Ridley & Sons Ltd

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The brewery in 1973. Courtesy Roy Denison
The brewery in 1973. Courtesy Roy Denison

T D Ridley & Sons Ltd, Hartford End, Essex.

Founded in 1842. Registered in 1906.

Acquired by Greene King & Sons Ltd in 2006 with 73 houses and the site sold for redevelopment.

From ESSEX BREWERS - The Malting and Hop Industries of the County by Ian P Peaty 1992 now out of print ISBN 978 1 873966 02 4

This delightful tower brewery was built in 1842 by Thomas Dixon Ridley, beside the small River Chelmer, just downstream from the much older timber mill used in the family flour milling and malting business.

In 1845 Thomas D.Ridley was in residence at Paslow Hall, High Ongar. Two pairs of semi-detached brewery houses to the rear yard were built for workers prior to 1897, two larger detached houses built in 1901, "Hillside" now in the occupation of Billy Matheron Chief Engineer, and "Sandhills", occupied by the Head Brewer, George M.Roe. Other brewery cottages at the front were demolished in the 1980's to make way for the new office block which will be occupied in the autumn of 1990. The main brewhouse building has a key-stone over the single large round headed window with "T D R" 1843, later additions were the cold rooms built in 1938 by Millbanks, with the existing tower block built in the 1920's. The main storage warehouse was built in 1974.

Internally there remain several timber staircases leading to the famous "Chippendale Room", this is in fact refers to the fermenting room, which has 12 vessels, average capacity of sixty barrels, the largest holding seventy-five and the smallest, used only for brewing barley wine holds fifteen barrels. The oldest has a brass name plate with the name of Shutters, Chippindales and Colyers Ltd., Vat and Back makers of Stratford (note the miss spelling of Chippendale). These have all since been copper lined. The cast iron hop back of later date was built in Chelmsford by Coleman and Morton and has a movable partiton to separate the hops. A Briggs of Burton pastureriser was installed in 1970 after the Worssam filler fitted in the early 1960's. In 1985 a Steinle bottling machine was installed, this produces 850 dozen 1/2 pints per hour. Production levels at present are 400 barrels per week, split evenly between draught and bottled. Contract bottling is also carried out. Chiefly Goldings and Fuggles hops, with some high aroma Styrian from Yugoslavia are used, with malt from Hugh Bairds of Witham Essex, and Munton and Fison of Stowmarket, Suffolk.

The liquor is obtained from six wells, dotted around the brewery, four of which were sunk in 1938/9 also mains water supply from Dunmow Rural District Council. The two oil-fired boilers were installed in April 1970, replacing the previous coal-fired Lancashire boilers which were installed when the rebuilt tower block was constructed in the 1920's. In 1900 the two separate concerns of brewing and malting were brought together as one business under the Chairmanship of Charles Ernest Ridley, who formed a Limited Company. At this time the company had 47 public houses which has grown to sixty-five in the 1990's. The business is still family owned, with Mr Henry Maitland Ridley as Chairman and his son, Mr Nicholas Ridley, Managing Director. During the mid-1980's a new racking plant for keg beers, firstly "Old Bob", premium bitter, followed by a lower gravity Rustic Bitter was installed. "Old Bob" is made with Fuggle hops and is named after Charles Ernest Ridley - it is a delightful strong pale ale.

In 1987, new bottle labels depicting either the brewery or the Essex County Coat of Arms, with coloured foil neck labels were introduced to meet the demand from the free-trade. The Ridley family can trace their ancestry back some one hundred years before William the Conqueror arrived in this country in 1066. Mid-way in this long family line was Bishop Ridley who was martyred at Oxford in 1555, and his portrait is depicted on another of the company's bottle beers, Bishop's Ale. The premium draught beer is I.P.A. Bitter, a well hopped beer which received a Certificate of Best Bitter in its class at the first National Beer Exhibition held by CAMRA in 1978 at Alexandra Palace, London. During October 1990, the company moved all office staff from Chelmsford into purpose built offices alongside the old brew house, and in February, 1991, a new Chadburn cask washing line was installed. It is believed that one of the counties oldest public houses, The Green Man at Howe Street, built in the 14th Century, is a Ridley house. T.D. Ridley and Sons Ltd., are the sole surviving old established brewer left in the County of Esssex, keeping alive a fine tradition.

In 1980, the ICC Business Ratio's Report indicated that T. D. Ridley and Sons was one of the most profitable companies.

The only brewery acquisition made by Ridley's was the Hatfield Peverel Brewery of Charles Brown & Sons Ltd, which was purchased at auction on 19th April, 1918.

A set of postcards issued by the company:

Various images of the brewery

The brewery in the late 1980s:

The brewery in 2005:

The brewery in 2007 (photos from "Watneys Red Barrel":

Labels, etc: