The History of Brewers and brewing in Devizes, Wiltshire


Originally ale and beer were brewed in the home, on the farm,  in monasteries where monks and passing travellers and pilgrims were supplied with ale, and later on by individual ale houses and pubs.  Ale is "beer" without the bitter flavour of hops; it was the original "beer" and has been brewed for thousands of years.


The Town Council records tell us that Philip Strong, Mayor of Devizes in 1634, was a brewer within the borough. George Sloper, a master baker in Devizes from around 1760 to 1810, brewed his own beer for his household, servants and workers. He of course had a ready supply of yeast. 


Right is a "Home brewed beer" sign on the wall of the Artichoke Inn. n the Bath Road. The pub dates from 1766 and this home brew sign clealry  predates the supply of Wadworth's beer in ca 1885 - the Artichoke was apparently the first Devizes pub to serve Wadworth's beer.


Malting barley is a necessary precursor to making beer. Often maltsters were separate from brewing, although this is not particularly efficient. Malt is made from barley that is moistened and kept warm in a dark place. The barley sprouts and starch is converted into the sugar maltose. This is then mashed with hot water to extract the sugars, flavoured with hops and then fermented with yeast for 3 days to make beer. In 1797 Samuel Adlam, a clothier, was also a prosperous maltster.


Brewing and malting as a commercial activity has been carried on from at least the mid 16th century in Devizes. Beer was important in medieval England as beer that was not sour, was potable and often preferred to drinking water which could often be contaminated and cause illness.















Above the Estcourt Brewery belonging to the Wild family.They also ran the Bell Inn next door on Estcourt Street - opposite the Green in Devizes - during a part of the 19th century. This old brewery was knocked down in the 1980s after serving as a fire station for a while. The Bell landlord tells me that there are still the old brewery cellars under what is now the entrance to Morrisons' car park. 


John Girvan, in his book Devizes Market Place, claims that the Three Crowns was brewery in

Tudor times -16th century. I have not seen the evidence for this. Between 1620 and the mid 18th century ten maltsters and three brewers are known. In the 1670s malt was reckoned one of the town's more important merchandise.


Thomas Lewen's malt-house in St. John's parish is mentioned from 1618 to 1626.  In 1645 a malt-mill 'opposite' the castle was destroyed in the Civil War siege of Devizes. The widow of the house received £2 compensation at the quarter sessions.


A 'millhouse' was conveyed to John Hollis a maltster in 1707.  Before 1752 a brew house and mill house seems to have stood on the site of the Ark off Long Street. From 1726 until at least 1842 a malt-house and subsequently a brewery stood next to the Bridewell, now the Grange. In the late 18th century Figgins and Gent Brewery was in Bridewell Street where the Ambulance Station is now. By 1819 the Bridewell Street brewery had come into the hands of James and Joseph Dredge, represented in 1844 by Joseph Dredge and Co.


The old Northgate Brewery was established in 1864 by Sainsbury. These 2011 photos  show  on the the right what is now the Gaiger offices and warehouse. On the left, the rear of this building still shows the trace of a Wadwoth's Northgate Brewery sign that dates from 1875. The location of these is shown on the map below. Below right is an interesting photo of the old and "new" Northgate Wadworth Breweries.




Charles Rose and John Tylee, his nephew, were inn-holders in 1766 and in par

tnership as brewers by 1768. By 1783, Rose was dead, the firm had been transformed into Tylee and Gent, which under the subsequent names of Gent and Tylee, J. & T. Tylee, and Tylee & Co. is traceable to 1844. By 1822-3 their brewery was at the maltings, Northgate Street,  on a site now forming a branch of Gaigers' construction company. By 1841 it had become a foundry.  The firm of Figgins and Gent coexisted from 1783 to 1791. James Gent, whose income in 1797 might be reckoned a large one,  remained a partner until his death in 1829.


The two connected trades of malting and brewing continued to flourish throughout the 19th century, often linked to liquor retailing. Seven firms existed in 1839, three of them 'large'. There were 3 brewers in 1898-9 but few survived for long.


Above: Location of old Northgate brewery.One of the brewers of 1839 was James Oram of Northgate Street. He was the successor to the younger Robert Waylen and J. O. Anstie who ran a cloth factory where Gaiger's have an office now behind the houses on the west side of Northgate Street . In 1864 Oram sold out to Sainsbury Brothers, who established the Northgate Brewery their. In 2010 this property is owned by Gaiger's, the large constructin company in Devizes.


















The Northgate brewery was sold in 1875 to H. A. Wadworth, an ex  farmer with 6 years brewing experience in London. He founded the present firm of Wadworth and  Co. Ltd. In 1885 Wadworths built the brewery and maltings at the corner of Northgate and New Park Streets. This still exists today and is a well known Devizes landmark.



Four years later Wadworths became

a limited company and absorbed J. F. Humby's business of the Southbroom Brewery in the present Southbroom Road. This is traceable to 1854.  Later they acquired other enterprises: in Devizes the Estcourt Brewery (see above), owned by the Wild family since 1889, and Chandler & Co's maltings, once Tylee's, in Northgate Street, in 1904.


Above right the modern Northgate brewery of Wadworths brewery with the new visitor centre on the right behind the modern beer delivery lorry. Below left is a 2011 photo of Wadworth's seen from the west. The white building is the Pub operated by Wadworths to train their landords and licensees.



The last two of Wadworth's Devizes competitors were the Hare and Hounds Brewery which had been in existence, if intermittently, since 1839 and Wadworth's bought this in 1911.






In1933 Wadworth's bought the Three Crowns brewery and the Inn the inn. The Three Crowns  is still a Wadworth's pub Right) but the brewery is no more. It was converted into tea rooms - it is the pink building on the photo below right.



Between 1904 and 1968 Wadworth's bought various other public houses and liquor stores. In 1964 they ceased to malt and converted the Northgate Street maltings into a warehouse called Kennet House.


The development of brewing in the 18th century led to the building-up of a cooperage industry. “Three Paradises were then coopers and four others are known.


In the 17th century Devizes was well known for the manufacture of metheglyn a honey based liquor. Thomas Pierce of the Swan did a large trade in metheglyn.


Below: The famous and much loved Wadworth Shire horses still deliver barrels of beer to their own pubs throughout Devizes.