History of the Stockwell Brewery

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Stockwell Brewery, Stockwell Green


John Sheridan

A brewery stood at the junction of Stockwell Green and Lingham Street, London SW9, for over 200 years. The Survey of London, Vol 26 (1956) noted that the plentiful supply of water from wells made Stockwell Green a suitable site for a brewery; that the date of establishment - 1730 - inscribed on a brewery building standing in the 1950s was unsubstantiated; and that the earliest reference to a brewery on the site occurred in 1801, when it was said to belong to Mr Robert Tyler and to be in the occupation of a Mr Roberts. [[1]

However, a public notice of a corporate restructuring published in 1937 (see below) also made reference to the foundation of the brewery in 1730. The authors of that notice might have simply read the date on the wall, or they might have had access to a brewery archive confirming the date.

The brewery stood on what is now a development of apartments bounded by Oak Square, Lingham Street and Stockwell Green, near the junction of Clapham Road and Stockwell Road. Rocque’s map dating from the 1740s indicates the presence of buildings on the site of the brewery, but does not specify the nature of the buildings.

John Roque’s map 10 miles around London, 1746: Stockwell Green is the triangular area surrounded by buildings. Also shown are Stockwell Manor House (demolished 1755) in its formal gardens and the Swan public house at the junction of what are now Clapham Road and Stockwell Road.

An advertisement in the Times on 3 Sept 1806 stated:

To be let or sold by private contract, extensive premises comprising dwelling house, dye house, and outhouses on Stockwell Green, adapted for brewing, dyeing.

In July 1832, an insurance policy indicated that Bentley and Thomas Hawkes McLeod operated the brewery. Their partnership was dissolved in August 1833, following which Bentley McLeod ran the brewery (London Brewed by Mike Brown, a Brewery History Society publication, page 296).

The 1836 advertisement.

An advertisement in 1836 for the freehold of the brewery site referred to Mr Bentley McLeod as the lessee. The presumption would have been that he would stay on and provide an income to a new freeholder. According to the 1841 census a “common brewer” named Bentley McLeod, aged 60, lived at Stockwell Brewery, with four other McLeods: Edward (aged 25), Robert (aged 25), Sophia (aged 20) and Sophia (aged 1). Edward and Robert were also described as common brewers.

John McLeod, aged 36, lived at Stockwell Green in 1841 but his occupation was “Agent Commission”. Living in the same household as John was Robert McLeod, aged 34, described as “Army”, and Roderic McLeod, aged 7. The 1841 census also listed two brewers living at Stockwell Green: Samuel Matthews, aged 50, with his wife Mary, four children and one servant; and Samuel Weeks, also aged 50, with his wife, also named Mary, 10 children (four of whom were aged 15, so they would have included extended family) and one female servant (also aged 15). It is likely that Matthews and Weeks were employees rather than lessees.

Another brewer named Bentley McLeod, aged 31, and his wife Louisa and baby son Herbert lived in Hackney in 1841.

By the time of the 1843 tithe survey, the occupant was Robert Shafto McLeod – the same Robert who was living at the brewery with Bentley in 1841 - and the landowner was Joseph Ellis Brothers.

The tithe map, 1843. The tithe survey described plot 514 as Stockwell Brewery and garden. A tithe rent charge of 15 shillings per annum was payable to the rector in respect of the brewery. A house and gardens at plot 513, adjacent to the brewery, would later be redeveloped as Stockwell Grove and eventually incorporated into the brewery site in the late 1950s.

In 1844 Robert Shafto and George More McLeod were known to have operated the brewery, although their partnership was dissolved in 1846. In 1848-49 McLeod and Adams and then McLeod and Harrison operated the brewery. (London Brewed by Mike Brown, a Brewery History Society publication, page 296).

Bentley and George More McLeod were made bankrupt in November 1849. A notice in Perry’s Bankrupt Gazette stated that Bentley was “formerly of the Scottish Ale Brewery, Stoke Newington, afterwards of Stockwell and now of Brixton Rise”; and George More was “formerly of the Scottish Ale Brewery, Stoke Newington, now of Stockwell”. This Bentley would have been the one who was a brewer in Hackney in 1841. The various brewing McLeods were clearly related. The same family forenames and birthplaces recur for McLeods who are recorded in different parts of the country at different times. The death of a Bentley McLeod who was probably the former lessee of Stockwell Brewery was registered at Canterbury in Jan-March 1844.

The younger Bentley McLeod was recorded as a brewer at Tower Hamlets, Hackney in the 1841 census, and also in the 1840s tithe apportionment in the parish of Hackney St John.

McLeod brewing families were recorded in the 1851 census living in Brixton, London (Benjamin and family – his wife had the same name, Louisa, as Bentley’s wife in 1841, so the person recorded as Benjamin might have been Bentley); Mottingham, Kent (Thomas Hawkes and family, which included another Bentley, aged 5, and another Robert, aged 1); and Neithrop, Oxfordshire (Robert Shafto, an assistant brewer aged 38, his wife Sophia, aged 35, daughter Sophia, aged 11, and sons Robert, 9, and Bentley, 6).

By the time of the 1861 census Bentley McLeod was described as a brewer in Deal, Kent, although he was not a proprietor of a brewery. Robert Shafto and his family were living in Kennington, about a mile away from Stockwell. Robert Shafto was still an assistant brewer, possibly at a brewery other than Stockwell Brewery. The death at the age of 62 of Bentley McLeod, presumably the former brewer at Hackney and Deal, was reported in the Kentish Gazette on 3 May 1870.

Bentley McLeods recorded in later censuses would have been third generation Bentleys born in the 1840s to Robert Shafto McLeod and Thomas Hawkes McLeod. Thomas was a retired brewer, still in Mottingham, in 1871; he died in 1883. Online word searches of various websites containing census information give different results, owing to mistranscriptions in their search engines of the handwritten census forms. The census information in this article has been sourced by comparing information from various websites and making judgements about continuity of names, ages and places over time.

The 1851 census did not record any brewers living at Stockwell Green.

The 1861 census listed William B Carmichael, aged 49, as a brewer living at Stockwell Green with his wife Isabella, two adopted children and two servants. The census record stated that he employed 30 men and one boy. The proprietors at the time were Horace Chaplin & Co .

Hammerton first appeared in advertisements in 1868, when Hammerton & Lambert succeeded Chaplin & Lambert as the brewers . According to a newspaper advertisement on 2 October 1869, Hammerton & Lambert were “pale ale and porter brewers to HM Forces”. The 1871 census listed Charles Hammerton, aged 44, brewer, as resident at Stockwell Green. He might have lived in the “elegant freehold abode” on the brewery site, mentioned in the 1836 notice of sale by auction, with his wife Rosa, six daughters, a governess and two servants. He employed 35 men at the brewery. In 1881 and 1891 his address was 16, Stockwell Green. By 1881 he had 80 employees. The 1891 census did not record the number of employees. In 1901 Hammerton, aged 75, was living in West Sussex. The corporate restructuring notice published in 1937 mentioned that the business was converted to a private company with limited liability in 1902 – an indication that plans had been made to invest in the brewery.

Censuses reveal that in 1841 at the age of 15 Charles Hammerton, son of a ribbon manufacturer, lived in Coventry. In 1851 he was a farmer with 530 acres and 18 employees in Princethorpe, Warwickshire. By 1861 he had 27 employees, 536 acres and a brickyard and lime works. The 1861 census did not mention his wife but did record three small daughters. The following facts about Hammerton were recorded in newspaper reports . In February 1864 a presentation was made to him on the occasion of his leaving Princethorpe; it is not clear why he left and what he did before arriving at Stockwell. His partnership with AB Lambert was dissolved in August 1873, when Lambert retired; Hammerton then became sole proprietor of Stockwell Brewery as C Hammerton & Co. In October 1883 Hammerton, then a widower, married Amy H Evans. Hammerton was a prominent freemason, and chaired the court of governors of the Masonic Institute for Girls. His death at the age of 76 was recorded in the freemasonry news column of the 2 November 1903 edition of The Daily Telegraph and Courier. He was buried in Norwood Cemetery.

South London Press, 1897

Charles Hammerton’s death did not stop the company’s expansion. Charles Hammerton & Co Ltd made a succession of planning applications to the London County Council, including stabling in 1902, a fermenting house, bottle store and offices in 1909, a roof addition in 1920, and an extension for washing and filling beer bottles along with a cold store for closed steel beer vessels in 1930. (London Metropolitan Archives GLC/AR/BR/10/LA/0101/A/BA)

In September 1914 the brewhouse was extended and the company was said to have had some 500 employees.

A 1905 illustration in the Brewing Trade Review and a 1922 photograph display the results of capital investment.

The Brewing Trades Review image from 1905.
An image of the brewery from 1922.

The growth of the site may be seen by comparison of old Ordnance Survey maps. Older maps of 1829 and 1848 show earlier stages of development of the site, albeit not in great detail, with the expanding brewery replacing old houses on Stockwell Green.

Advertisement on a metal tray, 1935
Bottle label, 1937
The OS map for 1871
The OS map for 1895
The OS map for 1913. The Times reported on 19 June 1905 that the daughters of the late Charles Hammerton had promised to contribute £1,000 per annum for three years towards the erection of a parochial hall and institute, in connection with St Andrew’s Church, Stockwell. The hall – known as the Hammerton Memorial Hall – is shown on the map adjacent to the church. The hall is now dilapidated and is governed by a charity which appears from the Charity Commission website to have been dormant for several years.
The OS map for 1950
The wartime bomb damage map. The wartime bomb damage map shows that the brewery was not seriously affected: the darker the colour, the worse the damage. The dark area in the bottom left-hand corner of the map is now occupied by infill houses.

Older maps of 1829 and 1848 show earlier stages of development of the site, albeit not in great detail, with the expanding brewery replacing old houses on Stockwell Green.

The company also expanded by means of acquisition. The Portsmouth Evening News carried a notice on 13 February 1915 that Hammerton & Co had acquired Kingston Brewery, Kingston Cross, operated by E Whicher & Co. In 1934 they acquired Framptons of Christchurch, and used those premises as a depot until 1957.

Charles Hammerton & Co Ltd was incorporated as a public company in February 1937 with the issue of £400,000 of debenture stock, £500,000 of ordinary shares and £500,000 of unclassified shares. The public notice of the restructuring stated that the new company had acquired both the old established business of the same name and a part of a smaller company called The Commercial Brewery Co. Ltd, of Commercial Road, Stepney.

Hammertons already had links with the Commercial Brewery Co. Ltd, having been brewing for them and having acquired their Stepney houses in 1927. The Commercial Brewery Co. Ltd had been in the process of being broken up and sold off, and was probably wound up after the incorporation of Hammertons. Their brewery was demolished in 1932 and replaced by the Troxy Cinema which showed its first film, King Kong, on 11 September 1933. For more of the history of this cinema.

The combined net assets of the new company were valued at £865,000. Hammerton & Co had made annual profits of between £125,000 and £140,000 over the previous five years. The Commercial Brewery Co. Ltd made profits of between £16,000 and £20,000 over the same period.

At the time of the restructuring, Hammerton & Co had four on licensed properties, 91 freehold and leasehold off licensed properties as well as the freehold brewery and branch depots. The Commercial Brewery Co. Ltd brought another two on licensed properties and 92 off licences to the restructured company.

The injection of new capital would doubtless have been used to expand the business. The Times of 12 May 1938 reported a satisfactory first year and a 7% dividend on ordinary shares. In 1938 Hammertons bought the retail side of the Portslade Brewery Co. The company was successful during the war years, with trading profits rising from £142,000 in 1940 to £270,000 in 1944, and issuing dividends as high as 18% by 1944. In 1943 planning permission was secured for a steel-framed open shed for storage of empty bottles. The Times’ City Notes on 1 June 1944 reported that brewing and tobacco were in a favourable position due to the maintenance of the supply of the raw materials at pre-war levels and a rise in national income. Hammertons took over the Wallington Brewery, Farnham; and HH & RJ Sanders, Fareham, brewery and eight pubs, in 1944. The following year they took over Kenward & Court Ltd, brewers, of Hadlow, with about 40 pubs.

The 1945 AGM reported reduced output due to flying bomb warnings affecting the manning of the bottling department, and difficulties with the renewal and repair of plant. The dividend was reduced to 11%, a level that was maintained in 1946. Results in 1949 were described as poor and brewing in Hadlow ceased. In the same year planning permission was secured for a diesel generating plant and an oil storage tank at the Stockwell site. On 9 March 1951 the chairman, Mr HA Bonner, sent a circular letter to notify ordinary shareholders that the directors had accepted an offer of 15 shillings per share for the 1.2 million 10 shilling ordinary shares from Watney, Combe, Reid & Co. Ltd, and that there would be no dividends in 1951 and 1952. He added that a great deal of retrenchment was necessary.

Watney, Combe, Reid & Co. Ltd used the site primarily as a bottling plant, to alleviate their acute shortage of bottling capacity. Under their ownership the site was described in 1955 and 1956 as “Watney’s Stockwell Brewery” and “Watney’s Stockwell Bottling Stores”. They sold the on licensed premises – the pubs – to Charrington & Co. Ltd, and retained the off licences . They decided to retain the popular Hammerton’s Oatmeal Stout brand, as well as the Hammerton name for a few years: company results for Hammerton & Co were reported in the Times up to 1956.

The use of oats as an ingredient in ale was common in medieval times, fell out of favour, and revived towards the end of the 19th Century when oats were considered to have health-giving properties. Oats conferred a smooth texture to stout but, in large amounts, a bitter flavour.

Hammertons was also known for its oyster stout, introduced in 1938 using a recipe from New Zealand. Stout and oysters had been recognised as complementary from the 18th Century. The attempt to combine the flavours could not be regarded as a lasting popular success, although oyster stout has its place in the craft beer market.

Watney, Combe, Reid & Co. Ltd continued to develop the site. In 1958 they applied to demolish vacant dwelling houses on Stockwell Grove and use the area temporarily for stacking beer crates. In 1959-60 their pewtering plant was rehoused to the site from their Stag Brewery site in Pimlico which was about to be demolished (whereupon their HQ moved to Mortlake, see Phillips, More & Co. Ltd. They also restructured around this time to become Watney Mann).

In 1961 a subsidiary of Watney’s, Brown and Pank Wine and Spirit Co. Ltd, operated the site and secured planning consent to build a five-storey wine and spirit warehouse. (Planning documentation is filed in the London Metropolitan Archives (LMA GLC/AR/26/LA/0101/A/BA/01-08) as well as in Lambeth’s online historical planning records (file 0304)). Construction proceeded in phases for some years, with various modifications to the plans and the demolition in 1965 of the last of the old brewery buildings. The lower four floors were designated for warehouse use and the upper floors for the firm’s head office.

Brown & Pank was originally established in 1826 as a wine and spirit merchant. In 1968 IDV Ltd (International Distillers and Vintners) acquired Brown & Pank from Watney Mann Ltd in exchange for shares. Watney Mann later took over IDV, and was itself taken over by Grand Metropolitan in 1972. With all this consolidation, and the development of purpose-built distribution centres near motorway junctions, it is not surprising that the Stockwell site ceased to be a wine and spirit warehouse.

In 1973 the premises were known as Sanitas House and housed The Sanitas Co. Ltd. Between then and 1983 they made several planning applications to Lambeth Council for alterations to facilitate their business of the manufacture, storage and distribution of toilet and household products. (Lambeth online historical planning records, file 0304). Ominously The Times reported on 22 July 1981 that the Greater London Council was to seek a meeting with the Prime Minister to ask for £40m to create jobs for Londoners, including £4m for Sanitas House.

In January 1985 Lambeth permitted a change of use by Hays Storage of premises now known as The Quadrant, Stockwell Green, to the storage, retrieval and management of documents, records and material, including ancillary offices and 20,000 sq ft of industrial floor space. (Registered plan nos 5954/2026/84; date of application 17/10/1984).

The Presentation Housing Association sought planning permission for redevelopment of the site in 2005. (Lambeth planning permission ref 06/00186/FUL).

According to the planning statement, by 2005 the premises occupying the 1.26 hectare 15 Stockwell Green site were used for archive storage and offices (with 12 full-time equivalent jobs). Permission was granted on 25 October 2006 for redevelopment for 290 flats, office space, nine retail units, refuse storage and parking. Permission for the demolition and redevelopment of the vacant public house, the Brewery Tap, on the other side of Lingham Street facing the brewery site, was granted at the same time. Presentation ran into financial difficulties in 2008 and was taken over by Notting Hill Housing in 2009. After numerous amendments to planning permission, the Oak Square development was completed and postcodes were allocated in March 2010 to its constituent blocks, Phoenix Court, Rowan Court, Ivy Court, Dahlia Court and Acacia Court.

Work began in autumn 2020 to replace all the terracotta cladding on the Oak Square blocks. Cladding tiles began to fall off shortly after completion of the development. The contractors expect to complete the work by April 2022. Notting Hill Housing has a management office on the site and owns many of the properties, but some appear to be privately owned.

The site to the west of Oak Square, the former Stockwell Grove, described in planning documents as a former bottle store site, was redeveloped on a slower timetable. The reinforced concrete shell of the 1960s building was still there when the redevelopment of the Oak Square site was being completed. Planning permission was granted in 2011 for student accommodation for the University of the Arts and for residential flats. The Glassyard Building, 7a Stockwell Green, SW9 9JF, opened around 2015.

Satellite photo of the modern development
The Brewery Frontage in 1965. Photo courtesy www.brixtonbuzz.com

Postscript: A sequel to this article may follow the lifting of Covid-19 restrictions at Westminster Archives Centre, where a Hammerton & Co archive 1896-1952 is lodged.

Notes on images Images reproduced from the Layers of London website (https://www.layersoflondon.org) with permission from copyright holders for non-commercial use through creative commons (https://creativecommons.org/) licensing (Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International (CC BY-NC-SA 4.0) licence): 

  • John Roque’s map 10 miles around London, 1746. Courtesy of British Library and MOLA.
  • Ordnance Survey maps, reproduced by permission of the National Library of Scotland (https://maps.nls.uk/os/)
  • The Bomb Damage Maps 1939-45, first published by the London County Council.
  • Modern satellite map (Esri, DigitalGlobe, GeoEye, Earthstar Geographics, CNES/Airbus DS, USDA, USGS, AeroGRID, IGN, and the GIS User Community).

Notice of 1836 auction and South London Press advertisement, 1897: © The British Library Board. All rights reserved. With thanks to The British Newspaper Archive (www.britishnewspaperarchive.co.uk).

Tithe map extract: © Crown Copyright Images reproduced by courtesy of The National Archives, London, England. www.NationalArchives.gov.uk & www.TheGenealogist.co.uk.

1880 advertisement; 1905 illustration; 1922 photograph; Coronation year advertisement; Stockwell Brewery ‘Established 1730’ advertisement; Hammerton Oatmeal Stout advertisement: images courtesy of the Brewery History Society.

Metal tray image reproduced by permission of Richard Percival’s Brewery Tray and Breweriana Website (https://brewerytrays.co.uk/cms/index.php/trays.html).

Photo of Stockwell Brewery dating from the 1960s reproduced by permission of Urban75.org. It also appears in London Brewed. A watermarked version of this image also exists in Lambeth Archives.

"To help you understand even more of the history of this brewery make sure you have a copy of London Brewed, available here: "