Brewing In The Buzzard

The original Leighton Buzzard Brewery was situated on the north side of the High Street, next to the current Oxfam shop on the site of the walk up to towards Waitrose.  A picture of the old brewery buildings can be seen here taken from close to the High Street.

old-leighton-buzzard-brewery

The first to brew at this site (when it was probably known as the St George & Dragon Brewery after the pub on the High Street, later demolished, behind which the brewery was located) was a William Bennett.  Bennett brewed there from 1807 – 1828.  Samuel Reeve took over from Bennett and brewed there until his death in 1844.  Until now the owners of the site were the Burr family from Luton with the brewers leasing the site from them.  Shortly before Samuel Reeves death however the brewery was sold by the Burr’s to Samuel Reeve and his son Charles who continued brewing after his father’s death.  Within a year Charles Reeve had sold the freehold of the brewery to Joseph Proctor but continued to brew at the site until 6 September 1851 when he gave up the lease.  The lease was taken up by William Fossey Pettit who was married to a Proctor.  Charles Reeve continued to work at the brewery as foreman and brewer.

By October 1864, Pettit’s ill health led to him vacating the brewery and the lease being taken on for a of 21 year term by Edward Terry of Aylesbury, at a rent of £460 per annum.  According to records however Pettit was still listed as a brewer in 1864 so despite ill health he may have stayed on, perhaps in a temporary capacity.  By 1881 Pettit was listed as a ‘retired brewer’ living in Hockliffe Road.  By 1869 the brewery was trading as Terry & Son’s of Leighton Buzzard and Aylesbury.

The Ashdown Brothers (Richard Gibson and Levi) took over the operation of the brewery in 1871, and leased in from Joseph Proctor (presumed son of Joseph).  By 1876 they has a tied estate consisting of the following:

The Bell: Apsley Guise George & Dragon: Leighton Buzzard
Dukes Head: Heath & Reach The Peacock: Leighton Buzzard
Chequers: Houghton Regis The Roebuck: Leighton Buzzard
Red Cow: Postsgrove The Sun: Leighton Buzzard
George & Dragon: Standbridge Traveller’s Rest: Leighton Buzzard
The Cross Keys: Leighton Buzzard

All except the Chequers in Houghton Regis were leased.  By 1882 the Hare and Hounds in Ledburn, Bull, Stewkley; the Plough, Wavendon; and The Buckingham Arms, Linslade were under their control.

In 1881 the brewery was employing 6 men and a trade catalogue describes the firm as “pale, strong and bitter ales, stout and porter brewers and maltsters”.  Levi died in 1895 and within two years Richard Levi sold the brewery to the Kingsbury St Albans Brewery for £16,500.  This means that at some point the Ashdown brothers has obviously acquired the freehold from the Proctor family. The following year in 1898 the brewery was acquired by the former large Watford Brewer Benskins with 12 pubs.

The front of the brewery during the later Victorian era can just be made out in the picture here. The small black wooden building on the left with the motor car in front and next to the white awning where Oxfam is now.

leighton-buzzard-high-street

Richard Ashdown died on 15 April 1912 aged 63.  In that year, F. Warren, miller and corn merchant was occupying part of the former brewery site.  Part of the brewery was demolished in July 1920, when Walter Pratt, agricultural engineer brought the brew house.

The Linslade Brewing Co. Ltd was registered May 1904 and took operated from Wing Road, Linslade in the premises below.

linslade-brewery

By 1907 the brewery was trading as George J monsoon and later as G.J. Monson & Co before ceasing to brew in 1909.  This short period of operation coincides with the boom years of the Linslade as a prosperous New Town popular with the London hunting fraternity.  It was probably the grooms of the rich who drank most of the Monson’s beer as they waited for the masters to come hunting with the Rothschilds at Wing and the weekends.

The premises were brought by Reverend Douglas of All Saints Church to extend the business of printing articles and pamphlets of a religious nature; it was known at the time as the Faith Press.  It is still a printing works today.

Photographs provide by the Leighton Buzzard & District Archaeology & History Society