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The Weller brewery (1890-1930)

Amersham, Buckinghamshire, England (1890)

Pub in Wey Lane, Chesham. Image by kind permission of Barry Warr.
Edward Weller died in 1890 and his shares in the brewery were aquired by the other two brothers. Soon after, the remaining two brothers showed themselves conscious of the potential offered by the opening of the Metropolitan Railway extension on 1 September 1892 when they commissioned the building of the Station Hotel (renamed the Iron Horse by Benskin’s in 1963 (Bucks Examiner, 6 December 1963 p.1)). Built to the plans of Messrs. Vernon and Son of High Wycombe, this building was errected dirung the winter of 1893 (Bucks Herald, 30 September 1893, p.8). The building of the new hotel marked the end of the Black Horse as a pub, as it’s license was transferred to the new property (Bucks Herald, 24 March 1894, p.7). As the Station Hotel was the first public house to be built in the town for over one hundred years, a special party was held for the 30 or so workmen engaged on its construction at the Kings Arms on 14 October 1893 (Bucks Herald, 21 October 1893, p.7).

Following the considerable capital outlay on the Station Hotel there was a brief delay before additions were made to the tied estate. In 1894 the Kings Arms, Amersham was purchased from Messrs. Salter and Co. Ltd., and this was followed rapidly by the Black Horse, High Wycombe (1896); the Bricklayers Arms, Marlow (1897); the Brickmould, Hedgerley (1898); the Earle Howe, Holmer Green (1898); the Queen’s Head, Little Marlow (1899); the Three Crowns, Monks Risborough (1900); the Prince of Wales, Coleham Green, Hillingdon (1900); the Farmers Arms, Abbots Langley (1900); the Swan, Tring (1900); the Railway Hotel, Beaconsfield (1902); the Van Inn, High Wycombe (1902); the White Lion, Quainton (1903) and the Waggon and Horses, Denham (1906) (Conveyance, 23 March 1909).

An amusing story is told about one of George and William’s attempts to improve the efficiency of the brewery itself. During the nineteenth century the clock on top of the Market Hall used to have three faces. One of these was on the north side of the tower and was clearly visible to people walking down Church Street. In the days when the average brewery worker had no means of telling the time except from public clocks, it was tempting for them to slip out of the brewery and surreptitiously sneak a glance at the Market Hall (South Bucks Free Press, 15 January 1937, p.9). This clock watching propensity became so annoying to the Wellers that they mentioned it to the Drakes who owned the hall. They agreed to remove the offending clock face and as yet it has never been replaced!

A number of changes in the management of the brewery occurred at the turn of the century. By an indenture dated 1 June 1900, William Weller [4], George Weller and Gerard Mastermann Heath Weller "agreed to become and remain partners in the trades and businesses of brewers, Maltsters and Farmers as there carried on by them at Amersham." (Indenture, 1 June 1900). However, this indenture of partnership also included a clause whereby George or William were to have the first choice of purchasing the others share in the event of either death. When William [4] died on 9 January 1908, George exercised this option, and on 13 February 1909 purchased William’s share from his widow, Louisa Charlotte Weller for £60,660 14s 5d. At the same time he dissolved the partnership by purchasing Gerard’s share in the business (the latter remaining as brewer and manager). Henceforth, the indenture runs, "the said George Weller is now solely entitle to the said trades and business of Brewers, Maltsters and Farmers."

Acomodation Opposite the Weller Brewery (2001)The latter conveyance also gives us a rare description of the Amersham Brewery at this time; "A Freehold Brewhouse with Coopers Shop, Countinghouse and other buildings thereto adjoining. And also the dwelling house and gardens of occupied by the late Mrs. Lydia Weller till her death in 1891 and now used partly as Brewery offices by Messrs. W. and G. Weller and partly by the said Gerard Mastermann Heath Weller. All which premises are situate in Church Street… These premises called Amersham Brewery are formally described as a Messuage and Garden in the occupation of Edward Weller the Cousin and the Brewhouse, Outhouses, Malthouses, Coopers Shop and other buildings thereto adjoining at Church End near the Back Lane, and were purchased other heriditaments by John Weller the Grandfather from George Hunt and another and were conveyed to him by an indenture dated the 28th November 1818." (Conveyance, 23 March 1909).

By the time that George Weller took over the sole ownership of the brewery he was already 65 years of age and from this point onwards the business entered a period of stagnation. Although after the first world war a number of motorised lorries were purchased to supplement the old drays, this was as far as the improvement went. In 1914 the brewery’s bottling factory was closed and henceforth the famous ‘Weller’s Entire’ was sent to outside contractors instead. George Weller himself ceased to take an active interest in the business after 1919 and its management fell entirely upon his son who no longer had an active financial interest in the undertaking. Nevertheless, things appeared to go on as before. The annual works outing to Swansea in two of the Amersham Bus Company’s charabanks passed off well in 1928 (Bucks Examiner, 13 July 1928, p.5) as did the Christmas party (since 1920 held at the new venue at the King’s Arms) in January 1929 (Bucks Examiner, 9 January 1920, p.3).

The Weller Brewery (2001)Against this background of normality it came as a considerable shock to the population of Amersham when George Weller announced in the summer of 1929 that he intended to sell the brewery and all it's tied property at auction as a single lot. The auction catalogue (1929, p.2) for this sale describes the brewery consisting of; "TOP FLOOR:- Malt Room, Gallery to Coopers. SECOND FLOOR:- No 1 Cooper Room. No 2 Cooper Room:- Mash Tun and Underback room. No. 3 Cellar with sample room. No. 6 Racking Cellar. Nos. 4, 5 and 7 Beer Cellars, No. 1 Bottling Room, No. 2 Bottling Room, Foreman’s Yard Brick built Boiler Chimney. OUTSIDE:- Large granite surfaced yard with entrance to church street, Range of Coopers Shops, Cask Washing Shed, Urinal and W.C. and Men’s Mess room with large loft over, Iron lean-to roof over Cask Store and Cask Washing Yard, Bottle Washing Yard partly roofed." (Auction Catalogue, (1929), p.3).

The sale also included the Brewery Offices in Rumsey’s, the stables and garages opposite, the maltings, Barn Meadow and 132 freehold licensed properties and 10 leasehold licensed properties. The latter were scattered over an area from Markate and Quainton in the north down to Burnham and Cranford in the south and included the brewery’s two most successful pubs, the Station Hotel and the Boot and Slipper. At the auction held on Wednesday 25 September 1929 at the London Auctions Market, 155 Queen Victoria Street by Mr. Sydney H. Motion in conjunction with Messrs. A. Horley and Son, it was the extensive tied estate that led to some very competitive bidding (Auction Catalogue, (1929), p.1). This bidding started at £200,000 and resolved itself into a contest between Benskin’s Brewery, Watford and Messrs. Hoares (London) Brewery (Bucks Examiner, 27 September 1929, p.12). Benskin’s were finally successful securing the business for the sum of £360,000 (South Bucks Free Press, 27 September 1929, p.2).

Although the Wellers made generous payments to all their past employees the sudden sale of the brewery aroused considerable bitterness in the town. It had been rumored that Benskin’s had intended to keep the brewery as a bottling plant but this was dispelled the following year when the old brewery and Rumsey’s were sold at another auction conducted by Messrs. Humbart and Flint to Mr. J. M. Long on 5 June 1930 (Bucks Examiner, 6 June 1930, p.8). It is possible that it was the ill-feeling engendered by the sale of the brewery that hastened the death of Mr. George Weller for he died at his home at The Plantation shortly after on 20 October 1929 at the age of 84 (Bucks Examiner, 25 October 1929, p.11). When the 87 acre Plantation estate (which had been purchased in 1885) was sold to the Metropolitan Railway Country Estates for £18,000 the following year it finally severed a link the Weller family had had with the town that had lasted for over 150 years.

Other related content: The Weller brewery (1834-1909), Weller beer and pubs,

People related to this content: George Weller (Born:1844), Gerard Masterman Heath Weller (Born:1873), William Weller (Born:1840),

Published by Malcolm Weller.