John Gurney

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Rowsham Brewery.jpg
The maltings
Rowsham maltings rear view (part) 1983.jpg

John W Gurney, Brewhouse Lane, Rowsham near Aylesbury, Buckinghamshire.

Founded by the Lucas family in the 18th century. Brewing ceased c.1939 and was converted into a private house.

In 1715 Nicholas Lucas occupied a farm, which in 1724 involved Joseph Lucas I. The earliest mention of malting is in 1732 when Joseph seems to have acquired Thomas Stevens' malting at Wingrave (see entry).

In 1772 the will of Edward Lovett describes him as a brewer of Langley Marsh; however, there do not seem to be any other references.

On 19th March 1789 the Red Lion at Marsworth was conveyed from Wm Grange to a Joseph Lucas. In 1791 Joseph Lucas II (born 1751 and presumably a son) was listed as a maltster in the village. He built Mercer House later Manor Farm, the family home. On 31st March, the Swan at Cheddington went from Benjamin Bates to Joseph and in October there was an admission of Lucas to the Crown, Little Horwood and the Star at Heath & Reach.

In 1798 Joseph II was again shown as a brewer in the village, but sometimes shown under Wingrave (see entry). On 11th August 1798, the Red Lion at Bierton and Paradise Close was under feoffment from Charles Lucas to Joseph. Charles was the brother of Joseph II and Edward Munday Lucas, later involved with the brewery. In May 1801 Joseph leased The Lantern in Aylesbury from Thos Duncombe. On 21st March 1804 the Plough at Bierton went from Edward Terry to Joseph and there may well have been other links, possibly by marriage. In May 1815 the lease of the Lantern involved Benjamin Holland, acting as trustee for Joseph.

The guide to Leighton & Linslade pubs mentions that in 1808 the Star & Garter on Heath Road was owned by Rowsham brewer Joseph Lucas, who had probably built it.

In 1820 Moses Lovett, ironmonger of Hitchenden, married Mary Montague Lucas, sister of Joseph III and Edward II. A deed of 26 February 1823 regarding Elizabeth Badwick, widow of William deceased brewer of Rowsham, mentions William Gurney as their grandson. Also mentioned are Joseph Lucas brewer and Benjamin Holland victualler. In 1824 Joseph III and Edward II's sister Sarah married George Thomas Major.

Joseph II died in 1832, by when he had acquired an estate of 43 pubs, one of his executors being Robert Dell wine merchant. It is said that he only had daughters, his nephews Joseph III and Edward II took over the business, although in 1834 it was listed as Joseph Lucas and Moses Lovett ie their brother in law.

On 30th June 1837 Joseph Lucas and Moses Lovett had a mortgage with John Lucas (possibly another of Joseph II's brother) and Thomas Wilson. The 1839 poll book mentions only Moses Lovett, although in 1841 listed as Lucas & Lovett. In 1846 Edward Munday Major was involved, being the son of George and Sarah Major,

On 13th October 1847 the Swan at Swanbourne was conveyed to Catherine Lucas (Joseph II's daughter), Joseph Lucas and Edward Munday Lucas. In 1851 the census includes:

  • Joseph III aged 66 a brewer
  • EM Major aged 22 a clerk
  • Wm Gurney 50 foreman in brewery
  • Moses Lovett brewer aged 61 born Amersham

They were trading in 1854 as Lucas & Lovett brewers and maltsters. In that year Moses Lovett was described as a brewer of Aylesbury. The latter's home was in Walton and the Aylesbury poll books include him as a brewer 1847/52. Joseph Lucas was also farming locally, as was Edward Mundy Lucas.

On 3rd July 1855 George Thomas Major's previous marriage settlement included a reversionary interest in a sum of ?1000 to J Lucas and M Lovett. Joseph III died on 19th September 1859 and on 25th October 1860 the Star Heath & Reach went from Joseph Lucas deceased to EMM Lucas. As a result of inheritance from Joseph, his nephew EM Major, added Lucas as his surname. The following year he married his cousin Mary, presumably the daughter of Moses and Mary Lovett.

On 16th April 1862 in a mention of Joseph Lucas's will the trustees are EMM Lucas and Edmund Bennett re the Six Bells at Wing. EMM Lucas was listed as a brewer that year.

In 1863 Lucas & Lovett were brewers and maltsters. Then for 1864/69 EMM Lucas, Lovett having died on 2nd February 1868, although in 1871 an M Lovett was still listed. On 31st March 1869 Joseph II's daughter Catherine died and in her will the Harrow at Bishopstone went to EMM Lucas. Around this time William Kempton Gurney, on the death of his father, became the general manager.

In 1875 EMM Lucas was to retire and the brewery was to be auctioned and the following year he was only a farmer and landowner. In September 1875 the BJ stated that Parrots had bought Lucas's, brewing at Aylesbury for 3 or 4 generations. However, Lucas then sold the brewery site to William Kempton Gurney. One book suggests that Gurney bought the estate of 43 pubs and 3 beerhouses. However, on 22 June 1876 Mr Gurney was selling the Rowsham Brewery with 53 barrel copper and 25 quarter mash tun. This together with the loss of the tied estate suggests that brewing was much scaled down and aimed at the private trade. This would fit with a local pub guide which described Gurneys as estate brewers.

In 1877 William Kempton Gurney was listed as a brewer and maltster. Lucas was then a farmer and landowner living at Mercer House. In 1881 WK Gurney was a brewer and maltster, employing 4 men and living in Aylesbury Road, Wingrave. WK Gurney ran the business to 1898. On his death his son took over and in 1899 it was listed as Thomas & Miss Kate Gurney, to 1907. In 1910 it was shown as Gurney & Co, although the following year it reverted to Thomas Gurney.

In 1929 Benskins Ltd were involved with a Mr Gurney regarding a contract for water supply to the Red Lion at Rowsham, which they later owned.

In 1935 Thomas Gurney was listed then John W Gurney, until brewing ceased in 1939. The building which was converted to a house around 1971 remains on the corner of Brewhouse Lane and the main road.

Despite his retirement to Willesden, this does not seem to have ended the Lucas family involvement in brewing, since in 1892 Edward Major-Lucas together with his brothers John and Joseph were the owners of a brewery in Northampton. These are thought to be the sons of EMM Lucas, who died in 1899, the year the Northampton brewery was sold. However, the Lucas family also retained some pub ownership in Bucks, since on 3rd November 1900 when the Rose & Crown at Aston Clinton was transferred to ABC, the parties involved were Joseph Montagu and Edward George Major Lucas.

An assortment of views of the brewery