I can still remember the (sic) smell when they were removed. This is F.V. 27.  I still have the 'plastic' i.d. plaque from the front in my collection.

The last stage in the production process. The finished beer is racked into casks via this device shown below. This is a jackback. The operator has filled the casks and is now adding finings. Finings are the swim bladders of certain fish and these link to the remaining yeast in the barrel and flocculate(!).They then sink to the bottom of the cask to leave the beer clear. I believe this jackback at Romsey ended up in someones garden as a water tank and party conversation piece !

The Romsey Brewery around the turn of the century.

Note that the brewhouse did not change a great deal during the redevelopment of 1929.

Fred Toogood - Group Head Brewer of Strong & Co. A rare one this..Mr.Fred Toogood was the production manager of the Strong group. He is seen here examining a malt sample. Head Brewer in the 1950's at Romsey was Mr.Bill Wickens. Bill Wickens joined Strong's in 1921 and retired at the end of October 1964 having completed 43 years service. My mentor Jim Nowell was apprenticed as a brewer to Bill Wickens in 1953. Bill subsequently moved to Suffolk.

The decision to close Romsey was just one of many similar throughout the 1980’s. Romsey, Portsmouth, Wateringbury, Ely, Rhymney, Tiverton..the list goes on and on. The 1980’s were difficult times for brewers particularly the big five. They closed the smaller more traditional breweries. Lager was outselling bitter and it was far easier to build a new brewery (Magor) to produce lager than to spend money on converting old sites. Many of these smaller breweries were in towns, hemmed in by small roads etc. I could go on about this for ages ! However rightly or wrongly that is what happened

When a brewery was closed engineers would come in and immediately disable the plant to stop any chance of reversal. Romsey was a case in point with the mash tuns being “trashed” on the same day of their final use.

Here are some before and after pictures. The latter were taken on June 26th 1981









The brewhouse after conversion to offices

Strong and Co. of Romsey Ltd

1858 - 1969

Above is the view from the rear of the brewery. This was where the tankers unloaded rough beer for processing. Also in the picture is where the bottling plant, laboratory and fermenting rooms were situated.

Below are pictures of the Strong’s maltings as designed by Arthur Kinder

Now converted in flats for people with 3 series BMW’s who work as financial advisors and drink white wine spritzers during their annual skiing holidays.


The Portsmouth Brewery  

1848 - 1973

“Brilliant Ales”

In 1848 Henry Brickwood, tenant of the White Hart, Queen Street, Portsmouth, wrote to his sister-in-law Fanny, in London, suggesting that she came down to Portsmouth and enter the licensed trade. Mrs. Brickwood, busy nursing an ailing husband, apparently found the idea appealing for she sent her only son, Harry, on a week's brewing course, and so set in motion the events which founded the firm of Brickwoods.

In 1851, the year that Harry married, Fanny Brickwood bought the freehold of The Cobden Arms, Arundel Street, a small Victuallers brewery and coal business. Fanny died in 1854, Harry following her eight years later. His two elder sons, John (later Sir John) and Arthur, were apprenticed to brewers. In 1872 they joined forces at the Cobden Brewery and set about expanding their business. Using investments left by their father they acquired and moved into Long.'s Lord John Russell Brewery in Commercial Road, gaining many licensed houses in the process. By now the firm of Brickwoods was well on its way to lasting success. Only six years later, in 1880, they moved for the second time this time to Bransbury's Hyde Park Road Brewery. This last move was a great act of faith. Their own bank refused to accept their cheque for the deposit and the two brothers had to change to a more accommodating bank. They persuaded an insurance firm to lend them £130,000 on mortgage to complete the deal. At the same time they entered the wine and spirit trade. But success ensured that they weren't to stay in Hyde Park Road long. In 1887 the need to expand led them the Penny Street Brewery in Old Portsmouth. The next 10 years saw the registration of Brickwood a company with five directors, two of whom were Arthur and John Brickwood, and the fourth and final move was to Jewel's Catherine Street Brewery which the company bought for £200,000.The new premises, with plenty of space for enlargement meant that Brickwoods was ready to expand in other directions. Arthur Brickwood had died only a year after becoming a director in 1893, but under the chairmanship of John the company bought the Lion Brewery and, in 1911 Pike, Spicer and Co.Pike, Spicer and Co. dated back to 1720 when a Will Pike started brewing on the same Penny Street site the Brickwoods later bought from his successor. It was from this company that the title of Portsmouth Brewery was adopted. There is a family connection here worth noting. William Pike died in 1777 leaving two daughters and a very considerable wealth. One daughter married John Carter, seven times mayor of Portsmouth; the other married John Bonham of Petersfield. By 1827 the Bonham branch of family was extinct and all William Pike's wealth passed the Carter family who later took the now famous name Bonham Carter. A member of the Bonham Carter family sat on the board of Brickwoods.

 During the next 40 years Brickwoods acquired 10 other breweries.

1925 Perkins and Sons, Southampton, Forder and Co., Southampton.

1926 S and T. N. Blake, Gosport.

1927 Aldridge's, Southampton.

1928 Sprake Bros, Isle of Wight




Above, two archive pictures of Sprakes brewery on the Isle of Wight. Many thanks to Kevin Mitchell for these.

1928 Barlow & Co,Southampton, Smeeds of Southsea.

1933 Long & Co Ltd, Southsea.

1953 Portsmouth and Brighton United Breweries and its subsidiary, The Rock Brewery of Brighton.


From a PR pamphlet produced in the mid 1960’s

“In just over 100 years Brickwoods area grew  from a back street in Portsmouth to a slice of England, stretching from Sussex to Dorset and north towards London, with a wine subsidiary in Portsmouth and depots in London, Hove, Portsmouth, Southampton, Isle of Wight, Bournemouth and on Salisbury Plain. Its reputation has expanded from local appreciation to a world-wide respect. Brickwoods is still a family brewery. John, grandson of Fanny Brickwood, died a baronet in 1932. John was succeeded as Chairman by Mr. Harry Brickwood, and John's son, Sir Rupert Brickwood, is Deputy-Chairman of the company. The Cobden Arms, in 1851, was a typical home-brew house and Fanny Brickwood, together with her son Henry, would have worked most of daylight's hours to produce 8-10 barrels of beer a week-a total of 360 gallons at the most. Brickwoods could produce 252,000 gallons a week and more than 4,000 dozen bottles of beer could be bottled every hour. Each year, more than 2,600 tons of malt and 350 tons of sugar were used. More than 110 tons of hops were consumed (and Brickwoods beers had one of the highest hop content in the country). Each hour more than 15 tons of steam was used and each week nearly 1,500,000 gallons of water was used in brewing and other tasks. Extensions to the brewery costing more than £1,000,000 were completed in 1962, and each year-sobering thought - Brickwoods customers paid more than £1,500,000 in duty on the beer they drank”

 1970 - 1983

 In the mid 1960's,some 12 years after Brickwoods had taken over Portsmouth & United breweries, there was a plan to move the entire brewery complex to Fareham, just outside Portsmouth. However they were still suffering from the huge outlay from 1953. Plans for the move were scrapped and it was decided to allow Whitbread & Co to attain a large stake in the company. This was the favoured tactic of the brewing giant. In essence they would offer security by allowing companies to share their umbrella. At the time this must have seemed a sensible option. In 1953 STRONG & Co Ltd. of Romsey had allowed a lot of their shares to bought by Whitbread's. In 1969 Whitbread's bought the rest of the Strong's share capital and the company was wholly absorbed. In 1970 they (Whitbread's) did the same to Brickwoods. In 1973 the two brewing sites were 'brought together' under the banner of Whitbread Wessex. This lasted until 1983.


 1965 - Brickwoods goes under Whitbread umbrella.

 1969 - Strong's (Romsey) taken over by Whitbread.

 1971 - Brickwoods (Portsmouth) taken over by Whitbread.

 1973 - Whitbread Wessex formed, brewing & packaging continues on both sites.

 April 1980 - Romsey bottling closed.

 February 1981- Portsmouth bottling closed.

 June 1981 - Brewing ceased at Romsey, production transferred to Portsmouth, beer sent back to Romsey for packaging.

 September 1983 - Portsmouth site closed totally. Brewing transferred to Cheltenham. Romsey Supplied from Cheltenham & Magor.

 June 1985 - Romsey site closed totally. New warehouse facility opened at Hedge End. All production & packaging Cheltenham & Magor.

1989 - Portsmouth site demolished except for front of building and part of rear wall.

1989/90 - Romsey site 80% demolished. Brewhouse and fermenting rooms redeveloped for offices (see Strong's site), malting left alone as they are listed buildings.


 The Sunshine Brewers

This is a picture of the back entrance of the Portsmouth brewery, known as Bonfire Corner. Through this entrance would leave the road tankers of beer to go to Romsey once the latter had ceased brewing. In the 1950's & 60's Brickwoods had the fastest bottling lines in Europe and it was not uncommon for tankers to be queuing up to unload. This sign has now gone.


A selection of beer labels and pictures from Brickwoods of Portsmouth.

A standard bottle label. Note the use of the Brickwoods rising sun emblem but the United Breweries name. After the take-over Brickwoods continued to market their beers as United products. The old United brewery in Castle Street, Southsea. eventually became the Southsea. Table water Company (SOTA) when brewing was transferred to Brickwoods. This factory remained up until 1981 when it was closed.

A much earlier label and pretty ghastly as well ! Good old Brown ale. Usually made by simply brewing a mild and increasing the priming rate from say 2 pints per barrel to 4.

A half of mild mixed with a bottle of brown was usually referred to in Pompey as a "Boiler"

Milk stout is so called because Lactose is one of the sugars added. Brewers yeast will ferment many sugars to produce alcohol but Lactose is not one of them. Hence a beer can retain much of its sweetness without an appreciable increase in alcoholic content. Mackeson is a beer of this type and is probably one of the few milk stouts left.

Inside The Brewery

Number 3 tun at Brickwoods. Capable of mashing in 45 quarters of malt in any one go.

The normal day was for 5 mashes, starting at 6 am with the first three then second mashes at 11 am. Number 3 was normally used for Pompey Royal. The triangular funnel device above is the grist case. Here the crushed malt waits to be mixed with the hot liquor. (Liquor = water). Temperature is vital as the mashing procedure is enzymic in nature. 150 F is normal although this does vary from brewery to brewery. The liquor and malt are mixed by an auger system. Mashing in in on a cold winters day is a brewers perk I can assure you !



Saddleback CopperNumber 3 Wort receiver. This is in fact a boiling copper. Here the hot sweet wort from the mash tuns is run in. At this stage the hops are added. This is an interesting copper and is called a saddleback. Where the operator is pouring the hops in you can make out the shape of the copper's dome. Surrounding it on top though is a large horseshoe receptacle. In this the next wort would be held and therefore pre-heated. An energy saving method. I have never seen these in any other brewery except Brickwoods.  

Hop Backs (later whirlpools)The hop backs. After boiling the mixture is pumped into these hop backs and allowed to settle. The hopbacks have a false bottom which allows the wort to pass through but, obviously, not the hops. The wort is pumped away to be cooled whilst the hops are removed automatically and used as garden fertiliser. In many modern breweries the hopbacks have been replaced by whirlpools where the hop sediment is removed by centrifugal force. Incidentally many breweries now use hop concentrates or pellets. They are less cumbersome than the traditional pockets.



On the left the Yeast presses.

 Yeast is self propagating and hence brewers always have fresh supplies of the same family of yeast.


Cask drying  On the left a Hopkins Goliath cask washer - note the air lines blowing sterile air into the wooden casks to keep them fresh.

On the left the Racking Backs for cask filling. Two of the men in the picture are 'Mack the Rack' & Harry. Both spent 30 years at Brickwoods.  




The Bottling line.

The man is standing by the Worsam super 40. The female operator is 'candling the bottles' for imperfections. All Brickwoods bottled beer was pasteurised. Bottling ceased at Portsmouth in March 1981.At one stage Brickwoods were bottling 270 barrels of Guinness a week !



 Wagons Roll !

The last stages. Here the fleet of Brickwoods drays await their days work. I remember these red and white vehicles when living in Portsmouth in the 1960's. These are Morris lorries. At the height of their powers Brickwoods supplied some 800 tied houses and a large free trade.




The July 1970 edition of Whitbread news announcing the "Joining of Brickwoods to Whitbreads"







These are from 1988 when I returned to the now defunct brewery to look over items of plant for another brewer. It was very depressing to see the neglect that had been allowed to occur. Certainly I was surprised to see that so much of the plant was left, my experience at Romsey was of the opposite. However I think this was probably due to the fact Portsmouth closed totally where as Romsey still processed beer from other sites although it did not brew it's own. The author (left) and engineering colleague at Brickwoods in 1988.The mash tun behind is number 3 (pictured previously). What was really sad about that days visit was that the entire brewery was still totally intact and ready for use !




Adding the hops !The left hand picture shows the author at number 3 copper, 270 barrels worth ! The 'steel' device on the side was to allow the hop concentrate to be added from tins ! Hopcon and Hopfix 90. Hopfix was styrian hops and Pompey Royal was brewed purely with Hopfix (styrian) hops



Sadleback coppers. The left hand picture shows the saddleback copper. During my time at Brickwoods the saddle was never used although the copper was.





The Haunted chapel !! This was sealed off in my time. The original wells were here but slat water contamination led to them being sealed in the 1950’s and brewing was continued with mains water from Farlington





Mines a pint of Pompey Royal !  The last two pictures show the sample room before and after. I can assure you that the barrels in the right hand picture were exactly as we found them some FIVE years after the brewery closed !! The beer was a little hazy.....Quite a difference ! Many happy Friday evenings in here ! The gentleman on the right is Brian Moriarty. He joined Brickwoods from JW Green of Luton and eventually became head of quality control for Whitbread Wessex.



The George Inn on the top of Portsdown Hill. It is still there today.

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