Historic Beer Birthday: George Blackall Simonds

Today is the birthday of George Blackall Simonds (October 6, 1843-December 16, 1919). He “was an English sculptor and director of H & G Simonds Brewery in Reading in the English county of Berkshire. George was the second son of George Simonds Senior of Reading, director of H & G Simonds, and Mary Anne, the daughter of William Boulger of Bradfield. His grandfather was Reading brewing and banking entrepreneur, William Blackall Simonds. He added Blackall to his name after the death of his brother, Blackall Simonds II, in 1905. He was brother-in-law of the portrait painter, John Collingham Moore, and cousin of the botanist, George Simonds Boulger. He served as the inaugural Master of the Art Workers’ Guild in 1884-85.


Here’s a biography of George Blackall Simonds, from Royal Berkshire History:

George Simonds was the second son and fourth child of George Simonds Senior of Reading in Berkshire, director of the H & G Simonds Brewery in the same town, by his wife, Mary Anne Boulger. His grandfather was the great brewing and banking magnate, William Blackall Simonds. George became an early student at St Andrew’s College (later Bradfield College) in 1852. In 1858, aged just 15, he went to study sculpture under Professor Johannes Schilling in Dresden, moving on to study under Louis Jehotte at The Academy of Brussels, before living and working for 12 years in Rome from 1864. He returned to London in 1875 and set up his studio at 152 Buckingham Palace Road, moving on to Priory Studios, 21 North Bank in St John’s Wood in 1888. In 1877, he married Gertrude Prescott, an American whom he had met in Rome. They had a son George Prescott Simonds in 1881, who was killed in France at the beginning of World War I. George Simonds last exhibited in 1903 and his artistic life ended on the death of his elder brother Blackall in 1905, who in his Will, stipulated that George, as his heir, should take the Blackall name. He then became a Director of the prosperous family brewery in Reading, serving as Chairman from 1910 until his death in 1929. During this period he lived at ‘Rushall Grange’ in Bradfield, and ‘Holly Copse’ in Goring, all close to his mother’s ancestral home, Bradfield House, where he finally settled.

George Simonds’ masterpiece ‘The Falconer’ has been made famous by the version which stands in Central Park in the city of New York. It depicts a young boy in 14th Century doublet, stepping forward and in the act of slipping a huge peregrine falcon. Simonds stays true to his idealist principles and continues the ‘Romantic’ theme of many of his works. The Central Park work (Opus 63) is mounted on a cylindrical granite pedestal perched on a natural outcrop of Manhatten Schist on 72nd Street, east of the Park’s West Drive. The statue itself, standing over 11 feet tall, was cast in a single piece using the ‘cire perdue’ or ‘lost-wax’ process by the master founder Professor Clement Papi (1802-1875) in Florence, Italy in 1870. While in Italy, Simonds learned much about the craft and traditions of lost-wax bronze casting. He later published an article on this subject in the journal ‘American Architect and Builder’ (Vol 19 15th May 1886, pp235-258), in which he argued for the use of lost-wax casting in Great Britain.

The original life sized bronze sculpture of the Falconer (Opus 51) was shown at the Vienna International Exhibition of 1873. From here it was sent on for exhibition in Trieste, Italy, where it was bought by ‘The Society of Arts’ and is now in the ‘Galleria d’arte Moderne del Civico Museo Revoltella’ a city museum. A marble version with the falcon in ‘Electro Silver’ [Opus 88] was shown at the Royal Academy Exhibition of 1875 and depicted in the Illustrated London News of July 24th. George Kemp (1826-1893), a wealthy merchant born in Ireland and who lived in New York City, admired the plaster form for the original sculpture so much whilst on a visit to Rome in 1870 that he commissioned a colossal bronze replica for Central Park without even waiting to see the finished work. It was dedicated in New York on May 31st 1875. Following international critical acclaim, three further small bronze versions were later completed. Robert Evans, a Beverly native who had admired the sculpture while convalescing in a hospital overlooking Central Park, commissioned a bronze replica for Lynch Park, Beverly, Massachusetts. A mould was taken from the original by local sculptor George Brewster. It was then cast by Gorham Foundry, Newburyport using the lost-wax process in about 1912.

The Central Park ‘Falconer’ has suffered extensive damage, both from weathering and vandals. In danger of toppling in 1937, it was shored up and repatinated. In 1941 it was repositioned. In 1957 a new bronze falcon was fashioned and reattached. Later vandals cut off both the hand and falcon, which compelled the Parks Department to remove the sculpture to storage for safekeeping. In 1982 a replacement was cast and the statue then reset on its pedestal. In 1995 the Central Park Conservancy again repatinated and coated the statue, which today stands as an embodiment of the Park’s rich 19th Century sculptural inheritance, as well as its abundant bird species that includes the peregrine falcon.

Simonds himself was an avid falconer. He became Founder President of the British Falconers’ Club in 1927 and was later depicted with a falcon in his official portrait as chairman of the family brewery, by Sir Oswald Birley RP (1880-1952). In 1884, with a group of young architects and artists inspired by John Ruskin (1819-1900) and William Morris (1834-1896) he founded and became the first Master of the Art Workers Guild in London. Their objective was to create a unified forum for architects, artists and craftsmen. Simonds said of the guild: “…it differs from all Art Societies in that it is not formed for the propagation of any one branch, or style, of art…. I find some things of the spirit of the Studio Life of Rome”.

Other monumental works by Simonds include the ‘Maiwand Lion’ sculpture he created in cast iron for the Forbury Gardens in Reading, England in 1886. It was commissioned by the Berkshire Memorial Fund with the Berkshire Regiment as a ‘Memorial to the 66th Regiment’, who had been almost wiped out in the Battle of Maiwand in the Afghan War of 1880. In 1887, Simonds sculpted a monumental marble statue of Queen Victoria for her Golden Jubilee, which stands outside Reading Town Hall, and in 1891 a bronze portrait of industrialist, philanthropist and biscuit king George Palmer for Broad Street, Reading, which was moved to the local Palmer Park in 1930. Simonds created over 200 works in an extraordinary diversity of media and techniques, mastering; marble, bronze, plaster, terracotta, cameo, silver, brass, wood and cast iron, a remarkable achievement.


George was a leading proponent of the renaissance ‘Lost Wax Process’ used in casting large Bronze works, publishing variously on the subject in the UK and the USA. George was associated with William Morris (1834-1896) and the critic John Ruskin (1819-1900) much involved in the new ‘Arts & Crafts movement’. He served as the inaugural Master of the Art Workers Guild in 1884. The Guild was formed by a group of young architects who, inspired by the ideals of Pugin, Ruskin and Morris, wished to create a forum where architects could meet artists and craftsmen; it was a response to a widely felt crisis in the Arts. His best known works are The Falconer (1873) in Central Park, New York City (US) and the Maiwand Lion (1886) in the Forbury Gardens, Reading in Berkshire (UK).

The Falconer, in Central Park, NYC.

He was also a keen falconer.


And here’s more about his brewery.


“The Simonds brewery was founded in Broad Street in Reading by William Blackall Simonds in 1785 (although his father had a brewing arm of his malting business as early as 1760). The company moved to Bridge Street, where it remained until 1978. The site is now occupied by The Oracle shopping centre. Simonds became a very early limited company in 1885, taking the name of H & G Simonds from William’s two sons, Henry and George. The latter was the father of a later director, George Blackall Simonds, a sculptor.”

“The company amalgamated with Courage & Barclay in 1960 and dropped the Simonds name after ten years. Eventually the firm became part of Scottish & Newcastle who sold the brands to Wells & Young’s Brewery in 2007 and closed the Reading brewery three years later.”


Historic Beer Birthday: Lord Chesterfield

Today is the birthday of Lord Chesterfield, whose full name was Philip Stanhope, 4th Earl of Chesterfield (September 22, 1694-March 24, 1773). He “was a British statesman, and a man of letters, and wit. He was born in London to Philip Stanhope, 3rd Earl of Chesterfield, and Lady Elizabeth Savile, and known as Lord Stanhope until the death of his father, in 1726. Educated at Trinity Hall, Cambridge, he subsequently embarked on the Grand Tour of the Continent, to complete his education as a nobleman, by exposure to the cultural legacies of Classical antiquity and the Renaissance, and to become acquainted with his aristocratic counterparts and the polite society of Continental Europe.

In the course of his post-graduate tour of Europe, the death of Queen Anne (r. 1702–1714) and the accession of King George I (r. 1714–1727) opened a political career for Stanhope, and he returned to England. In the British political spectrum he was a Whig and entered government service, as a courtier to the King, through the mentorship of his relative, James Stanhope, 1st Earl Stanhope, the King’s favourite minister, who procured his appointment as Lord of the Bedchamber to the Prince of Wales.


Today he’s arguably best known for two things. The first is the numerous letters written to his illegitimate son Phillip Stanhope. They consisted of 400 private correspondences written over thirty years, first published a year after Lord Chesterfield’s death as “Letters to His Son on the Art of Becoming a Man of the World and a Gentleman.” From that correspondence, many quotations have become well-known, such as “Whatever is worth doing at all is worth doing well,” “Never seem more learned than the people you are with. Wear your learning like a pocket watch and keep it hidden. Do not pull it out to count the hours, but give the time when you are asked,” “Take care of the minutes and the hours will take care of themselves,” and “Know the true value of time; snatch, seize, and enjoy every moment of it. No idleness, no delay, no procrastination; never put off till tomorrow what you can do today.” Then there’s “Young men are apt to think themselves wise enough, as drunken men are apt to think themselves sober enough” and “Choose your pleasures for yourself, and do not let them be imposed upon you. Follow nature and not fashion: weigh the present enjoyment of your pleasures against the necessary consequences of them, and then let your own common sense determine your choice.”

Portrait by Jonathan Richardson from 1728.

Here’s the description from the Oxford edition of Chesterfield’s collected letters:

Not originally intended for publication, the celebrated and controversial correspondences between Lord Chesterfield and his son Philip, dating from 1737, were praised in their day as a complete manual of education, and despised by Samuel Johnson for teaching “the morals of a whore and the manners of a dancing-master.” Reflecting the political craft of a leading statesman and the urbane wit of a man who associated with Pope, Addison, and Swift, Lord Chesterfield’s Letters reveal the author’s political cynicism, his views on good breeding, and instruction to his son in etiquette and the worldly arts. The only annotated selection of this breadth available in paperback, these entertaining letters illuminate the fascinating aspects of eighteenth-century life and manners.


The second thing he’s known for today is Yuengling Brewery’s Lord Chesterfield Ale, which the brewery first brewed in 1829, the year they were founded as the Eagle Brewery.

The Lord Chesterfield Ale label in 1934.


Historic Beer Birthday: Thomas William Everard

Today is the birthday of Thomas William Everard (September 8, 1851-January 1, 1925). Thomas William Everard was the son of William Everard, co-founder of what would become known as the Everards Brewery, which is still a going concern today, and is still run by an Everard, who is fifth generation from William, and fourth from Thomas William.


Here is Thomas William Everard’s short biography from the brewery website:

Thomas William Everard was born on the 8th of September 1851, the year the Great Exhibition was staged by Prince Albert in Crystal Palace in London. He was the youngest of three children and joined his father’s firm at an early age. Thomas became very involved in his work at the brewery. He was so fond of his work he did not like to take holidays.

In 1890 a new partnership was formed to run the company- Everards, Son and Welldo. The partners were Thomas, his 69 year old father William, and a local wine and spirits merchant. Charles Leeds William Welldon.

Thomas took over the running of the brewery after the death of his father William, in 1892. He married Florence Muriel Nickisson of London on the 28th of September 1888. They had two children-William Lindsay, born in 1891, and his sister Phyllis Muriel, born three years later. William Lindsay would later go onto run the brewery.

Thomas enjoyed both country and urban life and was an active member of the Leicestershire Agricultural Society, as was his father. He continued the Everards tradition of public service and, like his father; he became a J.P. before being made a deputy Lieutenant of the County, and, in 1905, High Sheriff.

New_Everards_brewery_Southgate_St_Leicester_showing_steam_traction_engines_1875 (1)
The brewery, around 1875.

And here’s the basic brewery history from Wikipedia:

The company began as Hull and Everard in 1849 when William Everard, a farmer from Narborough Wood House and brewer Thomas Hull leased the Southgate Street Brewery of Wilmot and Co from the retiring proprietors. Although Hull continued as a maltster, Everard was the driving force behind the business which he managed until his death in 1892.

The business expanded as the company progressively acquired outlets, with over 100 pubs by the late 1880s. In 1875 the company moved to a new state of the art tower brewery designed by William’s nephew architect John Breedon Everard. The brewery, on the corner of Southgate St and Castle St extracted very pure water from wells 300 feet deep beneath the premises and steam engines played a significant part in the mechanisation.

After the death of William, control passed to his son Thomas. The historic centre of the UK brewing industry remained some 40 miles away at Burton-upon-Trent, which by the 1890s produced one tenth of Britain’s beer. Everard’s leased the Bridge Brewery on Umplett Green island in 1895 but its 10,000 barrels per year capacity proved insufficient. It was replaced with the newer Trent brewery in Dale St which became available after going into liquidation in 1898. The Southgate brewery remained the distribution centre to the Leicestershire pubs with beer arriving by rail from Burton. The Trent brewery was purchased outright in 1901. It was renamed the Tiger Brewery around 1970.

At some point their Tiger Best Bitter became their flagship beer, and I remember really enjoying during my first CAMRA festival in the early 1990s. It was a regional festival in Peterborough, which happened to be going on in later summer at the end of my wife’s summer semester at the University of Durham. So we took the train up to Peterborough from London to attend the festival, and it was great fun. I had many fine beer that night, but for whatever reason I clearly recall liking this one.


Historic Beer Birthday: William McEwan Younger

Today is the birthday of Sir William McEwan Younger, 1st Baronet (September 6, 1905–April 15, 1992). He was a Scottish brewer and political activist.


According to Wikipedia, “His father, William Younger, was a brother of George Younger, 1st Viscount Younger, and of Robert Younger, Baron Blanesburgh; his great uncle was William McEwan, a Liberal MP for Edinburgh and the founder of McEwan’s Brewery.”

He was educated at Winchester College and at Balliol College, Oxford, before joining the firm of McEwan’s Brewery, which later became Scottish Brewers before merging with the Newcastle Brewery Company in 1961 to become Scottish & Newcastle. Younger was the first chairman and managing director of the new company.

He stood twice as the Unionist Party candidate for the West Lothian at the 1950 general election, but it was a safe seat for Labour and he came a poor second. He was honorary secretary of the Scottish Unionist Association from 1955 to 1964, and was later chairman of the Scottish Conservative and Unionist Party from 1971 to 1974.


Here’s an obituary, by Peter Lloyd, that ran in the Alpine Journal, a climbing club to which was a member:

Bill Younger, who died in 1992 after a long illness, outlived his climbing contemporaries, and it falls to me, who only knew him in the last 20 years of his life, to write his obituary. He was a great figure in the business world, especially in Edinburgh and in the Conservative Party in Scotland. He was elected to the Club in 1927 while still an undergraduate on the proposal of A M Carr Saunders and Geoffrey Winthrop Young, so totalling 65 years of membership.

On leaving Oxford he went straight into the family brewing business of McEwans and proceeded to build this up first by the acquisition of another family company, William Youngers, and later by the takeover of Newcastle Breweries and several smaller Edinburgh companies to form Scottish and Newcastle with about 10% of the market. He had an outstanding war record, enlisting in 1939 in a lowland anti-aircraft regiment of the Royal Artillery with which he served in the North African campaign, including the first siege of Tobruk, and in Italy, finishing up in command of the regiment. His double-barrelled name, evocative of beer, earned him the nickname ‘Colonel Screwtop’.

After the war he remained chairman of his company until 1969 and was also active as director of a number of other Edinburgh companies. He was Deputy Lieutenant of Midlothian and later of the City of Edinburgh and, in the seventies, Chairman of the Scottish Conservative Party. Through his charitable trust he supported many good causes, notably his college Balliol, of which he became an Honorary Fellow, many Edinburgh charities
including the Scottish Symphony Orchestra, the Mount Everest Foundation and the A C Irvine Travel Fund.

Bill Younger’s mountaineering record is largely lost in the sands of time, but his companions in his Oxford days included Douglas Busk, A M Binnie and Carr Saunders. In the thirties and after the war he climbed with John Tilney and Claude Elliott. There is a splendid portrait in oils, now in the possession of his daughter, showing him as a young man against the background of the Cresta Rey on Monte Rosa.

When I knew him, in the seventies and eighties in Edinburgh, in Glen Lyon and then in his final home near Henley, we were both past anything more than walks on the Scottish hills. I remember him best in his beautiful house in Moray Place, a swell but quite without pomposity, easygoing but suddenly coming out with trenchant criticisms of the good and the great, casually dressed with a glass of whisky and a cheroot in his hand, enjoying life.


William McEwan Younger is also featured in The Brewing Connection in the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, by Ray Anderson, published in Brewery History in 2005.

Scottish brewers get a good airing in the dictionary. Heading the list is McEwan, William (1827-1913), described as ‘a plain, blunt man’ but ‘undoubtedly one of the most successful brewers of his generation … a shrewd, hard headed, hard working businessman…one of the merchant princes of Scotland.’ The piece on McEwan also has a mention of his uncle John Jeffrey with whom he trained before in 1856 ‘he established his own business at the Fountain brewery,’ and of McEwan’s nephew William Younger who joined him as an apprentice in 1874, and who ‘played an increasingly important role … becoming managing director of the firm on its incorporation in 1889 with McEwan … devoting himself increasingly to politics.’ McEwan’s ‘presumptive only child,’ Greville [née Anderson], Dame Margaret Helen (1863-1942), ‘society hostess,’ is also in the dictionary in her own right and has her own place in brewing history having on her death left all her ordinary shares in the brewery to Younger, Sir William McEwan, of Fountainbridge, baronet (1905-1992), who would go on to become the first chairman of Scottish & Newcastle Breweries. The dictionary succinctly explains the background of this splendidly named and unconventional ‘brewer and political activist,’ thus: ‘His father was the brother of George Younger, first Viscount Younger, and of Robert Younger, Baron Blanesburgh [a judge]; his paternal grandmother, Janet, née McEwan, was the eldest sister of William McEwan, Gladstonian Liberal MP for Edinburgh and the founder of McEwan’s Brewery. He was thus brought up with a background of brewing and politics… .’ Younger (known as Bill) joined McEwans when he left Oxford shortly before the firm merged with fellow Edinburgh brewers William Younger (not a relative) as Scottish Brewers Ltd. He had good war and was: ‘Known by his men as Colonel Screwtop, the main supplier of beer to the army being McEwan Youngers.’ The dictionary contains the following intriguing passage on Bill Younger’s unconventional approach to business as managing director of Scottish Brewers: ‘… when the main rival to Scottish Brewers Ltd in Scotland was offered to him he refused the offer on the basis that the resultant combine would so dominate the Scottish brewing scene as to extinguish competition and blunt the competitive edge of his company. His business philosophy was at variance with that of the rest of the brewing industry and he took no part in the councils of the various trade associations.’

McEwan’s is still around, as a brand at least, and today is owned by Wells & Youngs.


Historic Beer Birthday: Samuel Whitbread

Today is the birthday of Samuel Whitbread (August 30, 1720-June 11, 1796). He founded a brewery with a few partners in 1742, but was the largest investor and retained control of the venture. In 1799 his brewery was renamed Whitbread & Co. Ltd. He was also “appointed High Sheriff of Hertfordshire for 1767–68 and elected Member of Parliament for Bedford in 1768, and held the seat until 1790.” The portrait of Samuel Whitbread below was painted by Joshua Reynolds.


Here is Peter Mathias’ biography from the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography:

Whitbread, Samuel (1720–1796), brewer and landowner, was born on 30 August 1720 at Cardington, near Bedford, the seventh of eight children and the youngest of five sons of Henry Whitbread (d. 1727) and his second wife, Elizabeth Read. The Whitbread family were of prosperous nonconformist yeoman stock, farming their own land and closely associated with leading Bedfordshire puritans. Whitbread’s father was receiver of the land tax for Bedfordshire, and his first wife was the daughter of John Ive, a London merchant. This gave Whitbread the advantage, through a half-brother, of a connection in the City when his widowed mother apprenticed him at the age of sixteen to John Wightman of Gilport Street, a leading London brewer, for the large fee of £300. He set up in business himself in December 1742 with two partners, Godfrey and Thomas Shewell, buying a small brewery at the junction of Old Street and Upper Whitecross Street and another brewhouse for pale and amber beers in Brick Lane, Spitalfields. Whitbread brought an inheritance of £2000 to the firm, plus the proceeds of a small family holding in Gloucestershire, and loans from friends and kinsmen in Bedfordshire. He became free of the Brewers’ Company on 8 July 1743. The partnership was valued at £14,016, owning the leases of 14 public houses, with further loans to publicans, and deployed 18 horses and almost 18,000 casks. However, this was the prelude to a dramatic new venture.

Godfrey Shewell withdrew from the partnership as Thomas Shewell and Samuel Whitbread borrowed more to buy the large site of the derelict King’s Head brewery in Chiswell Street in 1750. The new brewery was specifically for the single product porter, the basis for the vast brewing enterprises then being developed in London by Henry Thrale and Sir Benjamin Truman. It was named the Hind’s Head brewery after the Whitbread family coat of arms. From the outset Whitbread was the leading partner financially, solely responsible for management, and Shewell withdrew completely in 1761, Whitbread buying out his share for £30,000. Great expansion ensued, with such notable innovations as vast underground cisterns containing 12,000 barrels of porter, designed by John Smeaton, and benefiting from installation of only the second Boulton and Watt steam engine in London (Henry Goodwyn, also a brewer, had beaten him by a matter of months). Public renown came on 27 May 1787 with a royal visit to Chiswell Street—by the king and queen, three princesses, and an assembly of aristocrats in train—with James Watt on hand to explain the mysteries of his engine. In the year of Whitbread’s death, 1796, the brewery produced an unprecedented total of 202,000 barrels (that is, almost 30 million quart pots of porter).

Great investment in the brewery did not preclude Whitbread’s amassing a personal fortune and large estates. On his marriage in July 1757 to Harriet, daughter of William Hayton of Ivinghoe, Buckinghamshire, a leading London attorney, Whitbread began buying land in Cardington, the locality of his birth. His wife died in 1764, leaving him with an only son, Samuel Whitbread (the couple also had two daughters). Whitbread went on to buy the Bedwell Park estate in Hertfordshire in 1765, and he also owned London houses, first at St Alban’s Street, Westminster, and then at Portman Square (from 1778), together with a large house in Chiswell Street by the brewery. In 1795 shortly before his death he bought Lord Torrington’s Southill Park estate in Bedfordshire and immediately engaged the architect Henry Holland to rebuild the existing house. Whitbread had by this time accumulated a landed estate worth some £400,000.

Affluence brought higher social status and also Whitbread’s second marriage on 18 August 1769 to Lady Mary Cornwallis, younger daughter of Earl Cornwallis; but she died in 1770, giving birth to a daughter, Mary Grey (1770–1858). Whitbread became MP for Bedford in 1768, mainly, but certainly not always, supporting the tory interest until his son took over the seat in 1790. He was regarded as completely independent of the administration and spoke mainly on matters pertaining to the brewing industry, save that he was a firm advocate of the abolition of the slave trade.

Whitbread died on 11 June 1796 at Bedwell Park. He appointed his three senior clerks as his executors because his son was ‘a perfect stranger to the whole’ (Mathias, 309). Whitbread not only had his own portrait painted by Sir Joshua Reynolds, but he also commissioned Thomas Gainsborough, Gainsborough Dupont, and George Romney to paint portraits to hang in the library at Southill of all nine of his senior clerks and brewers, in recognition of their importance in managing the business. Unfortunately, in their very rich gilt frames the pictures had to observe the dissipation of the great fortune by the younger Samuel Whitbread as he pursued a costly social and parliamentary career, neglecting the brewery which had been the source of the family’s wealth and prestige.

A miniature portrait of Samuel Whitbread, by Henry Bone.

An early history of the company from Encyclopedia.com:

Samuel Whitbread, at the age of 14, was sent to London by his mother in 1734 to become an apprentice to a brewer. Whitbread, raised as a Puritan, proved to be an extremely hard worker. In 1742, eight years after coming to London, he established his own brewery with a £2,000 inheritance and additional underwriting from John Howard, the renowned prison reformer. As the brewery became successful, Howard’s investment became more lucrative—it even led to a reciprocation of financial support by Whitbread for Howard’s reform movement.

By 1750 Whitbread had acquired an additional brewery located on Chiswell Street. At this time there were more than 50 breweries in London, but, despite intense competition, the Whitbread brewery expanded rapidly. By 1760 its annual output had reached 64,000 barrels, second only to Calvert and Company.

Whitbread was enthusiastic about new brewing methods. He employed several well-known engineers who helped to improve the quality and increase the production volume of the company’s stout and porter (a sweeter, weaker stout).

The Whitbread family had a long history of involvement in English politics. Samuel Whitbread’s forefathers fought with Oliver Cromwell’s Roundheads during the English Civil War and later developed a connection with the Bedfordshire preacher and author John Bunyan. Samuel Whitbread himself was elected to Parliament in 1768 as a representative of Bedford. His son, Samuel II, succeeded him in Parliament in 1790, and Whitbread descendants served in Parliament almost continuously until 1910.

Samuel Whitbread died in 1796.

The Whitbread Brewery in Chiswell Street, 1792, painted by George Garrard.


Inside Guinness August 22, 1953

In England, the Picture Post was the equivalent of Life magazine here in the U.S. It “was a photojournalistic magazine published in the United Kingdom from 1938 to 1957. It is considered a pioneering example of photojournalism and was an immediate success, selling 1,700,000 copies a week after only two months.”

On August 22, 1953, one of the photographers for the Picture Post — Bert Hardy — visited Dublin, Ireland, and was permitted inside the Guinness brewery at St. James Gate. I’m not sure how many photos he took, but recently Mashable featured twenty-two of them. Here are a few of them below, it’s a great glimpse into the past, and to see all of them, follow the instructions below.

Workers drain beer from a mash tun.

Workers watch as yeast is skimmed off the top of the beer before it is passed to vats for maturing.

A worker fills casks in the racking shed.

Workers at the Guinness brewery at St. James’s Gate in Dublin.

Workers hose down casks.

You can see all 22 of them below, or visit Mashable.

Guinness 1953

Historic Beer Birthday: William Blackall Simonds

Today is the birthday of William Blackall Simonds (August 13, 1761-January 13, 1834). Simonds “was a brewer and banker in the English town of Reading. He founded both Simonds’ Brewery, a component of today’s Wells & Young’s Brewery business, and J & C Simonds Bank, one of the precursors to Barclays bank.”


Here’s his entry from Wikipedia:

Simonds came from a family with estates at Arborfield to the south-east of Reading, but his father, William Simonds senior, had moved to Reading to set up a malting business that later grew to include brewing. William senior married Mary Blackall, and William Blackall Simonds was their only son. He was probably born in Reading, with records showing that he was baptised at the Broad Street Independent Chapel in Reading on 13 August 1761.

When William senior died in 1782, William Blackall Simonds inherited his business. He married Elizabeth May, who was the heiress of Daniel May, the miller of Pangbourne, and the ward of Thomas May, the miller of Brimpton and founder of a brewery in Basingstoke. In 1789 Simonds acquired a site on the banks of the River Kennet, and commissioned the architect Sir John Soane to build a brewery and house on the site. The riverside site permitted transport of raw materials and finished product by barge, and was to continue to serve as a brewery until 1980.

In 1791, Simonds was co-founder of a bank in Reading’s Market Place, in partnership with local businessmen Robert Micklem, John Stephens, and Robert Harris. His motivation in doing this was to help the brewery grow and to offer its output to a wider customer base. However this proved difficult, largely because local magistrates refused to issue licences for new public houses to sell his beer. As a consequence, Simonds decided to concentrate on his banking activities, and in 1814 he dissolved the original partnership and established a new family-run bank in partnership with his younger son Henry Simonds, and his cousins John Simonds and Charles Simonds. This bank was located in Reading’s King Street and later became known as John Simonds, Charles Simonds & Co., Reading Bank.

Simonds served as mayor of Reading in 1816. He retired to London and then to Pangbourne, where he died on 13 January 1834 and was buried in the family plot in Hurst churchyard.


The Simonds family maintains a website chronicling their brewery and members of the family through history, which includes a biography of William Blackall Simonds.


“The Simonds brewery was founded in Broad Street in Reading by William Blackall Simonds in 1785 (although his father had a brewing arm of his malting business as early as 1760). The company moved to Bridge Street, where it remained until 1978. The site is now occupied by The Oracle shopping centre. Simonds became a very early limited company in 1885, taking the name of H & G Simonds from William’s two sons, Henry and George. The latter was the father of a later director, George Blackall Simonds, a sculptor.”

“The company amalgamated with Courage & Barclay in 1960 and dropped the Simonds name after ten years. Eventually the firm became part of Scottish & Newcastle who sold the brands to Wells & Young’s Brewery in 2007 and closed the Reading brewery three years later.”


David Nash Ford’s Royal Berkshire History has an even fuller account of Simonds’ life, “based largely on the research of TAB Corley,” in 1976:

William Blackall Simonds was the son of William Simonds Senior and his wife, Mary Blackall. The Simonds family owned extensive estates in the Hurst-Arborfield-Wokingham area of Berkshire, but William Senior, being a second son, left the land and set up a small malting, and later a brewing, business in Reading. Upon his death in 1782, this business passed to his only son.

The following year, young William Blackall Simonds married Elizabeth May, co-heiress of the late Daniel May, the miller of Pangbourne whose sister had married William’s uncle, Thomas Simonds. She was the ward of a third sibling, Thomas May, the miller of Brimpton, who had founded the May Brewery in Basingstoke some thirty years before. As well as such excellent business contacts, this match brought William a dowry of £2,000. This, added to the £1,000 he had inherited from his maternal grandfather in 1781, meant that he had a tidy sum of money available to him. Fortunately, he also had the youth, vigour and entrepreneurial skill to put it to good use in increasing his brewing capacity

Tradition has it that William opened his first permanent brewery in Broad Street in Reading in 1785. Unfortunately, the site allowed no room for expansion though and, business being swift, four years later, he purchased a larger and more flexible plot of land in Seven Bridges Street. It has been taken as a measure of his self-assurance that, at the age of only twenty-eight, William commissioned Sir John Soane, the foremost architect of the day, to design him both a new brewery and a grand Georgian family home on the site. Although, as Soane was educated in Reading, one wonders if they knew each other from their youth.

William had to borrow heavily to cover the £6,400 which his new brewing complex had cost him. But he was well aware of the need to turn a tidy profit and had a counting house erected next to his study. By 1790, the malthouses and 25-quarter plant were fully operational and an annual output of 6,000 barrels can be assumed. The house – complete with a tablet above the entrance and wall-paper in the drawing room showing the hop-leaf design which was to make the brewery famous – was not finished for a further four years, but, in 1794, Elizabeth and their seven children (one had died in infancy but one more was to follow) were able to move in.

An added advantage of the new brewery site was that it immediately adjoined the River Kennet, so it had its own wharves for the import of barley for malting and for secondary trades, often associated with brewing, like timber and vinegar production. In 1799, demand for Simonds beer had increased so much that William had a two horse-power Boulton and Watt steam engine replace his old horse-driven power system; and the offices were extended a few years later. He was also able to purchase for himself the lease on a fine country estate, across the River Thames, at Caversham Court, where he exploited the chalk pits on his land in order to sell chalk and flint to the glass works of Bristol.

William was by now recognised as a stylish man of substance in Reading. In 1791, he had been appointed Receiver-General of Taxes for West Berkshire and he subsequently contributed £1,000 to enter into a partnership which formed Messrs Micklem, Stephens, Simonds and Harris’s Bank in Reading’s Market Place. This was a natural expansion of his business interests. As Receiver-General, William could use his tax receipts for up to six months before remitting them to London, while, as a brewer and maltster, he held very large cash balances for certain periods of the year. He was also Reading’s Town Treasurer in 1793 and various years thereafter. Even in the financial crisis year of 1797, William’s share of the bank’s profits was £150 and he soon came to regard the bank as a better long-term prospect than the brewery.

Although the War with France had produced a financial boom in the brewing trade, the Simonds’ Brewery saw little of the benefits, for it was a relative latecomer to the industry. Older breweries kept a tight hold on existing retail outlets for beer and strict licensing laws meant few new ones were created. By 1805, William had managed to acquire ten public houses in Reading and seven in the traditional Simonds areas of Hurst, Wokingham, Arborfield and Pangbourne. But, by 1834, this had only expanded by three further inns and output at the brewery had increased by no more than 70%. William insisted on high quality beer to counteract the poor quality price-fixed products of his rivals and, in 1813, managed to secure the contract to supply the newly opened Royal Military Academy at Sandhurst. Despite this triumph, however, the following year, he was so pessimistic about his brewery’s future that he decided he would sell up in order to concentrate more fully on banking.

Though his eldest son, Blackall, persuaded William to retain the brewery under his own management, the father withdrew from his original banking business and founded a family-based partnership of his own in King Street in Reading. His partners were his second son, Henry, his cousins, John and Charles, and his friend, Ralph Nicholson, and they had a working capital of some £25,000. This bank traded as J & C Simonds for about a century until it was absorbed by Barclays in 1912.

In 1816, as soon as William considered both the brewery and the bank to be in secure hands, he stepped down from involvement in business matters; though not totally from public life as he served as Mayor of Reading that year He arranged that he should be paid an annuity and divested himself of all other wealth, retiring first to 40 York Place in London and then to Pangbourne. He lived the quiet life for twenty years until his death on 13th January 1834, at which time his estate was worth less than £1,000. He was buried in the family plot in Hurst churchyard. His wife, Elizabeth, survived him by eight years.

The brewery survived in the name of William’s two sons, H & G Simonds, until 1960 when it merged with Courage & Barclay. Courage moved the brewery to the edge of Pingewood in 1985 and it is now the largest in Europe.

The Royal Berkshire History also has a short history of H & G Simonds’ Seven Bridges Brewery and also another page with A Description from 1891.


Historic Beer Birthday: John Allen Young

Today is the birthday of John Allen Young (August 7, 1921-September 17, 2006). Young was the great-great-grandson of Charles Young, who co-founded Young’s brewery in 1831. “He joined the family firm in 1954 after serving as a fighter pilot and a merchant seaman. He became chairman and chief executive in 1962 when his father retired and reverted to executive chairman in 1999.”


Here’s his obituary, written by Roger Protz, from the Guardian in 2006.

John Young, who has died aged 85, will have a prominent place in the Brewers’ Hall of Fame, revered as the father of the “real ale revolution”, an iconoclast who believed in good traditional beer drunk in good traditional pubs. Young, chairman of Young’s of Wandsworth in south London for 44 years, steered the family brewery on a different course from the rest of the industry in the 1970s. It was a course that was derided at the time: however, it proved not only successful for Young’s but also encouraged other regional brewers to follow suit.

A spate of mergers in the 1960s had created six national brewers who attempted to transform the way beer was made by switching from cask ale to keg beer – filtered, pasteurised and artificially carbonated. Panic ensued as such brands as Watney’s Red Barrel, Worthington E and Whitbread Tankard rapidly dominated the market. Smaller regional brewers rushed to emulate the “Big Six”, as they were known.

In Wandsworth, John Young raised his standard above the Ram Brewery, on the oldest brewing site in Britain, and declared he would remain faithful to beer that matured naturally in its cask. He was laughed to scorn by directors of other breweries. Among the legion of stories about him, one is told of a meeting of the Brewers’ Society in London where, during a break for coffee, one member saw a funeral hearse passing by outside. “There goes another of your customers, John,” he told Young, to roars of laughter from his colleagues. John Young had the last laugh.

He was born in Winchester, the eldest of four sons of William Allen Young. The family was steeped in brewing. John was the great-great-grandson of Charles Allen Young, one of two businessmen who took over the 16th-century Ram Brewery in 1831. John’s mother was Joan Barrow Simonds, a member of the family that owned Simonds Brewery in Reading.

But John’s first love was sailing: he was educated at the Nautical College in Pangbourne. Sailing holidays in the late 1930s on the river Orwell in Suffolk brought John and his brothers into contact with Arthur Ransome at Pin Mill, the setting for We Didn’t Mean to Go to Sea. Ransome claimed that he, rather than the brothers’ father, introduced the boys to the pleasures of beer and darts.

Either side of the second world war, John went to Corpus Christi College, Cambridge, where he graduated with an honours degree in economics. During the war he served with distinction as a fighter pilot on aircraft carriers. He left the Fleet Air Arm as a lieutenant commander in 1947 and launched a career in shipping. For a while he was based in Antwerp, where he met his Belgian wife Yvonne. They married in 1951 and settled in West Sussex, from where John, with his brothers, was summoned to work at the Ram Brewery in 1954.

He succeeded his father as chairman in 1962 and set about refashioning the company to meet the challenges of the time. Improving the pub estate and offering children’s rooms – a daring move at the time – did not mean a move away from traditional values. The brewery retained a fierce commitment to cask beer and delivered it to local pubs by horse-drawn drays, while a live ram mascot, along with ducks and geese, were familiar if bizarre sights at Wandsworth.

The energetic new chairman visited every pub in his estate. He was on first name terms with his landlords and became friendly with regular customers. Company annual general meetings became lavish affairs where a white-suited John Young would proclaim his belief in traditional brewing values. He was so horrified by the way some London pubs were being remodeled in the 1970s – as wild west saloons or sputniks – that he once threatened to enter one pub armed with a packet of soap flakes to throw into a large fountain that had been installed there.

The commitment to cask beer paid off. Sales of Young’s ales rocketed and their success was instrumental in helping the Campaign for Real Ale to make its mark in the early 1970s. In 1975 John Young was made a CBE to mark his work in brewing and for charity: he was chairman of the National Hospital for Nervous Diseases in Bloomsbury and raised millions of pounds to build new wards and install modern equipment.

His passion for brewing remained unabated, and John continued to work and chair company AGMs up to this year, though he was visibly ill with cancer. His last few months in office were dogged by controversy: a redevelopment scheme in Wandsworth meant the brewery had to close. When a suitable alternative site could not be found in London, Young’s agreed to merge its brewing operations with Charles Wells of Bedford, a move that has not pleased all lovers of Young’s distinctive beers.

But 200 Young’s pubs will remain in London and the south-east, bricks and mortar reminders of the man who guided their fortunes with undiminished fervour for more than 40 years.

He is survived by a son, James, who is deputy chairman of Young’s, and a daughter, Ilse.

A portrait of John Young that used to be in the brewery tasting room.

And here’s another obit, this one from the Telegraph:

The brewing industry is mourning the loss of one of its most passionate and colourful characters, Young & Co’s chairman, John Young. He died at the age of 85 after a long battle against cancer. The timing is particularly poignant as Young’s will this week cease production at the historic Ram Brewery in Wandsworth, south London, where ales were first brewed in 1581.

Mr Young – known affectionately as Mr John by staff – was a staunch opponent of red tape. Last year, he complained in the annual report: “At the brewery, we can no longer walk down the yard to the offices because of health and safety regulations. Our horses need passports. Since they cannot fit into a photo-booth, a vet must be employed to sketch the animal.”

Mr Young will also be remembered for his eccentric annual shareholder meetings. In what became a tradition as he fended off attempts at reform by activist shareholder Guinness Peat Group, he started bringing props to the event.

One year, he wore a bee-keeper’s hat to show his resolve to keep the group’s preferential B shares for family members. On other occasions, he brandished a megaphone to make sure “certain people, who seemed to be ignoring what I have to say” could hear him, and sported oversized boxing gloves.


Beer Birthday: Ben McFarland

Today is UK beer writer Ben McFarland’s birthday. I first met Ben when he was over here working on the CAMRA beer guide to the west coast with Tom Sandham and Glenn Payne. We invited Ben to join us judging Double IPA’s at the Bistro’s Double IPA Festival, which I believe was something of a shock to the system for both Ben and Tom. These days he and Tom are The Thinking Drinkers, performing their “‘The Thinking Drinker’s Guide to Alcohol,’ a unique comedic drinking show that debuted at the 2011 Edinburgh Fringe.'” Join me in wishing Ben a very happy birthday.

Ben judging at the Double IPA Festival at the Bistro in Hayward while he was working on the CAMRA guide to the west coast of the U.S. in 2007.

Taken at the CLASS Awards, by CLASS Magazine.

Taken somewhere in the U.S. of A.

Note: The last two photos were purloined from Facebook.

Historic Beer Birthday: Hamar Alfred Bass

Today is the birthday of Hamar Alfred Bass (July 30, 1842-April 8, 1898). He was the great-grandson of William Bass, the founder of the Bass brewery, and the second son of brewer Michael Thomas Bass.

NPG D21497; Hamar Alfred Bass

Here’s his biography from Wikipedia:

Bass was born in Burton upon Trent, the second son of brewer Michael Thomas Bass and his wife Eliza Jane Arden, daughter of Major Samuel Arden of Longcrofts Hall, Stafford. Bass was the great-grandson of William Bass, the founder of the brewery firm of Bass & Co, and his elder brother became Lord Burton. Bass was educated at Harrow School and became a Director of the family firm of Bass, Ratcliff, Gretton and Co. He was Honorary Major of the 4th Prince of Wales’s (North Staffordshire) Regiment and was a J.P. for Staffordshire. Bass played cricket for the Marylebone Cricket Club (MCC), making a single first-class appearance for the MCC against Sussex in 1865. He was dismissed in the MCC’s first-innings by James Lillywhite, while in their second-innings he was dismissed for 3 runs by George Wells. The match ended in a draw.

Bass was elected MP for Tamworth at a in by-election in 1878 and held the seat until 1885 when the representation was reduced to one seat under the Redistribution of Seats Act 1885. He was elected MP for West Staffordshire in the 1885 general election and held the seat until his death aged 55 in 1898 from a complex form of rheumatism.

Bass was a breeder at the Byrkley Stud and his horse “Love Wisely” won the Ascot Gold Cup in 1896. He was also for 12 years master of the Meynell Hunt.

Bass married Louisa Bagot (1853–1942), daughter of William Bagot, 3rd Baron Bagot, in 1879. They lived at Byrkley Lodge and Needwood House, Burton, and also at 145 Piccadilly, London. After his death, Louisa married Rev Bernard Shaw.

Bass’s sister Emily Bass married Sir William Plowden, MP for Wolverhampton West, and his sister Alice Bass married Sir George Chetwode being the mother of Field Marshal Philip Chetwode.

Bass’s son William succeeded in his uncle’s baronetcy according to special remainder. Hamar Bass’s daughter Sibell Lucia married Major Berkeley John Talbot Levett of the Scots Guards, son of Theophilus Levett of Wychnor Park, Staffordshire. Berkeley Levett served as one of the Gentlemen Ushers to the Royal Family from 1919 to 1937.

Rear: Austro-Hungarian Ambassador, Lady Alice Stanley.
Back Row: Hon. Col. Legge, Marquis of Soveral, Duchess of Devonshire, Mr Hamar Alfred Bass, Lord Elcho, Miss Jane Thornewill, H.M. Queen Alexandra, Lord Burton (Michael Arthur Bass), Lady Mar & Kellie, Prince Henry of Pless
Front Row: Lady Noreen Bass, Miss Muriel Wilson, Lady Desborough, Lady de Grey, H.M. King Edward VII, Lady Burton (Harriett Bass), Princess Henry of Pless, Mrs Alice Fredrica Keppel, Miss Bunny Thornewill

And this summary is from the Local History of Burton upon Trent:

Hamar Bass was the second son of Michael Thomas Bass and his wife Eliza Jane Arden. He was brother of Lord Burton and also a Director of the family firm of Bass, Ratcliff, Gretton and Co. One sister Emily married Sir William Plowden, MP for Wolverhampton West, and the other married Sir George Chetwode being the mother of Field Marshall Philip Chetwode.

Hamar Bass was MP for Tamworth from 1878 to 1885. He was then MP for West Staffordshire from 1885 until his death aged 56 in 1898 from a complex form of rheumatism.

Hamar Bass married Louisa Bagot (1853-1942), daughter of William Bagot, 3rd Baron Bagot, in 1879. They lived at Byrkley Lodge and Needwood House, Burton, and also at 145 Piccadilly, London. Louisa subsequently married Rev Bernard Shaw. He was a breeder at the Byrkley Stud and his horse “Love Wisely” won the Ascot Gold Cup in 1896. He was also for 12 years master of the Meynell Hunt.

His son William succeeded in his uncle’s baronetcy of Stafford according to special remainder. Hamar Bass’s daughter Sibell Lucia married Major Berkeley John Talbot Levett, Scots Guard, son of Theophilus Levett of Wychnor Park, Staffordshire. Berkeley Levett served as one of the Gentlemen Ushers to the Royal Family from 1919 to 1937.

The late Mr Hamar Alfred Bass, MP