Benjamin Bennett, North-Western Brewery, 181-189 High Street North, Dunstable, Bedfordshire.
Bennett owned an ale and porter brewery at Chamber's Yard, Dunstable, from c.1839. Also a partner in the Bedford Road Brewery, Luton 1864-70 and brewed at Harpenden 1874-93 as well as Redbourn 1882-97.
Bought the North-Western Brewery from Cutler & Henceman.
Acquired by Mann, Crossman & Paulin Ltd. 1938 with 59 tied houses.
Brewery demolished 1971.
Benjamin Bennett, Harpenden Brewery, High Street, Harpenden, Hertfordshire.
Founded by James Curtis c.1800. Owned by the Healey family of Watford from 1853 and was leased to Benjamin Bennett of Dunstable from about 1874 to 1893 when it was acquired by by Mardall’s Peacock Brewery.
Benjamin Bennett, High Street, Redbourn, Hertfordshire.
Founded as the Bull Inn home brew house. Thomas and John Edwards had at least nine tied houses in 1878. Benjamin Bennett of the Dunstable Brewery acquired the lease of the brewery and the public houses in March 1879.
Offered for auction March 1897, but no buyer was found for the brewery and the pubs went to various local brewers, such as the Bull to McMullen & Sons Ltd.
THE REDBOURN BREWERY by Martyn Cornell
The Bull Inn, Redbourn High Street, is certainly Elizabethan, and possibly older than that: William Finch came into possession of the inn in 1595, when it had been formerly owned by his father Robert and “before that by Finches from ancient times”.1
As a long-established large hostelry on the main route to the north west, with stabling for 80 horses in 1744, it would seem likely the Bull always brewed its own beer. John Keats was a friend of Dr Henry Stephens, the inventor of Stephens’s blue-black ink, whose father was the Bull’s landlord from 1802. The poet stayed at the Bull in June 1818 on his way north to Liverpool with his brother and sister-in-law.2 Keats was a wine drinker (a short and little-known verse of his begins: “Give me women, wine and snuff/until I cry out hold enough”) and might not have fancied the Bull’s home-brew, but many others must have drunk it.
However, as late as 1826 a Bill of Sale for the inn failed to mention a brewery, and a brewery is not listed in the tithe report of 1842.3 The only brewer in Redbourn named in the 1839 edition of Pigot’s directory of Hertfordshire is John Stevens of Fish Street,4 with Thomas Dixon at the Bull listed merely as a landlord.
Twelve years later the 1851 census recorded Charles Dixon as a farmer, brewer and baker, though without giving his address. Three years on, Craven’s 1854 directory of Hertfordshire lists Robert House as landlord and brewer at the Bull. This is the first definite chronicle of brewing at the inn, but Craven’s directory was always more comprehensive than its rivals: it is the only directory, for example, to list James Hawkins as a brewer in Redbourn, though Hawkins, who must have run a very small operation, was still brewing for sale, aged 80, when the census taker came round in 1871. Very likely earlier directories simply listed the landlord of the Bull only under what they saw as his main occupation, running an inn, and left brewing out.
By 1859 Kelly’s directory gives John Puddephat as Redbourn’s only brewer. It does not mention the Bull at all, though that is where John was probably based, since the 1862 Kelly’s shows Henry Puddephat as landlord at the inn. Then in 1866 Kelly’s puts Thomas and John Edwards as the occupiers of the Redbourn brewery, Redbourn. A couple of years later, in March 1868, Thomas and John were advertising themselves as brewers and maltsters of Redbourn, “ale and porter 1s a gallon, XXX ale 1s 6d a gallon”.5 That the Edwards’ brewery was based at the Bull is made clear by the census returns for 1871, which show Thomas, aged 30, from St Albans, as the landlord of the Bull, and next door John, 28, also from St Albans, as a brewer employing three men. The two ran the Redbourn brewery until at least 1878, and it looks as if they managed to build up a tied estate of some nine pubs and beerhouses, not including the Bull itself. These included the Lark beerhouse, Redbourn, the Punch Bowl on the road south to St Albans, the Bull, Offley (leased from Lord Glamis, whose family, the Bowes Lyons, had owned the Bull, Redbourn since 1844), and the Crystal Palace, St Albans.6 In March 1879 a lease on the Redbourn Brewery and its tied houses was assigned for £360 a year to Benjamin Bennett, a Dunstable maltster who was already leasing the Harpenden brewery and its 18 tied houses.7 In 1887 Bennett acquired a brewery in Dunstable, and in 1893 his lease on the Harpenden brewery ran out. But he continued running the Redbourn brewery alongside his Dunstable one.
The lease on the Redbourn brewery was due to expire in March 1900.8 But in July 1897 the freehold of the five-quarter brewery with its own maltings and cooperage, together with the Bull and 10 other tied houses were put up for auction “by order of the hon F Bowes Lyon”. This was at the summit of the rush by brewers in England and Wales to secure customers by buying tied houses, and pubs sales were attended by all the local brewers. At the sale in the auction mart, London nobody was interested in the brewery itself. The pubs and beerhouses, however, were snapped up by five different Herts and Beds brewers: Bennett bought two, and others went to JW Green of Luton, Healey’s of Watford, the Kingsbury Brewery Company in St Albans and Pryor Reid of Hatfield.
The Bull was sold after the auction to McMullen’s, the Hertford brewers,9 and Bennett seems to have stopped brewing in Redbourn around the same time, for he does not appear in the village in the 1898 edition of Kelly’s. The failure to find a buyer looks as if it sealed the brewery’s end. Today there is no physical trace of its existence.
- 1 W. Branch Johnson, Hertfordshire Inns pt II, Letchworth Printers 1963
- 2 Selected Letters and Poems of John Keats, JH Walsh ed, pub Chatto and Windus 1954
- 3 Personal information, Ron Such
- 4 Stevens may have been at the Chequers, which was part of Fish Street Farm for many years: very probably the farm would have had a small brewery, as a lot of farms did. By 1843, according to Branch Johnson, the Cheqers was owned by Francis Searancke of the Kingsbury brewery in St Albans
- 5 Herts Advertiser March 1 1868 p1
- 6 Ditto, May 1 1897, p1
- 7 Deed in possession of Roger Shepherd of St Albans
- 8 Herts Advertiser May 1 1897
- 9 W. Branch Johnson, Hertfordshire Inns pt II