Christmas & Co

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The brewery in 2002
Christmas Label BHS.jpg
Christmas Bottles Haverhill Hist soc.jpg

F C Christmas & Co, Haverhill Brewery, Camps Road, Haverhill, Suffolk.

Established 1809 by Joseph Boreham and owned by William Ward & Son Ltd when acquired by Christmas in 1894.

Acquired by Greene King & Sons Ltd. 1918 with 49 public houses.

Brewing ceased 1924.

List of F C Christmas & Co pubs

Ian P Peaty writes:-

This small country brewery was established in 1809 by the father of William Wakeling Boreham who was born in Haverhill, then just in the county boundary of Essex, on March 3, 1804. Boreham and his son ran the brewery business in Camps Road for about seventy years, with Joseph Boreham being listed in 1855 as ‘Brewer, Maltster, bank agent and spirit merchant’, with his address given as at Burton End. Joseph Boreham also owned Paske Mill and the Queen’s Head public house in Haverhill, which has only recently lost an etched window panel inscribed “W.Ward & Son, brewers” This unique part of local history was destroyed by a vandal in 1996.

Joseph’s son, William, was to be something of a local notary, as he also had business interests in London and Manchester. He had a great talent for mathematics and was a keen astronomer, erecting his own observatory and having several articles published. He was elected a Fellow of the Anthropological Society on 11th April, 1845, and carried out a number of excavations in both Essex and Suffolk. William was a local Justice of the Peace, and died in 1886. Between 1874 and 1885 the Haverhill Brewery was sold to William Ward, including a malthouse opposite the brewery. He had two sons, Stanley Edward born around 1869 and William John. A daughter, Mary Ellen was born in 1861. In 1888 William Ward was resident in Camps Road whilst his son, William John is at The Limes; the brewery’s title had now changed to ‘William Ward & Son, Brewers, maltsters, Wine & Spirit Merchants’, so it is evident that son John joined his father in the business between 1883 and 1888.

On Tuesday, 23rd January, 1894, Ward’s Brewery was put up for auction at the Mason’s Hall, London, E.C. with premises being described as the ‘old established Tower-built brewery of three acres, plus 36 freehold and copyhold fully licensed houses and beer houses, with other land and property giving a rental in excess of £1,000 per annum. By today’s standards, this represents something in the order of one million pounds!

Besides the brewery there were included in the one lot, two fifteen quarter malt houses, two residences and grounds, namely ‘Dabel House’ and ‘The Limes’. The brewery which is mainly brick built but with upper floors of timber construction was described in the sale document as:- “Mash tunstage and cistern room, mill room, stage, brewer’s office with fireplace and two windows, cooler and hop back room, under-back room and malt room with asphalt floor”. This description relates only to the top floors, and the still extant massive brick arches on the ground floor bare witness to the substantial construction. The upper timbered floor is complete with wooden louvres all round, and inside this area may be seen vestiges of the staging and pipework; this area has not been used since closure.

The two maltings across the Camps Road were described thus:- “Capital brick built maltings with 30 quarter steep, two cemented working floors and kilns, barley and malt stores, coal place etc; also newly built carpenters shop, saw pit and cover, cart shed, lime house, coopers store, fowl house and a large yard enclosed with a brick and flint wall and two pairs of folding gates, wicker entrance etc.; with good draw-up or loading way from road”, This is a very typical description of many similar properties of the time.

At the auction the Haverhill Brewery was sold to Mr F.C.Christmas for the sum of £29,100. As part of the sale particulars, details of the trading accounts were given, including sales of beer and ale in 1890 as £7,164, 16s. 10d to a drop in 1892 of £6,172. 9s. 2d. which relates to 3,931 barrels to 3,142 barrels. However wine & spirit sales rose from £21, 15s. 9d. to £74, 14s. 5d. and the sale of grain and yeast from £185, 3s, 5d, to £207, 8s. 9d. The sale of yeast was most likely to local inhabitants and bakeries, with some going to the landed gentry who would still have been brewing their own beer.

Mr Christmas ran the brewery business until his death in 1918, at which time the brewery was sold to Greene King & Sons Ltd, Bury St Edmunds, one of several early acquisitions by this major regional brewer. It is not clear why the Wards sold out to Mr Christmas, although a hint may be gleaned from one sentence in the sales notice that said, “large sums of money have been expended on the Brewery and Home Premises and licensed houses ...... but very low rents charged”. Was there possibly a lot of debt or did father and son fall out with each other? What ever became of John?


Located now on what was the old malthouses is now a modern Health Centre, appropriately known as ‘Christmas’s malthouse’. The malthouses were initially sold to a bus company and later in 1988 to a group of doctors for their health centre. The brewery is still recognisable, particularly the squat tower with its timber louvred top. More recent low rambling buildings have been added to the original by the present occupiers, The Innisfail Laundry. Entrance gates leading to the cobbled yard are intact behind a low brick wall.

Some four miles to the north of Haverhill is the village of Great Thurlow which had a small brewery to the rear of the Rose & Crown pub. This two hundred year old building situated at the central cross roads of the village is now a private house. The old brewery buildings have been demolished and a modern bungalow now occupies the former site. This brewhouse was soon closed down and the public house was sold to Christmas & Co in 1913. The Great Thurlow Brewery was previously in the ownership of William Wootten in 1910, and it was his executors who sold the pub and brewery. Another pub brewery acquired by the Haverhill Brewery, but in the very early days, was the Queen’s Head, Queen Street, Haverhill, which still trades today as an excellent free houses dispensing a varied range of cask conditioned ales. To the right hand side in the rear yard but now a part of the adjacent property, is what appears to be the original small brewhouse.

Greene King & Sons Ltd acquired Christmas’s of Haverhill in early 1918 from the trustees of the late F.C.Christmas, for the sum of £55,000 - paid in cash and War Bonds. Ward’s thirty-six licensed houses had by this time at the end of the Great War, expanded to 49 houses. The brewery ceased brewing in late 1932. During the early 1920’s, production at Haverhill was on a steady decline, with 9,510 barrels brewed in 1921; 8,383 in 1922; 6,751 in 1923; and 3,480 in 1924, equating to the production levels in 1892. The termination of brewing in the early 1930s was no doubt a prudent economy at the time of the then economic depression, particularly as beer deliveries were easily made from the Westgate Brewery in Bury St Edmunds. It is apparent that the Haverhill Brewery in Camps Road was used as a radial delivery depot, as a Mr John B.Ashard is listed as the manager in 1933. In 1937, Greene King, brewers, are listed as at the Bell Stores, High Street, Haverhill, one of the acquired public houses.

An assortment of views of the brewery.