Westlake's Brewery Ltd

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Messrs. Westlake, Ltd., New Brewery, Cwm-avon, Monmouth (Gwent). Brewers’ Journal 15th June 1900
The Cwmavon site
The Cwmavon site

Westlake's Brewery Ltd, Cambrian Brewery, 2 James Street, Blaenavon, Gwent.

Registered in 1889 to acquire business of Charles Francis Westlake. Moved to Cwmavon in 1900.

Westlake's Brewery Ltd, Cambrian Brewery, 2 James Street, Cwmavon, Gwent.

Founded at Blaenavon in 1884 when Charles Francis Westlake acquired the Cambrian Brewery.

Registered 1889. New brewery built at Cwmavon 1900 with a better water supply.

Ceased brewing 1928 and the public houses absorbed by the Abersychan Brewery to form the Reform Brewery Co 1933.

Buildings still standing.

Nick Redman, Whitbread's Company Archivist, writes:-

Like nearly all the small towns of South Wales and Monmouthshire where there was a large workforce of men engaged in heavy industry, Blaenavon had many pubs and its own breweries to supply them.

Back in 1871 the town's needs were met by Caleb Edmonds' Ivor Castle Steam Brewery, and John Griffith Williams' Cambrian Brewery. Williams was also a linen and woollen draper and proprietor of the Market Place and the Town Hall.

In the 1880s a new name appears on the scene - Charles Francis Westlake. Westlake, owner of the Lion Inn in Lion Street in 1884, purchased Williams' Cambrian Brewery in 1885. This stood in James Street behind the Castle Inn. The Ivor Castle Steam Brewery, then owned by William Burgoyne, seems to have stopped trading earlier, certainly by 1884, leaving Westlake as Blaenavon's only brewer.

On 30 September 1889 a limited company, Westlake's Brewery Ltd, was formed to acquire the business of C.F.Westlake for £35,000.

By 1900 Westlake had made enough money to build a large house, Coed Avon, on the outskirts of the town. The Blaenavon Valuation Lists for 1907 record 18 Westlake pubs in Blaenavon and Cwmavon. A few years earlier old Westlake's son, Charles William Westlake, succeeded him as managing director. One problem facing Westlake was ensuring a consistent supply of suitable water at the Blaenavon brewery. Local shortages in the summer forced him to brew his beer in Bristol. Eventually in order to overcome the difficulties caused by the irregular water supply at Blaenavon the Directors erected a new brewery at Cwmavon.

The precise date of this is uncertain. The 1902 Poor Rate and General District Book for Blaenavon lists for Cwmavon "Westlake & Co's Brewery Springs and Brewery House" with at Blaenavon The Brewery Tap at 2 James Street, offices at 2A James Street and warehouses.

However, a booklet on the history of Andrew Buchan's Breweries Ltd, published in 1939, says " 'Westlake's Spring' was discovered near Blaenavon and a modern Brewery built there in 1904." The new brewery was certainly in operation by 1907 when the Blaenavon Valuation Lists for that year show Westlake's Brewery at Beili Du, Cwmavon.

The Brewery Tap in Blaenavon continued trading as the Brewery Vaults, by 1924 known as the Old Brewery Vaults. Part of the Blaenavon premises was used as a wine store, occupied by James Bevan, first listed in 1906 as a wine and spirit merchant at The Old Brewery.

The business seems to have prospered and won several prizes in beer competitions between 1905 and 19l0. Confusingly the medals up to 1909 describe the winner as Westlake's Brewery Ltd, Blaenavon; only thereafter as of Cwmavon. The assets of the old-established Castle Brewery in Pontypool, including 9 pubs, were taken over in 1911, although it was 1915 before they were formally acquired.

However, as depression hit South Wales after the First World War the brewery began to suffer. Dividends which had varied from 12% in 1890-92 to 3% in 1906 ceased altogether in 1926. C.W.Westlake had retired, and by 1923 George Anstee was Managing Director. He was succeeded in 1926 by Edward Thomas. Other directors at this time were Col.Philip Pennymore and A.C Fowler.

Around 1930 the Cwmavon brewery stopped brewing. Beer was brought in from Hereford for distribution to the houses. Soon after there was a merger with Daniel Seys Davies' Reform Brewery, established in 1832, in Foundry Road Abersychan. Its range of draught beers included 4d XXB Pale Ale, 6d XXX Amber Ale and 8d lPA; while in bottle, apart from Guinness, Worthington and Bass, were IPA and Imperial Stout in half pints, Dinner Ale and Imperial stout in pints and Dinner Ale, Luncheon Stout and Oatmeal Stout in flagons. In July 1933 Westlake's Brewery Ltd was registered as the Reform Brewery Co.Ltd and in December 1935 all the Westlake freehold and leasehold public houses and properties were conveyed to the Reform Brewery Co.Ltd. The agreement shows that C.W.Westlake was then living in Johannesburg, South Africa.

The directors of the new business in 1936 were H.B.Mole, W.H.Bennett and Thomas Skurray.

So the Westlake name finally vanished, although in recent times the Railway Inn at Cwmavon was renamed Westlake's Arms. There are no immediately obvious signs of the brewery in Blaenavon. Coed Avon still stands. The Cwmavon Brewery was purchased, around 1936, with the help of the Society of Friends, by the Subsistence Productions Society Ltd, an organisation formed to help the unemployed in the district. Today the substantial building still survives, now occupied by Extrusion & Moulding Components (EMC) Ltd.

On 2 January 1939 Andrew Buchan's Breweries Ltd of Rhymney took over the Reform Brewery Co.Ltd at Abersychan. Brewing ceased soon afterwards. In 1952 Buchan's repaired the Reform Brewery buildings and let them the following year to the British Legion as a club. This closed recently and at the time of writing the old brewery stands empty.

Blaenavon Valuation List 1907-1914 Westlake's Brewery Co properties listed in Blaenavon:-

  • Stables, shed & coach house, back of 22 Broad Street
  • Swan Inn, 47 Broad Street
  • White Lion Inn, 3,4 Broad Street
  • Waun Inn, 3/5 High Street
  • Rising Sun Inn, 73 King Street
  • Prince of Wales, 15 Princes Street
  • Rifleman's Arms Inn, 23 Rifle Street
  • Castle Hotel, 94 Broad Street
  • Star Inn, 25/26 Cross Street
  • Oxford Inn, 7 Cross Street
  • Westlake's Brewery, Beili Du, Cwmavon
  • Jolly Colliers Inn, 2 Duke Street
  • Cwmavon Forester's Arms Inn, 14 Hill Street
  • Royal Arms Inn, 81/82 Hill Street
  • Globe Inn, 95 Hill Street
  • Brewery Vaults, 2 James Street
  • Wine Stores, The Old Brewery, 2 James St Royal
  • Exchange Inn, 13 James Street
  • Warehouse, after 58 James Street
  • Old Oak Inn, out on Hanover Road
  • Britannia Inn, 10 Market Street
  • New King's Arms Inn, 9 William Street

Houses conveyed from Westlake's Brewery Ltd to The Reform Brewery Co Ltd. 30th December 1935

  • Collier's Friend Inn, Garndiffaith
  • Collier's Arms Inn, Abersychan
  • Noah's Ark, Pontypool **
  • Snatchwood Inn, Abersychan
  • New King's Arms, Blaenavon,
  • Rising Sun Inn, Blaenavon
  • Royal Oak Inn, Pontypool
  • Mason's Arms, Pontnewynydd
  • Lamb's Inn, Pwlldu
  • Swan Inn, Nantyglo
  • White Hart Inn, Blaenavon
  • Rising Sun Inn, Brynmawr
  • Waun Tavern, Blaenavon
  • Forester's Arms Inn, Blaenavon
  • Globe Inn, Blaenavon
  • Prince of Wales Inn, Blaenavon
  • Old Brewery Vaults, Blaenavon, (delicensed)
  • Bell Inn, Abersychan
  • Rifleman's Arms, Blaenavon
  • White Lion Inn, Victoria Village
  • Garndiffaith White Hart Hotel, Pontypool
  • Oxford Inn, Blaenavon
  • Royal Exchange Inn, Blaenavon
  • Swan Inn, Blaenavon White Lion Inn, Brynmawr
  • Butcher's Arms Inn, Garndiffaith **
  • Castle Inn and Brewery, Pontypool **
  • Collier's Arms Inn, Pontypool **
  • Full Moon Inn, Abersycllan (surrendered 19O5)
  • Lion Hotel, Brewery and Cottage, Abersychan
  • Old Star Inn, Trosnant (delicensed)
  • Old Bath Beerhouse, Pontypool
  • Fountain Inn, Pontypool
  • Red Lion Inn, Pontypool (delicensed)
  • Albion Inn, Pontypool
  • Unicorn Inn, Pontypool Bell Inn, Pontypool
  • Ivor Commercial Hotel & Restaurant
  • Castle Inn, Blaenavon Crown Inn, Wainfelin
  • Fireman's Arms, Nantyglo (previously Cheltenham Original Brewery)
  • King's Arms, Blaenavon Lamb Inn, Penyrheol
  • Market Tavern, Pontypool
  • Old Post Office Inn, Brynmawr
  • Railway Inn, Cwmavon
  • Rock and Fountain Inn, Blaenavon*
  • White Hart Hotel, Abersychan
  • United Friends Inn, Pontnewynydd
  • Brewery, White House, Woodlands & 4 cottages,
  • Cwmavon Plasycoed Inn, Cwmfrwdoer
  • Golden Boot Inn, Blaenavon
  • Railway Inn, Blaenavon Wellington Hotel, Nelson Star Inn, Blaenavon
  • Miner's Arms, Abersychan
  • Wheatsheaf Inn, Market Street, Pontypool
  • Viaduct Tavern, Crumlin

* Previously Arnold, Perrett, Sir James Agg-Gardner and Cheltenham Original Brewery

** Indicates was originally a property of the Castle Brewery, Pontypool