The Cotswold Brewery

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Within several hundred metres of the fine malthouses of the old Cirencester Brewery Company in Cricklade Street, Cirencester, stands an odd collection of buildings at the cross-roads at Lewis Lane. These are clearly industrial buildings that have seen better days and are now in use by Henry Cole, corn millers and animal feedstuffs merchants. On closer examination of the elevations facing onto the Watermoor Road, it is apparent that parts of the building are of considerable age, being constructed of the local limestone.

On the 19/20th of Sept, 1819, a lease and release was granted by John Evans, Maltster, to Francis Evans for £1,800 for "Stables, Malthouse and other buildings and Brewhouse in the occupation of Ludlow, widow and Hawkins as tenants". The description of the property continues "Malthouse, Butchers Shop, Coal House and Stables for 4 horses: North to South 21 feet a depth East to West 37 feet, to the North is Lewis Lane and part of the South by the Stables and a part of messuage and other part on the South by the Warehouse of Mr W P Budd, and East by Cottages" (William Packer Budd was a Common Carrier of Cirencester).

An auction was held at the Ramm Inn, Cirencester, on 16th May, 1820, when W P Budd acquired about a quarter acre of the site for £205. The same W P Budd sold the above described freehold site to Edward Bowly on 22/23 April, 1824. Edward Bowly was described as a Gentleman of Siddington. A lease of the same date to John Evans, Maltster in occupation, "with stables, malthouse and other buildings, gardens, orchard, courts, yard & backsides and also all those two cottages or tenements facing the Turnpike Road to Cricklade and lately formed out of the Brewhouse or other outhouses belonging to the said messuage with the yards thereto belonging and now in the occupation of Ludlow, widow and Hawkins and tenants thereof to the said John Evans".

William Crotch Bowly, who was brother of Edward Bowly and David Bowly, a Mealman of Cirencester paid £1,260 to W P Budd, Stage Waggon Proprietor on 7th April, 1826, for the above described property which also included a Granary. Eight months later an Article of Agreement was made between W C Bowly and Edward Bowly, Maltster and Brewer of Cirencester, for £740 for the premises of an area of 40ft by 57ft. A further Indenture between the two brothers was made on 14th March, 1832, when Edward Bowly was now described as "Common Brewer", and the premises as "extensive building used as a Brewery together with the Brewhouse, Cellars, sheds and Counting House thereto".

The developing business necessitated Edward Bowly taking a partner, Robert Perrin, a Common Brewer, and Henry and John Wilkins, Wool Merchants, who took out a mortgage of £1,000 with The County of Gloucester Bank to enlarge the brewery, on 6th February 1840. On the same date £2,000 was paid by the two Wilkins to the partners Bowly & Perrin; Robert Perrin paying £1,000 to the senior partner. The description of the brewery was:- "A horse wheel, a three barrel Pump-Underback-Mash tun-Mashing Machine-Maltmill or Crusher and Hopper with screens etc; annexed-Four Coolers-A Copper to hold twenty-seven Barrels and a half with dome pan and cock-A Cast Iron Liquor Back to hold about 67 Barrels with two cocks-Hopback-Refrigerator-Pipes etc;-In the Tun Room eight Fermenting Squares with Taps, Pipes etc; complete-Two sets of Pontos with Settling Back-Feed Back- Underback-Copper Pump, taps etc;".

In January of 1845 part of the buildings were demolished and the erection of new buildings took place to enlarge the brewery. A transfer of the mortgage upon The Cotswold Brewery in August 1869 into two Life Policies of Assurance was made by way of additional security of a freehold property at Hampstead Norreys, Berkshire, for securing the balance of the account of Edward Bowly with the Banking Company for £6,000. In these documents the brewery description had deleted the horse wheel and there was now a Steam Engine and a further two Fermenting Squares had been added.

W P Budd died on 13th January 1873 still owing £1,000 and his widow Ann had contracted to sell to Edward Bowly for £1,900 by June of that year. In October 1874 a mortgage was taken out for the Salutation Inn, Cricklade Street, Cirencester, then known as The Fox. A reconveyance on 16th March 1882 of The Cotswold Brewery from Mr & Mrs Whalley to Edward Bowly was made.

Edward Bowly died on 19th March 1882, and so a conveyance of the Cotswold Brewery was made to Frederick Cripps, of Ampney Park (and owner of the nearby Cirencester Brewery) for £17,290, by the Executors & Devisees in trust under Edward Bowly's Will, the Reverend Samuel Slocock, of Kelvedon Hatch, Essex, his son-in-law, and Henry Zachary, a wine merchant of Cirencester.

In this sale of the brewery was also included the following public houses:-

  • Fox Inn, Cirencester Locomotive Inn, Swindon
  • Queen's Head, Cirencester
  • Rising Sun, Swindon
  • Greyhound, Siddington Golden Lion, Swindon (Adjoining canal)
  • Prince Albert, Gloucester
  • Queen's Head, Chalford Swan, Cheltenham (formerly Butterman's Arms)
  • Cross Keys, Highworth
  • Cotswold Arms, Burford
  • Cotswold Arms, Langford, Berks
  • British Lion, Park End, Westdean
  • New Inn, Cricklade
  • Keepers Arms, Quenington
  • The Trout, Lechlade, was sold prior to the above properties

It is most likely that the brewery ceased production at this time as the purchase of the public houses would have been the primary reason why Cripps purchased the concern to add to his own Cirencester Brewery estate. According to an article that appeared in "Milling", on 11th June, 1921, "an old disused brewery premises in Cirencester was purchased from Cripps & Co, by James Snowsell". The conveyance documents are dated 25th June 1886.

Mr James Snowsell was miller at the Ampney Mill, Ampney Crucis, some three miles East of Cirencester, situated on the Ampney Brook which rises in Ampney Park (the old estate of the Cripp's family) and flows into the upper reaches of the River Thames. This milling business had been founded in 1883 and with its increasing trade the vacant brewery premises near the town centre was a logical progression. In March 1896, James Snowsell wrote to his solicitor concerning details of a partnership with Mr Henry Cole, his letterhead reading "Cotswold Association, Steam Flour Mills" . A new company was formed with the name of Henry Cole & Co Ltd; with effect from 2nd December, 1895, and continues to trade to this day. The Ampney Mill and its adjacent cottages are still intact, as is the adjacent listed house to the old brewery, once occupied by Mr Snowsell. Beside this house is a row of terraced houses once occupied by brewery workers and a further terrace of Almshouses built in the 1920s named after Bowly. In front of these houses is a large water hand pump erected by Bowly in the late 1890s.

Cellars built of stone under the old brewery show the skill with which this old building had been constructed, with its dressed stone arches and piers and vaulted roof. A four foot diameter well with the water level some twelve feet below ground level is witness to the liberal supply that was available, this is also evidenced by the close proximity of the Town's water supply company premises onto Lewis Lane. Above a sealed-up carriageway arch are inscribed the words "Cotswold Association".

Author's Note TI would like to acknowledge the assistance given by the staff of Henry Cole & Co Ltd; and the permission given by Mr Taylor, Managing Director, to peruse the company documents and to inspect the premises.