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This history of Kegworth's association with the brewing industry uses Wright's 1880 Directory of Leicestershire, a 19th century version of Yellow Pages, as a starting point.
The index lists two brewers and fifteen public houses.
This record is by no means complete and early historical information is limited mainly to that which is readily available at Kegworth Museum or Leicester County Record Office.
Thomas Crane, his brother in law, Robert Osborne and John Byng, all operated breweries in Kegworth in the first half of the 19th century.
Osborne had commenced business in 1828 and on his death in 1845 he was succeeded by his wife Mary, Thomas Crane's sister, however, the brewery closed the following year: Crane lived in Mill Lane but there is no evidence that his brewery was sited there.
According to Trade Directories, Byng's brewery lasted from 1839 - 1841. There is no indication as to where the brewery was located.
Thomas Crane was the main brewer in the village, first appearing in County Trade Directories in 1828. Operating from premises on the Market Place, he was listed as an ale and porter brewer as well as a maltster (a maltster steeped, germinated and dried grain in preparation for brewing).
Thomas was the son of Robert Crane who was licensee of the Three Cranes pub until his death in 1839. It is probable that Thomas was set up in this business by his father, for Robert's will states that Thomas had been well provided for. Thomas was not named as a beneficiary in the will. Thomas Crane sold his business to Sidney Wells in 1847 and went on to open the Brunswick brewery and public house in Leicester and run them until his death in 1866.
Sidney Wells and then his son, Sidney jnr, were to operate the brewery for the next 77 years. The Market Place premises expanded to meet demand, for Wells had no competition as a brewer until 1870, when Springwell Brewery opened. The brewery provided jobs, not only within the company but also for independent maltsters and coopers (beer barrel makers) and a permanent Revenue Officer, who was stationed in the village. The 1870 Harrods Directory of Leicestershire describes Sidney Wells as 'a brewer of mild, strong, pale ale and porter and a maltster'.
It used a fleet of steam traction engines and wagons to deliver the beer to the 20 or 30 pubs that it owned. Wells' bitter was said to be very highly rated.
Wells Brewery owned the Flying Horse, the Navigation, the Anchor and Britannia pubs. Following the death of Sidney Wells jnr in 1944, the business, the brewery property and a house, No.2 High Street, were sold in December to Worthington and Co, Ltd, brewers, of Burton on Trent.
Brewing ceased at Kegworth and the premises were acquired by Hopewell's Hosiery Company, which relocated from Derby Road. Later the building became the home of Refractory Castings and Mouldings Ltd, but following that company's closure it stood empty for many years. Early in 1992, the property was demolished and in April 1999 erection of new office accommodation commenced on the site.
Opened by brothers John and Thomas Barrow in 1870, the brewery was built on a close of land adjoining the grounds of Springwell House. This house still fronts on to High Street, but in those days the grounds stretched down as far as New (Derby) Road.
Opposite Springwell House, on High Street, was the site of a malt house which is next to, and uphill from the library. It is not known to whom this belonged.
There are also references to it being a Mineral Water Works and Manufacture of vinegar.
The Barrow Bros Steam Brewery is described in Harrods Trade Directory of Leicestershire for 1870 as 'brewers of East India Pale and other ales and maltsters. In 1875 Peter Sullins, a blind brewer from Hertfordshire, took over, trading as P. Sullins & Son. By 1882, the business was known as the Springwell Brewery Co, Ltd and Springwell House was acquired by the company from William Nall on 25th November that year, having been leased to Sullins previously.
By 1884, the business was in financial trouble and on the 25th October it went into voluntary liquidation. Henry Edward Hubbart, a Nottingham accountant, was appointed Liquidator and on 2nd January 1885, he agreed to sell the house, grounds and brewery to Hugh Wilson for £2,500.
Brewing continued until 1888 when the brewery business was sold, probably to the John Marston Brewery Company of Burton on Trent. In that year (1888) Hugh Wilson was appointed District Manager for Marstons,(Who finally closed Springwells in 1895) a position he held until at least 1904. He continued to live at Springwell House but the brewery building became a glue factory for a short time before it was sold with 2,000 square yards of land to Thomas Ward.
In 1891, a pair of houses known as Charnwood Cottages and fronting on to Derby Road were built on part of the land. A property called Leicester House stands (towards the front of) the site of the brewery building. This was the brewers house. It still survives. The site of the brewery to the rear of Leicester House is now CPS Print & Graphics.
After a time, the buildings were to be taken over by Hopewell's hosiery company only to be burned down in 1926. (Strangely enough, Mr Hopewell then opened a factory in the Sidney Wells Brewery building in The Market Place. (It was Mr Hopewell who started the Ox Roast in Kegworth in 1928, but I diverse!))
It is hard to determine why Kegworth's pubs developed in the way they did. However, transport by water, road and rail led to the establishment of at least four, the Flying Horse, Anchor:, Navigation (later the White House) and Station Inn. The last two lie outside the village boundary but for the purpose of this history they are treated as being within the village. Many pubs provided a supplemental income to their licensees who were occupied at other trades for their main living, with their wives running the pub during the day;
There were two types of pub. In 1880 eight were fully licensed to sell the complete range of alcoholic drinks (licensed victuallers ) and seven were licensed to sell beer only (beer retailers).Pubs Past and Present
The Customs and Excise stationed an officer in the village to check on the activities of, and collect the duties due from, the breweries. They changed often but the job was considered important enough to be included in the various Trade Directories.
Some of Kegworth's Excise Officers were:1841 WIlliam Gibbs
With a population of around 2,000, Kegworth could not sustain a full time livelihood for some of its many publicans. These had day jobs that they sometimes did on the pub premises, or their wives ran the pub while they worked.
Examples given in various Trade Directories include:1848 John Newham, Blacksmith and agricultural implement maker. beer seller. no pub name given.
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