Woodhams & Co. Ltd

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Their TM as an adornment on the entrance to the North Foreland pub in Chatham
Woodhams Rochester barrel label zx.jpg
Courtesy Roy Denison
The main yard before conversion....
... and after the conversion to residential in 2018

Woodhams & Co. Ltd, Steam Brewery, Victoria Street, Rochester, Kent.

Founded 1750 by Henry Shepherd and known as the Troy Town Brewery. By 1870 Lewis Levy was trading from the brewery and by 1880 Woodhams & Co had taken it over.

Registered November 1895.

In 1918 it was acquired by Style & Winch Ltd. and was closed.

Some of the brewery buildings are still standing but the maltings do not seem to have survived.

Further information from Peter Moynihan The publicity material for the ‘Woodhams Brewery’ development in Rochester rightly makes much of the heritage of the site, standing as it does adjacent to Restoration House. However, the Woodhams family were only involved for some forty five years of the 170 (at least) year history of brewing on the site.

The brewery in Troy Town, Rochester, is believed to have been established by the middle of the eighteenth century, probably by Edward Harling; later occupiers of the site variously claimed 1745 or 1750. Edward’s son Thomas (born 1748) was listed as a Brewer by 1791 and was described as a “Brewer, of Saint Margaret next Rochester” when he died in 1828. In the following year Henry Shepherd was listed at Harling’s Walk, Troy Town; you may think that Shepherd is a familiar name in Kentish brewing history, and you would be correct. Henry was that self-same brewer from Faversham and his logic for the move probably had two motives. Firstly, ale and beer was exported from Faversham by sea and Shepherd no doubt had a trade in the Medway Towns via the Thames barge traffic, it would probably make economic sense to brew locally. Secondly Henry’s sons were approaching adulthood (Henry jnr was 16 in 1829) and their brewing education would be enhanced by running a branch brewery.

The Bottling Stores

It is difficult for us today to picture a 16 year old lad running a brewery, no doubt there was a manager until Henry jnr’s coming of age. By 1851 Henry snr had retired and Henry jnr had taken over the reins at Faversham leaving the Troy Town Brewery to be run by his younger brother Tomlyn Shepherd (born 1823). It was Tomlyn who, in 1860, built the brewhouse that has recently been converted to residential use. He proudly announced in May of the same year that he had “converted his old-established plant into a STEAM BREWERY, with other modern improvements, at a very large outlay of capital” and was now able to “supply his friends and the public with PALE and BITTER ALES, of superior quality, at any season of the year”.

Sometime between 1871 and 1874 the concern became Lewis Levy & Co. and although I have been unable to positively identify the other partners in this Company I found Levy listed in 1871 as a “Town Councillor & Brewer” (He was actually a Lawyer). Tomlyn Shepherd was still listed as a Brewer in 1881 and in the same year William Woodhams jnr was a 22 year old “Assistant Brewer”. The Woodhams family were Farmers and Corn Merchants and William snr had also been an Alderman of the City of Rochester.

A Directory of 1882 lists Woodhams & Co. for the first time and in 1899 is was registered as a Limited Company. William jnr’s older brother Spencer Woodhams was the Principal, William was the Brewer and the other Directors were Lewis Levy and Wilfred R Rhodes. In 1906 the firm took over the Frindsbury Brewery and its proprietor, Henry Ludwell Dampier, became a Director for a short while before the concern was acquired by Style & Winch in 1918. We now know, of course, that brewing ceased at this time but that the premises continued in use for many years as a bottling depot, known as the ‘Anchor Vaults’; subsequently it was a Cash & Carry Warehouse and then stood empty until the recent conversion.

Images of the brewery

Entry in the Trade Mark Registry

Registration No  : 282,034

Description  : Label design
Date of Application  : 12/04/1906

Used Prior to 1870?  : 5