Nostalgia by Alison Bailey

I THOUGHT I would start the 2020 Amersham and Chesham Nostalgia pages with an article on the Amersham Brewery.

Whilst a number of you may be trying to keep to Dry January, and good luck to those of you who are, I thought I would remind you that both Amersham and Chesham were once important brewing towns with their own numerous brands of beer.

A deep well under the Chesham Brewery supplied the spring water which gave a distinctive taste to the Chesham Bitter whilst Amersham’s most popular beer was a stout, known as Weller’s Entire after the owners of the brewery, the Weller family.

Sadly, the Chesham Brewery buildings were demolished in the 1960s after the brewery’s closure in 1957 but Amersham’s brewery is still with us as Badminton Court on Church Street, just north of St Mary’s Church. Following its closure the buildings were sold to J M Long who opened a sports club with a badminton court and boxing gym, hence the current name.

The Amersham brewery closed in 1929, after Benskins of Watford bought it at auction for £360,000. As Benskins brewed their own beer, they were only interested in the 142 licensed premises included in the sale.

This was a bitter blow to Amersham as the brewery employed half the men in the town. The Wellers were considered good employers.

They organised regular company outings to the Crystal Palace, Earl’s Court, Windsor, Brighton, Eastbourne, Southampton, Southend and Margate.

When they built the new maltings, one-roomed cottages were also built inside the entrance to the Maltings for the widows of their staff.

They also gave an annual Sprat Supper where sprats were fried on shining steel malt shovels and all the townsfolk were invited.

An annual Christmas dinner was also held for employees at a local pub.

Weller & Co. were a family brewery for over 150 years.

It was about 1771 when William Weller, a maltster from High Wycombe, bought two local pubs, the Saracens Head and the Old Griffin at Mop End and an interest in Amersham’s Old Church Brewery, which had existed in some form from at least the 16th century.

He added the old malthouse off the Broadway to the business in 1783. After his death, his sons took over and they immediately bought more pubs including the Chequers at Bury End, the Queen’s Head in Whielden Lane and the Red Lion at Coleshill. Land opposite the brewery was also purchased for new stables and a cart shed for the drays.

In 1818 they bought the freehold of the brewery and Barn Meadow where they completed the new maltings with a water wheel powered by the River Misbourne in 1829. Even a disastrous fire at the Maltings in 1837 did not hold back the business for long and they soon bought more pubs in the area.

As only The Crown, The Swan and The Griffin survived the great Weller takeover, a high percentage of their employee’s wages went back to the brewery via the local pubs!

The Weller family were second only to the Drakes in local importance and wealth and were great benefactors to the town, establishing a fire service, ‘Messrs Weller’s Fire Brigade’ in 1874, the Amersham Lawn Tennis Club in 1886 and the Hockey Club in 1901, both on Barn Meadow.

In 1905, 1907 and 1914 Wellers organised the distribution of 800lbs of beef to local families at Christmas.

The family supported the building of the railway, adding to their considerable fortune by selling their land at Woodside Farm to the Metropolitan railway. In 1892 the Station Hotel (later known as the Iron Horse) was built across the road from the new station to take advantage of new business opportunities here.

George Weller’s last illness and death led to the sale of the brewery in 1929 as his son, Gerrard did not want to continue the business. The grand family home, the Plantation, was also sold.

This was demolished for redevelopment in 1976 where Plantation Road is today.

Local historian, Julian Hunt is currently researching the historic inns of Amersham with support from Amersham Museum volunteers so watch this space for future events and updates.

Please let us know if you have any stories or photos about any of our local public houses or the brewery which you are happy to share with us.

Perhaps someone will be inspired to create a new Amersham beer for the future book launch?

Cheers and Happy New Year!