Reigate Brewing History
There have been inns in existence in Reigate for centuries. Certainly thirsty pilgrims on their way to St. Thomas a Becket's shrine left the Pilgrims’ Way, just north of the brewery, to descend into the town and settle the dust in their throats. The Red Cross opposite the brewery is a reminder of those days.
Owing to the scarcity of pre-16th century local records it is impossible to determine the size and extent of the brewing industry then but some of Reigate's inns date back to medieval times.
Reigate dates from 1150 and it can be surmised that brewing would have started with the establishment of the Augustan Priory early in the 13th century, a short walk from our brewery. The land between our brewery and the Priory was an ancient hop garden and it is possible that the hops which grow in the brewery today might well be descendents of the very plants grown by the monks 800 years ago.
The first documentary evidence to brewing in Reigate is from 1569, when Thomas Thornton, a brewer in Bell Street, had a tragic accident at his brewery. On the 17th July of that year it is recorded that two of his men lost their lives when they were "scalded in the mashing vat and they died" . He was also repeatedly prosecuted in the Manor Courts and also once at the Court of Exchequer for selling his beer at excessive rates from 1583 onwards.
We keep trying to follow his example of selling beer at excessive rates but with little success!
At the start of the 19th century there were at least 3 breweries in the town: Meale and Lee (later Mellersh and Neale) in Church Street, Crunden's in Bell Street and Cooper's in the High Street. there was also a gin distiller in Church Street: Reigate must have been quite a lively place. The Church Street brewery subsequently became a maltings.
But check out the full history of brewing in Reigate by local historian Richard Symonds:
Read, in particular, how a brewery dray was used by the Home Guard to attack and take Redhill Airfield where 611 squadron was based or how the brewery offices were accidentally burned down.
1942 was an exciting year!