The Clutterbuck Story

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THOMAS CLUTTERBUCK'S STANMORE BREWERY by David Dines

The Clutterbuck name is listed as early as 1591 when a Clutterboke of Kings Langley was mentioned in Berry's Genealogy of Hertfordshire. They probably arrived as weavers from Flanders in the Middle Ages as Flemish weavers were encouraged to come to this country to help develop the woollen trade. Flemish immigrant refugees in 1524 included hop growers and brewers who used hops to flavour their "bierre".

To this day there are still families in the Netherlands named Cloterboke. It has also been noted that branches of the family became successful in the cloth trade in the 16th and 17th Centuries.

Since those early days the family has been influential in Stanmore and South West Hertfordshire. The family was roughly split into those either farming or brewing. Various family members farmed large tracts of Bushey. Thomas Rupert Clutterbuck, the last member of the family to run the brewery, had a son Jeremy, who was farming three hundred acres in nearby Sarratt up to 1970. Jeremy himself only sadly passed away a few years ago. One family member in attendance at his memorial service who still has a strong brewing connection was Jasper Clutterbuck, who is at present the Managing Director of Morlands of Abingdon. It was also the Clutterbucks who in 1837 gave the land on which St Peters Church, Bushey Heath, was built. The ecclesiastical side of the family again showed itself as another branch of the family yielded two vicars of Watford.

In part of an anonymous quote included in From The Wheatsheaf To The Windmill, the story of Bushey and Oxhey pubs, it says that.. "Our beer is chiefly supplied from the neighbouring town of Watford, there are three or four brewers established there, ... there are also one or two at a town five miles distant, and one in the adjoining parish on the London side (Clutterbucks). The brewers all live in good style; they keep carriages and hunters, they fare sumptuously every day, and leave large fortunes to their children. Our parish are their principal customers. The publicans who drink the beer soon die, and wise people are supplied from London". At the time this was written Clutterbucks was actually supplying more than half of Bushey's inns and beerhouses. This story is a bit unfair on Clutterbucks along with their neighbouring Watford and Rickmansworth brewers, as they produced beers equal to if not surpassing those of their London competitors.

Clutterbucks brewery itself was operating by 1763 and was founded by Thomas Clutterbuck and sited at the top of Stanmore Hill opposite the Common and its ponds. Stanmore Hill then was on the important route out of London to Kings Langley and beyond. The brewery must have been a prominent local landmark with its attractive clock-tower and cupola, especially with its hilltop location in what was still a very rural area. The bell housed in the cupola is dated 1726. The Rookery, the house alongside the brewery site was one of the houses where the Clutterbucks lived, the last being the mother of Thomas Rupert. The ponds provided the original source of water for the brewery. The nearest pond, or more properly reservoir, is still in fact referred to as "brewers pond" by some locals. Supplies of hops were also of local origin as they came from the nearby Warren House Estate. It appears the Clutterbucks even had their own maltings in Watford.

When Thomas died in 1792 his sons carried on the family involvement with the business. The Clutterbucks started buying inns and beerhouses in the early 19th Century as they, along with other brewers, quickly realised that they could ensure sales if they owned their own outlets and the practice of the tied house dates from this time.

Further into the 19th Century the brewery thrived with it continuing to enlarge its tied estate. In Stanmore alone the list of Clutterbucks houses ran to eight. There were three on the Common, The May Tree, Royal Oak and Vine. The workers must have been a thirsty bunch, but still surprising for such a small area. The Vine which still functions to this day, was nearest the brewery and was presumably referred to as the brewery tap. Clutterbucks in common with other brewers of the period provided workers with tied cottages, these were sited over the road opposite the brewery and next to the stables and with the field known as The Grove to the rear. The cottages had a Clutterbucks advertisement painted upon them which survived until the 1960s.

The 1851 Census lists James Wilshier as head brewer living unsurprisingly in the head brewer's house with his wife Emma, and a cook and servant. The brewery at this time was again controlled by a Thomas who was born in 1808. The Census also states that the brewery had a workforce of thirty. It was during this period that a well was sunk. This was of course done to improve the quality and consistency of the liquor. The work was undertaken by George Tidcombe the founder of what later became Watford Engineering Works. Leslie N Burt stated at an address given in 1946 that. "One of the most notable jobs carried out was a deep well pumping plant at Clutterbucks Brewery at Stanmore where the pumps are 350 feet from the surface and were driven through gearing by an inverted table engine worked at 40lb psi of steam pressure. The pumps were driven by eccentrics possibly because the forging of a crank of the size necessary was beyond the scope of Tidcombe's works. When at a depth of 400 feet water was struck it was decided to drive several headers horizontally and when one of these was partially completed water broke in suddenly with the result that tools and tackle had to be abandoned and are there to this day".

By 1900 Clutterbucks had grown to control one of the largest local estates stretching from Middlesex to Hertfordshire.

Outposts were as far away as Bricket Wood, Hemel Hempstead and Lilley in Herts, and to Norwood Green in Middlesex to the south. Getting out to some of these houses must have been quite some journey for the horse drawn drays. Of the other local brewers only Watford's Benskins and Sedgwicks had more public houses. Also of note, it seems likely that at various times the brewery kept a captive fox on the site as a mascot. The brewery also had a tug of war team which took part in competitions at fetes in the surrounding towns and villages.

An interesting description of the dray traffic is provided in an article by Mr E J Leversuch entitled: Stanmore.. A Little Place But Our Own, printed in the Harrow Observer. It says.."but by now the drays were leaving the brewery and for the next hour these would be descending the hill at intervals, each drawn by two, three or four shire horses, while behind each dray trundled a trolley carrying two or three additional casks.

"Slung under the dray was the drivers beer contained in a wooden bucket of peculiar shape, as if a small cask had been cut in half at its greatest girth and a bottom fitted in where it had been cut: a metal hoop handle was fixed to the smaller end which was provided with a bung and spigot to enable it to be filled and emptied."

Thomas Meadows Clutterbuck was the last to oversee the brewery itself from 1898 to 1916. He had though been involved in the running of the business before this date. Up to 1916 contemporary photographs show Clutterbucks houses stocking draught and bottled beers from Bass, Ratcliff and Gretton of Burton on Trent alongside their own draught ales. Clutterbucks never produced bottled beers. In 1916 Thomas ceased brewing and he began supplying his pubs solely with Bass beers. I cannot say why this decision was taken though I have a note which refers to the "old fashioned brewery". The brewery was not unlike many others of the period with open fermenters and coolers, requiring a large investment to update it. The beers may have been inconsistent and subject to wild yeast infection, with the locals preferring the Bass ales. The brewery then became a depot and bottle store. When old Thomas died in 1919, Captain Thomas Rupert Clutterbuck took over the running of the business. The brewery remained independent only until 1923 when Thomas sold out to the Cannon Brewery of Clerkenwell, at which time Clutterbucks had an estate of eighty three public houses.

The brewery buildings themselves remained largely untouched after this sad demise. H Patterson and Co, a firm of garden and sports ground equipment suppliers and manufacturers took over the site in 1926 and remained there until the mid 1980s. After this, when they left for larger premises, the ownership of the 1.4 acre site passed to Charles Church the developers. The old brewery was then turned into a luxury development of 24 apartments grouped around a landscaped courtyard with security gates controlled by a resident manager. Only the clock tower, coach house and head brewers house, which are listed, remain. The remnants of the old brewery itself were flattened with some of its old timbers being used in the reconstruction of an 18th Century granary at the Harrow Museum and Heritage Centre at Headstone Manor.

Author's Note

With special thanks to Roy Abbott (Stanmore and Harrow Historical Society), Bushey Museum Trust (T R Groves, E G Longman and B N D Wood), Mrs Ebsworth, Harrow Observer, Harrow Public Libraries, Mrs Hazell and Mrs Watson.

Reference From The Wheatsheaf To The Windmill The Story of Bushey and Oxhey Pubs. T R Groves, E G Longman and B N D Wood