History of Harman's Uxbridge Brewery

From Brewery History Society Wiki
Jump to navigation Jump to search

Harman's Uxbridge Brewery Ltd – a short history


Geoff Dye

The date when George Harman started his brewery in Uxbridge is not known for sure, some sources state as early as 1730 but this date probably refers to his first brewery as records show he owned a brewery and cooperage in Windsor Street, Uxbridge but died in 1744 aged 46.

The location where he started brewing is generally accepted as being The Crown and Treaty public house Oxford Road in Uxbridge and the date of 1763. This was accepted by the Company as the founding date which was verified in articles written by them.

After George's death the brewery passed to his descendants and was moved to a new site by his descendants. In 1876, or as stated by one source that in 1875 a disastrous fire occurred which led to the Shackles Brewery at 180 High Street, Uxbridge being leased together with its licenced houses. Later in about 1887 the freehold was acquired and this became the final site. Meanwhile over on the other side of London another company, The [Hornchurch Brewery Co. Ltd]], founded in 1789, passed through several ownerships eventually ending up being controlled by Stanislaus R. Conran. He also had interests in Harmans but both breweries were run as separate concerns.

In 1924 he sold The Hornchurch brewery to Mann, Crossman & Paulin Ltd and on the 13th September 1924 converted the original Harmans company, jointly owned by Alice R Webb, to Harmans Uxbridge Brewery Limited, a public company with a price of £240,000 payable in shares and debentures.

In the period before and after the Second World War, Harmans set about a public house improvement plan and built several new houses , The Air Hostess at Harlington, formerly the Bricklayers was rebuilt; this house is very close to London Heathrow and catered for passengers on their way to or from the airport. The Red Squirrel in Slough opened in 1957 catering for food and a venue for wedding receptions. The Peggy Bedford opened in July 1960 also on a crossroads and close to Heathrow plus several others. Pictorial Inn signs were given to most of the estate in an attempt to publicise the brewery name and the Garland trademark.

In April 1949 it was reported that one of the companies high trading houses, the Engine at West Drayton was to be given a new pictorial sign designed by William McKechnie. It showed a Firefly class locomotive built by Gooch in 1842 and called ‘Acheron’” The Industry at Hayes was another and featured in a film.

In 1953 along with numerous other breweries Harmans issued a Coronation Ale in nip bottles but unlike other breweries made available a box set of two glasses and a decanter with the Garland motif on it. The company also decided to diversify and in 1954 they purchased R. Halley, a soft drink manufacturing company based in Slough which had been first established in 1865 and incorporated in 1947. In 1958 the company bottled a special beer called Mayors Ale. In the same year they introduced a new bottle beer, a strong golden ale; more than likely they were the same beer. The label of the new brew was the work of D. Elkins-Green, the Head Brewer and Director at the time. The colourful label pictured Mount Silberhorn and was called ‘Summit’.

Labels were printed by Saxton Chatterton & Co which also produced a metal show card to advertise the beer. The beer was a great success in the houses and off licences, but it soon became apparent that another two breweries were using that name, Beverley Brothers Ltd of Wakefield and Peter Walker of Warrington, see Walker Cain Ltd.

To redress the position the company sent out the beer ‘undressed’ that is without labels with only the colour of the crown cap indicating the beer inside. After a rethink in February 1960 the name was changed to ‘Climaxe’, only the name being changed on the label. To coincide with this sales push, the company’s trademark mark a Garland, was painted onto cars and lorries owned by the brewery.

Changes in the brewery also took place with the phasing out of wooden 36 gallon barrels and the introduction of very heavy casks known as Brown Bombers made by a 14 Belgium company. They were used by several British breweries including Brickwoods Ltd, Massey's Burnley Brewery Ltd and Marston, Thompson & Evershed Ltd, hated by draymen and licensees alike they had no handles and were very heavy even when empty. They were almost indestructible and lived on after the brewery was sold to Courage & Co. Ltd, finally being phased out in the late 1970s. By that time deliveries to pubs with deep cellars had ‘No Harmans Barrels’ marked on the order form!!

Further developments took place in the Brewery as in August 1961 it was reported that the bottling stores capacity was to be increased by the addition of a new Briggs Automatic Continuous pasteuriser to replace the original cabinet ones.

A scheme was devised whereby the bottling was disrupted by only five days over a weekend. The new pasteuriser gave the beers a five month shelf life, more capacity was reliable and quicker.

On the 28th June 1961 a wine and spirit department was established at the rear of The Lambert Arms Denham called The Garland Vaults, a 5,000 sq foot wholesale store it took only 12 weeks to build and was on the site of an old orchard. The Harmans yearly barrelage figures for the year ending 31st December 1962 make interesting reading out of the 83 houses trading the Royal Standard in Hayes sold 605 and one eighth cask barrels with 10,594 dozen bottles, by far the biggest selling house. While the smallest was The Dolphin in Uxbridge with 37 and seven eighths barrels and 1,722 dozen bottles. Total barrelage for the year was 15,698 and three quarter barrels casks and 295,905 dozen bottles. The trading area was compact, mostly centred on Uxbridge and Slough, few houses were outside this area. Then suddenly disaster struck. Late in 1962 it was announced that [[Courage, Barclay & Simonds Ltd] had purchased the company. A further statement was made in January 1963 that Courage had purchased 59% of the 200,000 issued shares at £10 per share and they had been offered all the Directors shares at the same price.

Rather embarrassing for Courage was that the latest pub to be built by Harmans was almost ready for opening and the chosen name had already been announced as ‘The Double Century’. This name was to celebrate 200 years of Harmans and was opened 200 years and 2 months after the founding on the 26th April 1963. The pub replaced The Green Man at Slough which was demolished for road widening. It opened as planned with members of the Harmans brewery at the opening ceremony selling Harmans beers but no one in attendance from Courage. One of the first changes after the Courage purchase was the closure of the Garland Vaults with supplies coming from Charles Kinloch owned by Courage. Next the bottled beers were targeted. The bottled brews:

  • Brown
  • Pale
  • Strong
  • Garland
  • Stout
  • Snip Stout
  • Climaxe

were to be replaced. First to go was Harmans Stout on the 1st July 1963 replaced by Courage Bristol Stout and on the same date the excellent Climaxe was replaced by Double Courage (about to be renamed Courage Barley Wine). On the 25th November 1963 Jackpot cans and John Courage nips were made available to the houses. Later the other bottled beers were dropped in favour of Courage Light, Brown, Bulldog, Velvet Stout and John Courage.

On the 1st March 1964 all assets of the company were transferred to the Courage group. On the 17th February 1964 Mr J A Hollingworth, the Managing Director of Harmans wrote to all the tenants some 83 pubs and five off licences informing them that supplies of beer and cider would, as from the 16th March 1964 come from Reading and that no further Harmans beers would be supplied thereafter.

The Brewery would close on the 16th April 1964 with only a skeleton staff staying on until the 30th April 1964. An internal letter also was sent to staff stating “The brewery was to die quietly with no press involvement because of possible bad publicity.” However a closure ale was produced called ‘Final Brew’ in 1964.

In 1967 the company was wound up, the name disappearing eventually from all the houses although November 1966 was the date given in Richmond and Turton book on historical records. The brewery passed away with the draught beers being replaced by Courage XX Mild, Bitter Ale, Courage Best Bitter and Alton Directors Bitter (in a few houses). The many pictorial sign boards were gradually replaced by Courage insignia and only those heavy barrels remained until they went in the mid 1970s when more Courage aluminium and stainless steel barrels became available as trading down in size became more common.

The site of the brewery is now offices called Harman House.