Island Green Brewery Residential Development

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Observations on the Proposed Residential Development of the Island Green Brewery Co. Ltd Site, Brewery Place, Pentre Felin, Wrexham, Clwyd by Derek M Jones

As a local historian and the husband of the Vice Chairman of the Denbighshire Historical Society, we have been approached by the local planning department for our and the Denbighshire’ Society's views with regard to the above issue.

I have through the medium of the plans already drawn up of the present site, been able to reproduce outline drawings of most of the Brewery Buildings as they were at the closure of the site by Marstons. This followed their take-over of Border Breweries (Wrexham Ltd) and the closing down of both the facilities at Island Green and the Nags Head site in Mount Street, Wrexham in 1984.

There is somewhere an Estate Agent’s sales brochure circa 1905 a decription which gives full details of the plant and machinery together with plans of the layout and the capacity of all the vessels etc but I am unable to locate a copy of it at the moment. That would fill in most of the blank spaces. If anyone knows of the whereabouts of a copy please let me know.

I have put together a brief outline of the history of the site, which is, although partially derelict, a listed site (specifically the Malt House Kilns) under Cadw, the department of the Welsh Office responsible for Ancient Monuments. (Cadw 16/A/23-25 9/7/1981).

The intention is for partial demolition of later additions and the improvement of the original buildings, converting the site into a total of 29 dwelling units (approval under review). Bearing in mind the listing of part of the site, and thereby retaining the major features.

The brewery was founded in 1856 by one John Jones of the Cae Farm Wrexham, the buildings in the main date from that time, with later additions dated c.1890 and c.1900. The whole site is now derelict. The brewery was active from 1856 until 1931, firstly under the control of John Jones, then from 1905 under a partnership of Huntly and Mowat until amalgamation with F.W.Soames' Nags Head Brewery and Dorsett Owen of Oswestry to form the Border Breweries Wrexham Ltd in 1931.

The brewery supplied a total outlet of some 71 tied houses, a number of which had been leased from Sisson's Cambrian Brewery on its closure in 1922, and a degree of free trade. The brewery is situated in Brewery Place, Pentre Felin, in the township of Wrexham Abott, in an area that contained many of the best water wells in the town.

A general description of the site lists:-

Two malt kilns square in place, both with pyramid roofs with louvre vents and clad in scalloped slate. The first floor was carried on lateral timber beams encased in iron, carried on a series of locally cast iron columns (Eagle Foundry, Tuttle Street, Wrexham) the roofs of each supported by a king post. Low floor levels and shuttered windows assisted in the germination process, a covered archway linked the maltings to the rear courtyard and to the main brewery buildings.

The square brewing tower with a pyramid slated roof, is four storeyed and some sixty feet high with an extended wing to the south. This contains a loading arcade of four bays, parallel and to the rear of this, is a further two storeyed three windowed range over extensive cellars. This dates from c.1900. The building to the east was rebuilt, again in 1900 and is a single story over high cellars, to the west in a rear courtyard is a range of two storeyed stabling with hay loft above.

Following the founding of Border Breweries in 1931, Mr Huntly was appointed Chairman of the new company with Mr Mowat on the board, brewing ceased at Island Green and was concentrated in the Mount Street Brewery, formerly F.W.Soames Ltd.

Because of the extensive cellars at the Island Green site it was converted into a wine and spirit bonded store, to supply the needs of the new Border Breweries and its many tied houses and free trade outlets, and continued in this role until final closure in 1984.

Even in its present state of dereliction it is still the best example of a mid-19th century brewery and malthouse in a town which at one time boasted no less than nineteen commercial breweries during that period.

ISLAND GREEN BREWERY An Update by Derek Jones

In my article on the proposed redevelopment of the Island Green Brewery site, I mentioned the existence of a sales brochure from around 1905. Having searched high and low for it I have finally unearthed it, and a very interesting and important historical document it proves to be.

I enclose some pages from the brochure which detail important items of plant and of the trade and financial state of the company in 1905. Also included are details of the tied houses for sale. Ironically of the eight licensed premises listed on the town location map, only one, The Feathers, is still trading, now under the Marston’s banner.

Of those located out of town, only six of the 14 listed are still trading, again most of them under Marston’s control but one a free house.

Also within the brochure are the location maps of the various properties and detailed conditions of sale and contract. As I mentioned in my previous article, Messrs Huntley & Mowatt were the successful buyers at this auction, but I have no details of their final purchase price.

In the context of brewery history, I do not know if sale by public auction of a going concern was common practice, but this document certainly highlights the financial conditions of rental of tied house etc.

John Jones , the proprietor, together with his brother William, are well remembered in the town for their benevolent activities. They endowed St John’s Church Hightown, financed a wing of the East Denbighshire War Memorial Hospital through trusts and also financed two convalescent homes, one at Minera near Wrexham and the other at Rhyl on the North Wales coast. Following the demolition of St John Church a stained glass window commemorating the family was removed, and rededicated and installed in St Giles, the parish church in Wrexham.

There are a number of etched windows still in existence in the locality, bearing the Island Green logo.