Playne & Sons

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The brewery in 1993

George Playne & Sons, Forwood Brewery, Minchinhampton, Gloucestershire.

A George Playne is recorded at the Wotton Brewery in 1830.

Acquired by the Stroud Brewery Co. Ltd. 1897 with 30 tied houses.

Most of the buildings are intact.


Ian P Peaty writes:-

George Playne was born in 1779 and had two elder brothers, William and Peter, both of whom became important local woollen mill owners. William also owned a malthouse near his mill at Longfords in the valley bottom some quarter of a mile away from the brewery which George Playne founded. George built the large stone house "Springfield" across the road from the brewery, in 1809. This is a likely date for the founding of the brewery.

The Playne family were an important family in the district in the 19th Century and may well go back as landowners much further. In 1830 a survey was made of the small hill top town of Minchinhampton for the Poor Rate assessment. The Brewery House was rated at a value of £3. As well as the house there was a bakehouse, brewery and stables, covering in all over an acre of land, and valued at a further £6. This being one of the highest assessments made. At this same date George Playne owned the Maidenhead Inn, Market Place, the Crown Inn also in the Market Place, and the Greyhound Inn, West End, all in Minchinhampton. By the 1890s the company owned or leased 27 public houses, many in the town but some as far as Wotton under Edge and Bisley.

George Playne died in 1847 and evidently handed the business onto his sons. It was the founders' grandson, Edward, who sold the firm to the Stroud Brewery Co. Ltd in 1897, of which he later became managing director.

About a year after the sale to the Stroud Brewery Co. Ltd, the entire large complex was put up for auction and the several malthouses and a large part of the brewhouse were demolished, the excellent stone being reused for building several private houses in the locality around the turn of the century.

The site of the brewery was well located close by one of the many springs which issue from the outcrop of Fuller's Earth below the Great Oolite. This gave an abundant supply of water. Several hundred yards downhill from the entrance to the brewery house, was the Brewery Tap. Formerly called the King's Head, this is still extant. It no longer trades as a pub, being in a rather remote part of the hamlet of Forwood. Today the rather grand Cotswold stone house, fronted by a large lawn, gazes over the wooded valley below with Longford Mill's stone chimney stack just visible. The old coach house and adjacent cart shed, all built of local stone, are in use as residential property.

Part of the brewery remains, backing onto the road which also serves Springfield House. It still retains the old wine cellars complete with enamel bin numbers. The sale document of 1898 mentioned that the buildings were all substantially built with 2 feet thick stone walls and fronted onto the two roads. No details were given of the capacity of either the brewing plant nor of the malthouses, only the overall sizes of the buildings. This therefore suggests that it was not intended that either of these two occupations continue. Included in the sale in January 1897 were 27 freehold and 3 leasehold houses. The goodwill of £30,000 was extinguished in 1907, the sum being transferred from the Reserve fund of the Stroud Brewery Co. Ltd. The King's Head public house was "modernised" in 1970 but was closed by Whitbread & Co. Ltd some years later. Whitbreads having acquired the Stroud Brewery Co which merged with the Cheltenham & Hereford Breweries Ltd in 1958 to form West Country Breweries Ltd.

Whilst initially trying to locate the Forwood Brewery, I found an old property in the town centre, adjacent to the magnificent Post Office called "The Old Brewery". On enquiring of a local shopkeeper, I was fortunate in also locating one of the members of the Local History Group, who informed me that the property was never a brewery but had been a small malthouse! I am therefore indebted to Mrs Diana Wall and also to Mr Nick Hurst, who furnished me with the sale catalogue details and copies of the O.S. Map of 1884. Despite considerable research into local photographic collections to date not one has been found of the brewery and its several malthouses.


An assortment of images of the brewery