A History of Rayment & Co Ltd

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RAYMENT & COMPANY LTD Pelham Brewery Barleycroft End, Furneux Pelham, Hertfordshire by Ken Smith and Tony Crosby

In 1677 Furneux Pelham Hall, a 16th century manor house situated to the west of the village, was purchased by one Felix Calvert. When he died in 1699, he left the estate to his son William who in turn left it to his son, another Felix. This Felix Calvert also owned a house and a part share in a brewery in Thames Street, London - the Hour Glass Brewery, which was to become known, nearly a century and a half later, as the City of London Brewery Company Ltd. It is most probable that in this period the only brewing which was undertaken at the Hall was for the benefit of the family and the employees on the estate. Brewing of moderate amounts of beer for local consumption was commonplace in large country houses during the 18th century.

Felix Calvert died in 1755 and the Hall passed to his son Nicholson, who died childless in 1793. In 1759, the Hour Glass Brewery became the full property of the Calvert family. Nicholson was succeeded by his brother, yet another Felix, who was known to be an eminent brewer, with interests at both Thames Street and Portland Place, London. Again, there is no record of any extensive brewing at Furneux Pelham Hall during this time although it is likely that the Calverts did supply beer to residents in the district. Felix Calvert committed suicide in Chelsea in 1802 thus bringing to an end the involvement in brewing of the Calvert family.

The first record of commercial brewing in the area comes when William Rayment leased Furneux Pelham Hall from the Calverts in the 1840. However, the local records show that in the period 1851 to 1854 his activities were confined to farming, but by 1855 the County directory states that he had added brewer to his list of talents. Brewing continued at the Hall until 1860, when William Rayment’s lease expired. By this time his product was very popular with the locals and the beer output had risen to a considerable level. He began to search for larger premises and eventually he settled on a site at eastern end of the village.

The County directories of the 1860s show that the list of trades which he was involved in had grown even more. He was a brewer, maltster, miller, farmer and brick and drainpipe maker. It was probably the necessity to build a new brewery that stimulated his interest in brickmaking, since the bricks used to build the brewery were baked in a local kiln. The new brewery sparked off rapid growth.

ln the early 1860s there were between 12 & 14 employees - 2 in the brewhouse, 2 in the cellar, 2 in the office and 6 - 8 draymen. They brewed about 150 gallons at a time on three or four days each week. Much of the trade was in 4.5 gallon pins. The mash tun installed in 1870 was by Briggs of Burton-on-Trent. Power was originally from a crank-overhead steam engine and later from a producer gas plant and engine which generated electricity for the village as well as the brewery.

The 1860s expansion was not affected by William’s death in 1861. His work was carried on by his executor, Stukeley Abbot, who continued as both brewer and manager until 1888. At this date the firm was put up for sale following the death of the last of the four sons.

Edward W Lake and James M King, joint managing directors of Greene King , purchased the brewery and its 18 tied houses as a going concern in 1889 for £18,200 forming a private partnership called Rayment and Company. King withdrew in 1912 and Rayment and Company Ltd. was created to acquire the business.

The brewery itself was situated on the North-West side of the cross-roads at the Eastern end of the village. Although it is near to the River Ash, the brewery did not use this river as its source of water, using its own well on the premises instead. It is this water, the locals claimed, which gave the beer a very distinctive flavour. At its height the brewery employed fifty people.

During the long history of the brewery only two smaller breweries were taken over. These being H Newall’s Brewery at Radwinter, near Saffron Walden in 1910, Newalls also had a brewery at 23 Gold Street, Saffron Walden, and the Little Hadham Brewery of A H Lawson which was previously Dalby & Company then Drake and Lawson in 1912.

During World War One, Rayments had their first bottling plant installed - a hand operated machine which dealt with six bottles at a time and in the 1920s this was expanded by Wickham’s, the Ware brewery engineers, and the bottling plant labour force was increased to seven. The bottling plant was closed and bottling ceased in 1973.

Rayments were finally completely taken over by Greene King in 1931 when it had 36 tied houses. At this point the Lake family did not give up their control of the brewery entirely and it was this fact that probably saved the brewery from losing its identity completely. In fact, up to his retirement in 1966 Captain H N Lake was managing director of the brewery. It continued to develop its club trade from 77 outlets in 1937 to 255 in 1965.

The malthouse, built in 1869, which had not been in use since the 1950s was converted to a two-level full bottled beer store. A sixth fermenting vessel was installed in 1976 to meet rising demand and in 1977 a new keg storage building was constructed.

The Pelham Brewery brewed its last in September 1987. After brewing ceased, the site was a distribution depot until the mid 1990s, when the site was sold for development. The brewery and malthouse have now been sympathetically converted to private residential use. The “Brewery Tap House” is still in business.