A History of Ward & Son Ltd

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Ward’s Brewery, Foxearth, Essex by Ian P Peaty

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Situated only ten miles due east of Haverhill, the small village of Foxearth is close to the County boundary between Essex and Suffolk.

In the centre of the village once stood an imposing group of buildings which formed the Ward’s Brewery of Foxearth. Founded in 1848 by George Ward, the business was soon to be run by his wife, Mrs Charlotte Ward, on the early death of George. His son David joined his mother until the 1880s, when he took control on his own until his death at the grand age of 90 in 1949. The mantle of ownership was passed down to his son, Mr Harold Ewart Ward, who was the second Chairman and Managing Director. In 1953 he in turn passed on the reins to his son, the last acting Head Brewer, Managing Director and Chairman, the late David Harvey Ward, who died in 1997.

As early as 1886 bottling had been carried out on the premises, using Worsnams, Carlson and Seitz filters and Pontiflex fillers. Ward’s of Foxearth were the second company after Whitbreads to start bottling and consequently benefited from a wide distribution of their beers.

Their renowned Imperial Ale was even supplied to the House of Commons up until 1939, the outbreak of World War II. The Worsnams plant was installed on an experimental basis, and several early modifications were made from this initial experience. Ward’s of Foxearth won 3 gold medals, 27 Silver and several Bronze medals at the numerous brewing industry exhibitions once so common. For a small company of this size, this was a remarkable achievement and probably a unique distinction.

Several small brewhouses attached to public houses were acquired over many years, including the Four Swans, Sudbury (brewer 1868 - 1890, Mrs M A Gross); the Cock at Clare (brewer 1892 to 1900, Mr D.F.Glazin); the Cock & Bell, Long Melford (brewer 1902, William Dixey, 1910, George Ransom, 1914, George Frederick Grice); this business was acquired by Wards in 1920. At Cavendish, the Bull with its still extant brewhouse had William Wallace brewing in 1914 and Arthur Wallace his son, who sold the business in 1912 to Wards.

Other public houses with brewhouses acquired were the Prince of Wales, Sudbury and the Queen’s Arms, Great Cornard, neither of which have any brewhouse remains.

Ward’s brewery underwent several developments as a result of increased trading, with the first major rebuilding in 1888, and a second brewhouse block built in 1897; with the final major addition being carried out in 1912. A 24 ton boiler was installed in 1904 with a 125hp crude-oil engine and Rushton Hornsby engine generating electricity, installed in 1931 for the use of the ice plant, yeast room, refrigerators and bottled beer stores.

There were two artesian bored wells of 330 feet into the underlying chalk strata, and one bored to a depth of 126 feet in 1896. This liquor output enabled production in 1931 of 400 barrels per week and 1,000 dozen bottles per day.

Malt was supplied from several firms, Crystal and Black from a small malthouse in nearby Long Melford, Gough’s of Bury St Edmunds; Pauls and the Ipswich Malting Co; from Ipswich docks; Harringtons of Ware, Herts; and more latterly, Gilstrap Earp & Co of Newark, Notts. This latter firm being given orders after David H.Ward had received his early brewing pupilage at that firm and also at James Hole & Co; brewery also in Newark, in 1949.

Some six hop growers in Kent and Sussex supplied the hops and Young & Co (Wandsworth) supplied the yeast, right up to the last brew on Wednesday, 10th February, 1958, which was a Small Best Bitter of 62 barrels at a gravity of 1031 O.G.

There were nine draught beers supplied in Kilderkins, Firkins and Pins only, including:-

  • X No 1, Special Dinner Ale
  • XX Rich Mild Ale
  • XXX Strong Nut Brown Ale
  • XXXX Strong Stock Ale
  • AK Light Tonic Bitter
  • KK Medium Bitter
  • IPA Imperial Ale
  • Porter (Digestiv)
  • Stout (Nutritious)

Later an Oatmeal Stout, Burton Ale and a Gold Medal Ale were produced in bottle, with Imperial Ale, Imperial Double Brown and the No 1 Strong Ale in bottles.

In 1912 there were fifty employees, with four of them retiring in 1958 (at the time of closure) with 50 or more years service each. Taylor, Walker & Co. Ltd of the Barleymow Brewery, Limehouse, East London, purchased the concern including its 31 tied houses and off-licenses on 1st November, 1957, with David H.Ward being made Assistant Managing Director. At this time Mr Richard Motion whose father had been chairman of Taylor Walker at the Cannon Brewery, Farringdon, London, was responsible for the transaction and following this remained a close friend of David Ward until his recent death.

At this period of time, much rationalisation was taking place within the brewing industry, and Taylor Walker themselves had been taken over by Ind Coope Ltd of Romford, Essex. Mr Ward subsequently bought back his family brewery business which then consisted of a radial delivery depot and the public houses.

One of the conditions of sale back to the family was that Wards pubs would sell Skol Lager, Double Diamond and Long Life. Wards were able to sell Jubilee Stout and Carling Black Label lager from the Hope & Anchor Brewery, Sheffield. Some other trading agreements were made with Tolly Cobbold, Adnams, Elgoods, Steward & Patteson and Morgans of Norwich.

David Ward had a close working relationship with the Hope & Anchor brewery, and this culminated in the Foxearth brewery business being sold to them in 1963, with Mr Ward acting as the local depot manager.

David Ward also had a directorship with the Dunmow Brewery, Essex, and was ‘Other Brewers Director’ of Charrington (East Anglian Division) who acquired the Dunmow Brewery. Bass Charrington used the old Foxearth brewery yard and extant offices as a depot, supplying London brewed beers to both ex-Ward and ex-Dunmow Brewery pubs. The main brewhouse tower was demolished during 1960/1, with the final demolition taking place in 1989, the area now redeveloped as residential property.

Of the once numerous small breweries who were competitors, it is interesting to note that the owners were often great friends, with sometimes intermarriages. The late David Ward counted amongst his friends not only Richard Motion, MD of Taylor Walker, but also Michael Gray of Gray & Sons, Chelmsford (who ceased brewing in 1974) but still retain a tied estate of pubs. The late Geoffrey Rowell (who died in 1992) was the last owner of the Stanstead Brewery, Essex, a small town better known now for the developing third London airport, was also a fellow director and friend of the Dunmow Brewery.

Both Harold and Martin Bailey of Bailey & Tebbuts, Panton Brewery, Cambridge, served their pupilages at Foxearth, as did Mr Fuller of Bedford (acquired by Charles Wells) during the time of Mr H.E.Ward. Head Brewers at Foxearth included a Mr Carter, then a Mr Carpenter who was succeeded in 1931 by Mr Richards. In 1934 a Mr Trethowan was brewer for four years, to be succeeded by Martin Falwasser who handed over to J.A.Middleton in 1946. Mr David H.Ward took over brewing in 1949 until closure in 1958.

Other possible close relationships may be assumed, such as a daughter of one of the Ward branches, married a Mathias Gardner around 1780, he was one of two sons of William Gardner, owner of the Little Coggeshall Brewery, Essex. What of that elusive John Ward from Haverhill? What became of him? In the tiny village of Poslingford there was the village pub called the Shepherd and Dog, sited beside the stream running through the village. The pub had its own brewhouse which is still intact, now a private house, but last used when the pub closed several years ago as a function room. Before being sold to Greene King, the last known brewer was a Mr John Ward. Could he have been a relation of the Haverhill Brewery, John Ward? The most recent but sadly short lived Ward owned brewery was Bob Ward’s Two Shires Brewery in Ramsbottom, Lancashire; one of the many micro casualties. With the final demise of S.H. Ward’s Sheaf Brewery, Sheffield, there are now no Ward’s in the brewing business.


• My thanks are expressed to Dr Chrispin Ward, the late David H.Ward and the late Mr Geoffrey Rowell.

• David Lloyd Parry’s “South Yorkshire Stingo” and Ian P.Peaty’s “Essex Brewers”.

• Reference has also been made to Norman Barber’s “A Century of British Brewers, 1890-1990” and Friedrich’s Gazetteer.