Fox & Sons

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Ordnance Survey extract from 1895. Reproduced with the permission of the National Library of Scotland (
Messrs. Fox & Sons, Oak Brewery: New Fermenting House, Farnborough, Kent. Brewers’ Journal 15th July 1897.
The brewery, ca.1916
The Fox & Hounds at Westerham Hill, when it was a Fox & Sons house. Image with thanks from The pub still trades, but named the Aperfield Inn.
Fox Farnborough label xa.jpg
Courtesy Bill Morton

</gallery>Fox & Sons, Oak Brewery, Sevenoaks Road, Greenstreet Green, Farnborough, Greater London.

Founded in 1836. Offered for auction June 1909 and 28 of the public houses were sold to Truman, Hanbury & Buxton & Co. Ltd for £54,695.

See also Golding & Co, Bat & Ball Brewery, Sevenoaks.

List of Fox & Sons pubs

Peter Moynihan writes:-

This inkstand, inscribed as having been presented to Thomas Hamilton Fox in March 1873 by the employees of the Oak Brewery, Farnborough on the occasion of his coming of age.

Thomas Hamilton Fox and his brother Walter St. John Fox were the sons of Thomas Samuel Fox and his wife Rachel Mary Fox (nee Bookham) who were both listed as brewers in the 1861 census. Thomas jnr married Elizabeth Valentine Ogilvy in 1890, they had one daughter, Florence Ruth; Valentine had been born in Mauritius of Scottish stock and had lived with her uncle at Rufford Old Hall, in Lancashire, before her marriage. She moved in literary circles and it was through her that her friend, the budding novelist Olivia Shakespear, was enabled to pursue her affair with the Irish poet W.B. Yeats. They first met in 1894 and would meet at the Fox family home, ‘Beechwood’, in Farnborough. However, Yeats had already been smitten by Maude Gonne, who rebuffed his advances, and Shakespear was already married. The affair ended in 1897 after Yeats had spent some time in Paris with Gonne, and on his return was confronted by Shakespear. Their parting inspired Yeats’ poem of 1899 entitled ‘Aedh Laments the Loss of Love’ in which Aedh (Shakespear)…. “had looked in my heart one day, And saw your (Gonne’s) image was there, She has gone weeping away”.

Thomas Hamilton Fox had an interest in the S.T. Ferment Co Ltd which had been set up to promote the use of a particular strain of yeast, patented by Grove Johnson and Percy Richard Hare, which could resist higher temperatures than the ordinary brewer’s yeast then in use. It was believed that it could speed up the fermentation of beer and thus effect economies in production costs. In 1905 a dedicated fermenter was installed at the Oak Brewery in which up to five barrels of Fox’s ordinary wort could be pitched with the new yeast strain. However, the results were not wholly successful; the yeast proved acceptable for dark beers but produced flavours that did not sit well with the delicate hop flavours of their paler ales. Although not a success at Farnborough, the yeast strain was used to good effect in breweries in hotter climes within the British Empire.

Whilst Fox & Sons had given every impression of having been a successful and prosperous concern the Fox brothers were, in fact, heavily in debt. Thomas Samuel Fox had borrowed £26,000 from the General Assurance Company in order to rebuild the brewery and by the time of his death had reduced the debt to £16,000. However, his sons had made precious little effort to repay the loan; in fact they borrowed a further £14,250 in 1891 and £4,000 in 1894. By 1906 they owed a total of £37,000 plus interest and a further £9,020 to their solicitor, both personally and professionally. Their only collateral for these loans was the company, which would have to be sold. The Fox brothers retired in 1907 and, on June 24th, the Oak Brewery was offered for sale by auction with 37 licensed houses. It failed to sell, being withdrawn at £89,000. The S.T. Ferment Co Ltd was wound up at this time and merged with the British Beer Brewers Ltd. It was felt that the yeast might be useful to brewers in hot climates and, to this end T.H. Fox became a Director of British Beer Breweries (Far Eastern) Syndicate Ltd in February 1908; he was listed in the 1911 census as a ‘Director of Companies’. The system was used in India and elsewhere but fell into disuse with the advent of cheap and effective refrigeration systems.

The Oak Brewery was offered for sale again in April 1909; once again the brewery failed to sell and was withdrawn. On June 15th, however, twenty eight of the licensed houses were sold for £54,695 to Messrs Truman, Hanbury & Buxton & Co. Ltd of the Black Eagle Brewery, Stepney, but the Oak Brewery was withdrawn again at £11,800. Their solicitor sold the goodwill and private trade to Messrs Golding & Co (qv) of the Bat & Ball Brewery, Sevenoaks and the tangled affairs of the Fox brothers were finally settled.

Thomas Hamilton Fox died at Cranleigh, Surrey on 28th October 1923, leaving an estate valued at £564 10s 5d.

IT WAS CHRISTMAS EVE IN THE BREWHOUSE... A fire at the Oak Brewery was discovered by the brewer on Christmas Day 1867, while the staff were having their dinner. It had consumed the wooden lagging around the cylinder of the steam engine and had burnt out, although the embers were still warm. The brewhouse had been locked overnight and the cause might have remained a mystery had not a worker come forward to admit that the previous evening he had tossed a used lucifer (match) under the engine. It was supposed that it may have ignited an oily wiper and then the cladding.

The company made much of the fact that the blaze had not spread because the building was fireproof.

The brewery features in The Noted Breweries of Great Britain and Ireland by Alfred Barnard published 1890.

Entry in the Trade Mark Registry

Registration No : 340,857
Description : Label design
Date of Application : 05/03/1912
Used Prior to 1875? : NO