The Story of Biggleswade Brewery 1764-1993, by Ken Page
Published privarely by the author in 1993, 95 pages. A5 size booklet (N6652)
Biggleswade is a small market town on the river Ivel in Bedfordshire, and this booklet provides a fascinating history of the Brewery which was located in the town centre for over 200 years (sited there from its founding in 1764 all the way up until the last owner, Greene King, finally closed the site in 1997. The site is now occupied by a supermarket). The booklet charts the history of the brewery through the years up until 1993, and on the second page shows the various owners over the decades:
1764 Samuel Wells I
1781 Samuel Wells II
1831 Wells & Co. (Robert Lindsell & William Hogg)
1868 Clifton Brewery
1899 Wells & Winch Ltd
1900 JBS Holden, Henlow Brewery
1904 Baldock Brewery Co. Ltd
1919 Day & Son, Priory Brewery, St. Neots
1921 JR. Page & Co. Westbury Brewery, Ashwell
1924 Newland & Nash Ltd., Lurke Street, Bedford
1927 Higgins & Son Ltd., Castle Brewery, Bedford
1931 Hudsons Cambridge & Pampisford Breweries Ltd
1938 E.J. Wickham, Mill Bridge, Hertford
1938 Cambridge Houses of Barclay Perkins
1961 Greene King & Sons
The history begins: On Tuesday the 13th February 1764, the day before Biggleswade Horse Fair, Samuel Wells already a brewer, completed the purchase of a House, Brewhouse and Maltings in Back Lane (now Church Street) Biggleswade, together with the Kings Arms Inn (now Lloyds Bank) nearby in the High Street. His origins are obscure, but he was appointed as a Fen Reeve of the Manor of Biggleswade in 1749.
It is quite likely that there were five barns on the brewery site mentioned in the deeds of 1686, together with a house in the backside or backway behind the Kings Arms. (Already an established Inn occupied by Isaac Walsome). Edward Laundy of Baldock, Gent, purchased the copyhold in 1687. After he died, his grandson Edward Sparhawke sold the Kings Arms to innkeeper John Legas of Biggleswade in 1716. Eventually, in 1753; it passed to John Spriggs of Huntingdon, Gent, who had married Mary Oxenbridge, grandaughter of John Legas. Samuel Wells needed to borrow £400 from Ter Maria Luke of Biggleswade, spinster, to finance his new venture. Interest at the rate of 5% per annum was charged on the loan. We do not know how quickly it was repaid.
When Samuel Wells died in 1781,4 public houses in Biggleswade and a nice house in Shortmead Street with a close of pasture were added to the estate. The Kings Arms was by then converted into offices. Samuel fathered 9 children by his wife Elizabeth of whom 4 daughters and one son survived infancy, not unusual at that time.
He left half of his share of the "trade of Brewer" to his son, Samuel, on attaining the age of 25, plus the other half on the death of his wife. His daughters Mary and Elizabeth received £100 each, Martha and Ann got £50 each. Martha married William Race of Biggleswade, establishing a connection with a family still remembered in the town. George Race, the veteran Master of the Biggleswade Harriers dictated his memoirs, "Seventy Years a Master" published in 1911. His father, John Race of Fairfield, Biggleswade, son of William was known as "Thistle Whipper". In his book, George Race recalls Samuel Wells II as founder of The Biggleswade Harriers. It happened that Elizabeth Wells died the very next year (1782) and Samuel II came into the whole business at the age of 27...