Our History

Most of you will already know that there once was a Brampton Brewery.  In fact it’s fair to say that the original Brampton Brewery is the complete inspiration behind this project, and the realization of life-long held dreams for those of us involved.  But a micro-brewery it most certainly was not.  In it’s hey-day the original brewery had plant with a brew-length of 130 barrels (compared with our 8 ! ) and at busy periods they brewed 6 days a week - meaning a weekly production of almost 30,000 gallons of beer.

Local brewery historian, CAMRA stalwart, brewer, architect, jack-of-all-trades and master of most of them, John Hirst, has written a number of excellent books charting the history of Chesterfield’s breweries and the pubs in which they were sold.  John’s kindly allowed us to reproduce one of the chapters specifically relating to Brampton Brewery on this page.


From Victorian times it was common for most towns to have a brewery.  Chesterfield at one time had three breweries, Brampton, Chesterfield and Scarsdale, which made it the second largest brewing town in Derbyshire.  The largest was Derby which had four breweries at its peak.  Scarsdale was the penultimate Derbyshire brewery to close, leaving Offilers of Derby to survive into the mid 1960's.  The success of the Chesterfield breweries has been attributed to the fine well water deep below the town.  This enabled them to produce the good quality ales needed to combat the fierce competition from Sheffield brewers, who were keen to spread south.

The two largest breweries, Brampton and Chesterfield, were run as large profitable Limited Companies, whilst Scarsdale, for most of its existence, was a small family concern.  The reasons for their demise vary in each case; Chesterfield Brewery failed because of the lack of dedicated leadership; Brampton disappeared through the shareholders backing a take over bid rather than preserving the interests of a fine company;  Scarsdale ceased as there was no family successor.

The breweries had survived many hard times, such as high taxation, shortage or rationing of materials due to wars and an attack on their main outlet, the public house, in the form of the Compensation Act of 1904.  This Act gave the authorities the power to close run-down pubs or houses in areas with too many licensed premises in return for a small amount of compensation.  In addition to this the breweries had to pay a levy on all their pubs to fund the compensation scheme.  The final onslaught came in the 1950's and 60's when take over mania brought an end to many breweries, resulting in the so called 'big six' brewing companies controlling the majority of pubs and brewing in the country.

This booklet outlines the progress of each brewery generally in chronological order, covering as far as possible its owners and events affecting them.  Much other information has been gathered on the people who owned, managed and worked in the breweries, as well as detailed information on the pubs.  However, the limited space prevents expanding into great detail.  It is hoped that the facts provided will be of interest and provoke fond memories of the fine ales brewed.  Although long gone, brews such as the famous Brampton mild are still lovingly remembered by those who drank them.

The Brampton Brampton
History and Development

The early years of the Brampton Brewery seen to have eluded documentation and no information has come to light on the founding of the brewery or its owners.  However, a publication in 1922 by the Brampton Brewery Co. stated that the original brewery may have been at Brewery Yard, just off Chatsworth Road, Brampton.  There was in fact a brewery set up in the 1820's by Mary Smith on the site around Field House which adjoined Brewery Yard.  On the opposite side of the yard was the old Malt House which was later used as a mineral water factory and finally as a club room known as Everybody's Hall.  This building and the rest of Brewery Yard was demolished by Robinson & Sons in 1936 for the building of the York Room.  The original Field House still exists today as the main entrance into Bradbury Club, with the York Room at its side.

There is no evidence of a connection between the Brewery Yard business and the Brampton Brewery that was set up on the site between Chatsworth Road and Wheatbridge Road.  The date at which this brewery was erected is not known, but it was in existence there in 1839.  The owners at this time were Parkin and Bennison.  Some documents also name them as Parker and Bennison.  Parkin must have been the senior partner as a trade directory in 1854 records the business as Parkin and Co. - Brewers and Maltsters.  Another directory three years later states that Stephen Bennison was the Manager.

Engraving of the new brew-house which opened in 1905.

Over the following twenty years there was a succession of changes in partnership.  Parkin was followed by John Bunting, and Bennison by Henry Osborne.  The brewery was trading as J Bunting & Co. in 1862.  Bunting later retired from the concern in 1871, with Henry Osborne taking over as senior partner.  Mr C H Chater filled the position of junior partner.

The partnership between Osborne and Chater ran into difficulties and the concern was put up for auction with the two bidding against each other.  The auction was held at the Angel Hotel in High Street, Chesterfield on the 23rd May 1877.  The business for sale consisted of the brewery together with 53 licenced houses.  All the trade was within 14 miles of the brewery.

At the auction were many notable names including John Drabble, the Mayor of Chesterfield; T P Wood; Mr Stones, brewer of Sheffield; and several partners from the Chesterfield Brewery Company. Bidding started at £30,000 and successive bids of £1000 soon reached £45,000.  Chater then offered £46,000, Osborne £47,000 and the final bid of £48,000 was made by a Mr Soames of Newark.  It transpired that Soames was bidding on behalf of Chater and would be his new partner.  The total purchase price, including plant and contents, was £60,000 to £70,000.  The transaction was completed on the 6th July 1877, and the company would now trade as C H Chater & Co.

Following his unsuccessful attempt to purchase the Brampton Brewery, Osborne stated that he intended to commence business as a brewer in Chesterfield on his own account.  However, there is no evidence of any such business.  On his death in 1889 an obituary stated that he had undertaken several enterprises and had lost his fortune.  He died in Jersey where he had lived for some years.

Chater set about expanding the business, and the new outlets soon necessitated the enlargement of the brewery.  Six fermenting squares of 2000 gallons were added in 1879 and the whole plant re-arranged.

Another change of ownership came in 1889 when Charles Hames Chater withdrew leaving Harold Soames the sole proprietor of the Brampton Brewery Company as it would then be known.  Soames had by this time made his home in Chesterfield, living at Stubbing Court, Wingerworth and later at West House, West Bars.  His daughter, Mary, also attained some notability by marrying Robert Baden Powell the founder of the Boy Scout and Girl Guide movements.

Soames and his manager William Charlesworth set about expanding trade still further, and an increase in brewing capacity was made at yearly intervals.  A bottling plant was added in 1891, adjoining land was acquired for stabling 12 more horses in 1892, bringing the total to 22 for use in deliveries, and a Spirit, Wine and Cigar department was added in 1893.  When Harold Soames retired in 1897 a Public Share Issue was raised to purchase the brewery from him.  The concern would now be run as a Limited Company.

Advert c.1892

The Share Issue

A Share prospectus was issued giving details of the concern to be acquired.  The capital to be raised was £180,000 and the application would close on June 16th 1897.  The property to be sold consisted of the brewery, offices, land and stabling together with 142 licenced houses owned or leased by the brewery.  With the licenced houses also came 10 shops, 143 cottages and vacant plots of land. The majority of houses were within 12 miles of the brewery, a convenient carting distance.  The purchase price was set at £320,000, the difference between this and the share issue was made up in personal shares taken out by Charlesworth, the Manager and Wilkinson, the Head Brewer.  A contract was entered into on the 11th June 1897 between the Vendors and the Company for the sale of the property, although the business would officially be taken over by the Company as from 31st March 1897.  The first directors were E T Hargraves, Chairman (also Chairman of Strettons Derby Brewery); W Charlesworth, Managing Director; W J Wilkinson, Head Brewer and U H Tristram.  The company secretary was to be G Boldry.  The Solicitors for the transaction were Shipton Hallewell & Co. of Chesterfield.

At the end of the first year's trading, the profit was almost £22,000.  Three years later in 1901 this had risen to £32,000.  Because of expanding trade it was agreed to increase the companies capital by £20,000 to allow further enlargement of the brewing plant.  At this time Charlesworth, the long standing manager, died leaving the Head Brewer to take up the post of Managing Director.  The vacancy on the board of Directors was filled by Mr R H Tennant, a major shareholder.

The good fortunes of the company were shattered on the night of Friday 24th May 1902 when fire destroyed the brewhouse.  It was thought to have been caused by a dust explosion in the mill room. The fire was discovered by the night watchmen Lofty and Thorpe around midnight, and was finally extinguished after about two and a half hours by the new Borough steam fire engine, on its first commission.  The damage by fire and water damage to buildings and malt supplies was around £2000, and serious disruption to brewing operations followed.

As production in the brewhouse was stretched to the limit, the board had been deliberating whether to extend the brewery again or to build a new brewery.  The fire now made it imperative that the latter should be erected as soon as possible.  Land was acquired at the side of the premises and a completely new brewery was commissioned from Arthur Kinder & Sons, Brewery Architects of London.  It was to be the first electrically driven brewery in the country.  Building commenced in the summer of 1903 and the brewery went into operation on 2nd May 1905 with Captain J H Marsden as Brewer and Engineer. The new building was designed to allow for future expansion and soon further equipment was installed.  The remains of the old brewery were converted for bottling beers as this trade was rapidly increasing.  Previously bottling had been carried out in a small shed.

With the new brewery functioning well, attention was then turned to the public houses.  Many pubs were rebuilt or drastically improved, one of the most impressive was the Pheasant, Brampton, which was rebuilt in 1905 and renamed the Terminus Hotel.  Many more properties were bought and trade to free houses was also increasing.  Profits continued to rise, and by Silver Jubilee year 1922, they had reached £60,000.

A major loss to the concern was the sudden death of Mr Wilkinson in September 1927.  He suffered a heart attack whilst walking at his home at Newbold Fields, he was 66.  Mr Wilkinson had joined the company in 1890 as Brewer to replace Mr R T Dewe who left to join the Chesterfield Brewery Company.  Wilkinson, educated at Kings College London, had previously been Brewer at Strouts Brewery Sheffield.  His keen interest in all aspects had done much to raise the fortunes of the company.  He was also very popular with his employees.  His replacement on the Board of Directors was Mr G D Atkinson.

The Company Secretary Mr Boldry retired in 1934 after 38 years with the brewery.  Another long serving member, Mr Hargraves, Chairman since setting up of the Limited Company, died the following year, aged 80.  He was replaced by R H Tennant, who unfortunately died after only a year at the head of the Company.  Another vacancy on the board brought a new director whose Company was to bring about the eventual downfall of the Brampton Brewery.  He was Colonel P H Warwick of Warwicks and Richardsons Brewery in Newark.

Golden Jubilee year was in 1947, when 2½% extra bonus was paid on Ordinary Shares to mark the occasion.  Another long serving member of staff retired at this time.  This was J E Sylvester who had given 55 years service, first as office boy and finally Company Secretary from 1934 to his retirement.  In 1948 G L Wray became the last Managing Director to join the company prior to its take over.  He was also Company Secretary.  By 1950 Colonel P H Warwick was Deputy Chairman, and was joined by his son F R Warwick as director.

Warwicks Take Over

The last of the original directors U H Tristram, who had been Chairman since 1937, died in March 1955 at the age of 81.  Colonel Warwick had also died the previous December, leaving his Brampton Brewery shares to his only son.  It seems that Tristram was the stabilizing factor of the brewery, as within a week of his death the brewery announced that as a result of approaches from another brewery, they had entered into negotiations for a 'merger'.  On the 27th April 1955 the new Chairman J H Hodkin wrote to shareholders of the company enclosing details of the Warwicks and Richardsons offer, suggesting that it be accepted.  The final date for voting was 18th May 1955.  In late May Warwicks announced that their offer had been accepted by over 90% of Brampton shareholders, therefore fulfilling the conditions of the offer.  In early June Chairman Hodkin denied rumours that the brewery buildings were to be sold, he stated that, although brewing might cease, the premises would still be used as a depot.

On Wednesday 15th June a flag was hoisted by workers to commemorate the last Brampton brew.   Hodkin categorically denied that brewing had ceased, stating that a decision regarding brewing could not be made until the take-over had taken effect in July.  However it later transpired that brewing had in fact ceased on that day.  Rumours that the 50 or so workforce had been given their notice were also denied. They were given an assurance of employment until the end of August. However, many immediately found alternative employment because of the uncertainty.  Those that remained were employed only in stripping out the valuable materials of plant to sell for scrap.  With this completed, the majority were made redundant.  The only employees retained were office staff and pub maintenance workers.  The brewery premises were put up for sale early in December 1955. However, a purchaser was not found until January 1957, when it was announced that Nichols and Co. Grocers from Sheffield, were to be the new owners.  After the sale of the brewery, the office and maintenance staff were moved to spare accommodation at the Sun Inn, West Bars.

A major problem for Warwicks and Richardsons was the local dislike of their beers.  Brampton pubs experienced a drastic fall in beer sales because of this.  Another problem was a new detrimental tenancy agreement forced on landlords.  Within two months of the take over many had given notice to quit because of the unpopularity of this measure and the decline in beer sales.  It is also said to have contributed to the suicide of two Brampton licensees.  The failure of the Newark brewed beers prompted Warwicks, in October 1955, to advertise 'Brampton type beers, on sale at all Brampton Houses - Brewed specially to your taste'.  The situation could not have improved as on the opening of the Moonrakers, Newbold in July 1957, the brewery stated that it had devised a new brew for Brampton houses which was as near to the old Brampton mild as could be brewed in Newark.  This was called 'Impy'.  The 'Brampton' name carried on, giving the impression that the brewery was still operational.  When the Managing Director G L Wray retired in 1957 he was replaced by Mr E Davis from Whittaker & Sons Brewery of Halifax, but this did not alter the fact that the famous Brampton 'Unrivalled Ales' had now disappeared for good.

The ownership by Warwicks and Richardsons was short lived as they also became victims of a take over in 1962 by John Smiths Tadcaster Brewery.  Brewing at Newark ceased in 1966, although the premises continued to be used as a depot.  John Smiths, in 1961, had also taken over the Barnsley Brewery, whose beers now replaced Warwicks in the Brampton Brewery pubs.  John Smiths themselves were taken over by Courage Ltd. in 1970, when eventually further rationalisation took place bringing John Smiths Ales to replace Barnsley.  Courage were taken over by the Imperial Tobacco Company in 1972, but after several more transactions are now owned by Scottish & Newcastle Breweries.

The site of the Brampton Brewery is now occupied by a B & Q supermarket.  The brewery buildings were demolished during August and September 1984, work commencing immediately on the new building.  Also at this time part of the site was taken to widen Wheatbridge Road to allow a one-way system to be brought into operation.