The Norwood Society

Norwood Brewery

This article is reproduced with kind permission from the ‘London Drinker’, journal of the local branch of CAMRA (Campaign for Real Ale). It is a friendly discussion (over a glass of real ale) with one of the authors, some of the points made in the article were discussed. The assertion that the King’s Head in the High Street had existed since the 16th century cannot be correct as the High Street was a Commissioners’ road not existing until the 19th century.

The author quoted Alan Warwick in defence – there is a reference to the King’s Head in the account of money spent in beating the bounds reproduced in the Phoenix Suburb: “1597 – at the King’s Head when we came from the Vicar’s Oke…..6s”  The Norwood King’s Head, apart from its comparative youth, is miles away from the parish boundary. Could the answer be (heaven forbid) an error in the Phoenix Suburb? Wilson, in The Story of Norwood, quoting the same prime source, says: “1597 – at the Alleynges Heade when we went out arambelacyon to Vickers oke …6s”. Back to original sources, folks!

It is also a puzzle why the dray horses and draymen lived behind the King’s Head when they would be required to operate from the brewery in Chapel Road, not a great distance admitted, but an unlikely working arrangement. This seems to be a local account handed down from landlord to landlord and perhaps one of our older members could comment from first-hand knowledge. Also lacking validation are the names of the 5 pubs said to belong to the brewery. Probably no doubt about the Bricklayers Arms, but there are other pubs which closed in the 1930’s which could claim to be as near or nearer, i.e. the Castle; Fox & Hounds; Foresters Arms; The No.1.

But nit-picking aside, this story of the Norwood Brewery is a fascinating addition to our knowledge of Lower Norwood, and our thanks to CAMRA and the Brewery History Society.

The Norwood Brewery

A previous issue mentioned a brewery in Chapel Road, SE27. As with so many such concerns, it underwent a number of changes ending up as part of the Big Six. The building has long since gone, and unless you know what to look for you’d have no idea it ever existed.

Richard Bennett & Co. of the Norwood Brewery, Lower Norwood, Surrey (as the area was then known) were first listed in the Post office Directory of 1855. That was the year after the Crystal Palace was opened nearby, bringing a large influx of population into the area. In 1874 the business passed to George Wadley & Sons and five years later to the partnership of Frederick William Brooke and Charles Conrad Grey Duberley, trading as Duberley & Brooke. Their registered trademark was Hercules with a club; in 1883 the partnership was dissolved and thereafter traded as Brooke Brothers. The brewery was mortgaged to Flower and Sons of Stratford-upon-Avon, who in June 1888 bought it outright, operating it until the end of the last century as the Norwood Brewery Co. A photograph of The King’s Head taken about 100 years ago shows Flower & Sons Shakespeare Ales on the sign. There is some mystery about this period, and at one time West Kent Breweries tried to acquire the premises, and Brookes went bankrupt.

Around 1900 A. & C. Beaton & Co. bought the brewery with its five pubs, and were taken over by Hoare & Co. in 1919, which in due course was swallowed up in the vast Bass Charrington empire.

It seems that the five pubs involved were: the King’s Head, West Norwood High Street, selling Bass; this was the brewery’s principal house, and there has been a hostelry on the site since the 16th century. The drayhorses and draymen lived in the building which still exists round the back. They couldn’t have had too hard a life as, although this is the hilliest part of south London, the gradients aren’t too bad between the brewery and pubs –mostly downhill anyway when they were loaded and the furthest run was only 400 yards.

Next to the brewery site is the Bricklayers Arms, formerly the Brewery Tap in Chapel Road, selling Charrington IPA, the Park Tavern in Elder Road, also selling Charrington IPA, Then there was The Rosemary Branch, on Knight’s Hill, demolished in 1975 when it was a fizz house, but a superb building; and the Hope, High Street, selling Young’s range.

Geoffrey Manning

The Norwood Review Edition #96.