Bletchley Breweries Ltd
Bletchley Breweries Ltd, High Street, Fenny Stratford, Buckinghamshire.
Registered 1896 to acquire the brewery of Edmund Holdom.
Acquired by the Aylesbury Brewery Co. Ltd. 1899 with 9 public houses.
Premises later used by Cave's Solid Beer Brewery then used by Valentine, Ord & Nagle for producing brewing sugars.
George Crutcher writes:-
Holdom and Co, The Bull, High St. (aka London Road and watling St.)
The Bull appears to have had a long history as a public house, possibly in association with an adjacent substantial late 15th early 16th century building which formed part of the premises of the Fraternity of St Margaret and St Katherine founded in 1493. The Fraternity was dissolved by Henry VIII and in 1569 the building was conveyed to Lord Arthur Grey. The building survives in a much altered state. It is variously described as a guildhall, hospital, chantry, and brotherhood house.
The Bull Inn seems to date from this period and continued to be used as a hostelry until it was demolished and replaced by the current building in 1938. By then it was owned by A.B.C. It no longer trades as a public house. A Brewers Compendium – A Directory of Buckinghamshire Breweries by Mike Brown (ABC) includes a reference to a brewhouse at the Bull in 1731, and another to a brewhouse as part of the sale particulars in 1796 when the property was at auction. The sale also makes reference to the proximity of the premises to the intended line of the Grand Junction Canal, authorised by Act of Parliament in 1793 and under construction at the time of the sale. This seems to suggest that the premises included the land between the “guildhall” and the canal, later occupied by a warehouse and other buildings in brewery related uses.
The Bull and its associated brewhouse and malting were owned/leased by or associated with a number of brewing businesses in the area, including Meacher of Newport Pagnell (unsure whether related to the Ivinghoe Meachers), Burr and Co., and Bennett and Co., both of Dunstable, and Gurney.
My notes state that Maffey and Co were listed at the Fenny Stratford Brewery from 1864 until circa 1875 when they were taken over by Holdoms, although this is not mentioned in ABC which states that, in 1847, Robert and Joseph Holdom acquired the Bull P.H. and its malting from Bennett and that from 1872 to 1884 George and Edward Holdom were listed as brewers, maltsters and farmers at the Bull . There appears to have been rapid expansion of the business in this period, including the purchase and conversion to a brewery of Jesse Smith’s flour mill and wharf on the canal, and the acquisition of the “guildhall” as part of the brewery’s operations, although its precise use is unclear. ABC states that around 50 licensed house were being supplied at this time.
Various members of the Holdom family retained control of the High St. business into the 1890s and seem to have also operated a brewery at the Bull and Butcher in Aylesbury Street, Fenny, and another in Bletchley at this time, presumably the basis for the title Bletchley United Breweries which appears in listings from 1896. The location of the Bletchley Brewery is a mystery although Holdom’s were at the Bletchley Park Hotel in 1872. In 1895 George Gurden Cave was managing director of the Fenny Stratford breweries at High St. and Aylesbury St., which included a store at Bletchley Station. By 1897 he is recorded as proprietor of Cave’s Solid Beer Syndicate Ltd., High St. Fenny Stratford.
In 1899 the Fenny Stratford brewery and an estate of 9 pubs was advertised for sale, and was purchased by Aylesbury Brewery Co Ltd (A.B.C.). These included the Bull and the Bull and Butcher. The Bletchley brewery was not included in the sale, and ABC states that this was where Cave’s Solid Beer operation was concentrated. However Markham (History of Milton Keynes and District, Vol 2 – White Crescent Press 1975) states that Cave’s operation was at the High St., Fenny, Brewery, and that the syndicate was “still flourishing” in 1907. My notes say that brewing ceased at Fenny Stratford in 1903.
Referring to an article by E. Legg in the Milton Keynes Journal No 2, 1973, Markham states that Cave’s Solid Beer Syndicate had discovered the “art or science of taking the water out of the beer and producing solid blocks (rather like slabs of chocolate) which when again hydrated produced beer of a quality that varied only with the quantity of water added.”
This product was, apparently, one solution (pun not intended) to the problem of how to keep British troops in Africa supplied with beer during the Boer Wars.
My notes refer to a sale of parts of the Fenny High St. premises, including the “guildhall” building to “Grant” who subsequently sold them on to a sugar processing business. A.B.C. retained the Bull and adjoining buildings and parts of the brewery as a depot. ABC states that the depot was purchased by the Elgan Syndicate in 1922 who were, in turn, acquired by a competitor, Valentin, Ord and Co Ltd. in 1925.
The business continued to trade, as Valentin, Ord and Nagle, from the site until the 1990s, manufacturing sugars for the brewing industry. Most of the buildings on the site, including the canal side warehouse and the remains of the old Holdom brewery, were demolished at that time to make way for a trading and industrial estate, but the “guildhall” building and other buildings at the rear of the Bull P.H. remain, including what may have been part of the malthouse.
An assortment of views of the brewery