2017 Brewing in Cookham

Cookham and its Brewing History: Talk by Keith Parry


Cookham and its Brewing HistoryAfter thirty years research experience in the agrochemical industry, Keith retired to develop his interest in history gaining a Diploma and then an M.Sc. in English Local History at Oxford University. His new research took him and his sell-out audience at Cookham Dean Cricket Club into the history of brewing in Cookham. Keith explained that, like in the rest of England, local small-scale production was the pattern up to about 1800. After this date, with the introduction of the steam engine, the saccharometer and thermometer, and later about 1880 with industrial refrigeration and the work of Pasteur, the brewing business had consolidated into a few nationally based companies by the mid 1900s.

The first mention of beer consumption in Cookham is the local Court record from 1470 to 1525. Locally appointed ale tasters brought retailers to court for selling sub quality beer, charging excessive prices, and for keeping an inn with no licence.

In 1573, three un-named inns are recorded for Cookham, one of which could be the Olde Bell (later the Bel and the Dragon) and another, possibly, the Kings Head (later the Kings Arms), both in the High Street. The latter’s publican, Martha Spott was charged several times for infractions of the law, but is also noted for minting her own monetary tokens.

Cookham’s first recorded brewer/maltster is Mr Gibbons (1674). His operations were based near the current Ferry Inn. Also by 1698, Mr Giles Ray (1698) had a brewhouse on the north side of School Lane. Robert, his son succeeded him followed by his son, Richard. Richard expanded the business developing new outlets and malthouse space. However, Richard found himself in debt and the business was sold in the 1770s to Abraham Darby and Zachery Allnutt, local men. It remained in the Darby family who extended the outlets to 22 pubs. In 1837/8, they sold out to Neville Reid and John Deacon, based in Windsor and London who had recently bought a much larger brewery in Windsor. The combined business was quickly reorganised, and the brewing site in Cookham turned over exclusively to malt production.

The site closed in 1906. In local documents from 1913-17, the site is recorded as having three ranges of malthouses. One malthouse was possibly present in 1840, one built between 1840-60, and another probably post 1885. Whilst significant parts of the three malthouses have been demolished, paintings by Stanley Spencer, local drawings and photographs of some of the buildings can be used to show where the malthouses were. Other parts of the brewery complex from 1837 can also be identified such as The Brewhouse and a dwelling house – The Maltings – now parts of the current residential site.

The evening was concluded with grateful thanks to Keith Parry for his forensic research and excellent delivery and a free pint of beer from our local, favourite, Rebellion brewery.