AIM25 : Click here to go back to the AIM25 homepage
Archives in London and the M25 area


Identity Statement

Reference code(s): GB 0074 LMA/4453/C
Held at: London Metropolitan Archives
  Click here to find out how to view this collection at ›
Date(s): 1790-1982
Level of description: Collection
View parent record
Extent: 15.07 linear metres
Name of creator(s): Whitbread and Co Ltd | brewers


Administrative/Biographical history:

Samuel Whitbread (1720-96) of Cardington, Bedfordshre, was apprenticed in 1736 to John Wightman, a leading London brewer. In 1742 he entered into partnership with Godfrey Shewell and Thomas Shewell and acquired the Goat Brewhouse on the corner of Whitecross Street and Upper Old Street in the City of London about a quarter of a mile north of where the main brewery was to become established in Chiswell Street. They traded as Godfrey Shewell and Company and by 1749 were producing 18,000 barrels of beer a year and owned 14 public houses. As well as beer, the brewery also sold its surplus yeast and spent grains from which most of the Capital's bread was made along with much of the gin. This was in addition to almost of London's livestock that were feed on brewer's grain.

Godfrey Shewell left the partnership upon his marriage in 1748. Thomas Shewell and Whitbread acquired the Chiswell Street site, known as the King's Head Brewhouse (previously The Eagle and Child, in 1750 with the acquisition of a leasehold interest on the south side of Chiswell Street extending from Whitecross Street to the Brewery gate. He built a large porter brewery (porter being strong, black beer, made from coarse barley and scorched malt). The Goat Brewhouse, Old Street, was retained to brew pale and amber beer (pale ale is brewed with lightly roasted malt, compared to the highly roasted malts used to brew porters). Thomas Shewell retired in 1761 when Whitbread bought him out for 30,000.

Additions were made to the Chiswell Street Brewery in 1758 with the cooperage, a house for the head cooper, stables and a retail beer shop being built. The Porter Tun Room was constructed in 1760 along with a new storehouse and in 1790 land was bought on the north side of the street back to Cherry Tree Alley extending in some places to Whitecross Street.

Production at the Brewery was greatly enhanced by the introduction of steam power when Whitbread purchased a Boulton and Watt steam engine in 1785 to grind malt and pump water to the boilers. This enabled the Brewery to increase production and by 1787 the output reached 150,280 barrels. Samuel Whitbread died in 1796 by which time the Brewery was producing 200,000 barrels of beer a year and was described as the best in London. Although the introduction of steam power at Whitbread's saved much labour, the brewery still employed around 200 men and 80 horses.

Brewing required a huge amount of money and the market of hops was volatile. The time delay between the buying of hops and the selling of the beer also imposed severe restrictions on the cash flow of the business. This situation was further exacerbated by the need for the Brewery to support publicans. The Company established its own maltings located in Dereham, Whittington and King's Lynn in the county of Norfolk and also grew their own hops in the Weald of Kent at Beltring and Stilstead farms and Paddock Wood with a growing area of over four hundred acres.

After the death of Samuel Whitbread I the Brewery was run by Samuel Whitbread II (1758-1815) and his father's executors until 1799 when a partnership made up of Samuel Whitbread II, Richard Sangster, clerk, Joseph Yallowley, clerk, (both executors of Samuel Whitbread I's Will) and Timothy Brown, banker, was formed. The terms of the partnership freed Whitbread from attending personally to any business. They were joined by Joseph Goodman, Jacob Whitbread (Samuel's cousin) and Sir Benjamin Hobhouse, banker in 1800. Timothy Brown left the partnership in 1810 after an accounting dispute.

At the start of the eighteenth century the majority of the Brewery's trade was with free houses with 392 licensed victuallers in London and two hundred spread throughout the rest of the country. Along with these freehouses there were also twenty-nine leaseholds. In 1812 the business amalgamated with that of Martineau and Bland of the Lambeth Brewery, King's Arms Stairs, Lambeth, adding a further 38 leaseholds to the list bringing the total number to 91. The Lambeth Brewery closed down and the stock of beer, horses and the larger part of the machinery and utensils were transferred to the Chiswell Street Brewery. The managing partners at this time were Robert Sangster, Michael Bland, John Martineau and Joseph Martineau. By 1889, when the Company was formed from the partnership, the number of licensed houses controlled and served by the Brewery totalled many hundreds.

After Samuel Whitbread II's death in 1815 (he committed suicide by cutting his throat with a razor), a new partnership was formed comprising two new partners, William Wilshere and John Farquhar. John Martineau, Joseph Martineau and Michael Bland were the managing partners. William Henry Whitbread (1796-1879), the second son of Samuel Whitbread II, joined the partnership in 1819, along with Samuel Charles Whitbread (1796-1879), his younger brother. Richard Martineau joined the partnership in 1828 as a junior partner and John Cam Hobhouse (later Lord Broughton, son of Sir Benjamin Hobhouse) became a partner in 1831.

John Martineau died in 1834 "being seized with apoplexy {he} had fallen in to the vat" in the Porter Tun Room. The jury returned a verdict of "death by the visitation of God". Charles Shaw Lefevre (MP 1830-57, later Viscount Eversley, son-in-law of Samuel Whitbread II) joined the partnership in 1840. This partnership ran for twenty years. William Whitbread (d 1879), the second son of Samuel Charles Whitbread, and John Martineau became partners in 1860, followed by F Lubbock in 1875, Samuel Whitbread III (1830-1915) in 1879, and W H Whitbread, second son of Samuel Whitbread III, in 1885.

After Viscount Eversley died in July 1889 the business was registered as a limited liability company, Whitbread and Company Limited, with Samuel Whitbread III as chairman. Brewery business had been conducted by partnerships for ninety years, the total number of partners during this period being thirty, seven of whom were members of the Whitbread family.

Throughout the latter part of the nineteenth century the Brewery expanded purchasing additional land and buildings on the north side of Chiswell Street. A tunnel under the road connected the cellars on both side of the street that occupied around five acres of space underground and the total length of the beer mains in the Brewery stretched from between two and a half to three miles. Along with the rooms normally associated with a brewery, research and control laboratories had also been built following inspiration by Louis Pasteur who undertook research at the Brewery in 1871. By 1905, at the height of production when the brewery was at its fullest extent, the freehold area of Chiswell Street was over five acres.

Production at Chiswell Street rose rapidly again with the success of bottled beer which began in 1868 following a reduction on the duty on glass. The new bottling stores were located in Worship Street, Finsbury but bottled beer proved so popular that the bottling stores had to move to larger premises at 277 Gray's Inn Road in 1869. By the middle of 1889 the Brewery was producing 336,000 barrels up to nearly 700,000 barrels by mid-1900 with profits equalling 205,000. To meet the demand for bottled beers depots were opened in Lewisham, Birmingham, Leeds, Liverpool, Weston Rise, Cardiff, Manchester, Totteham, Newcastle, Poole, Hull, Leicester, Nottingham and Kingston and a new headquarters office was opened at 27 Britannia Street, London, in 1900. The first overseas depot in Brussels established in 1904, expanding to include Antwerp in 1906 followed by Liege in 1910, Paris in 1912 and Ghent in 1913. By the time the depot in Ghent was in operation more than half of the brewery's output of close to one million barrels was being bottled.

Circumstance and legislation brought in during the Great War saw production limited to 18 million barrels at the start of 1917 and then halved by March to less than a third of pre-war output. By 1918 production had fallen to 400,000 barrels and was only 100,000 barrels higher eighteen years later. Over 1000 Whitbread employees had enlisted in the War and 95 were killed either in action or from wounds sustained.

Following the purchase of the Forest Hill brewery in the early 1920s, Whitbread began experimenting with brewing 'bright' beer where the beer was matured and filtered before bottling to prevent sedimentation. The technique was a success and rolled out to the whole Whitbread brand. In the 1920s Whitbread also introduced the Double Brown which was designed to rival Guinness and was almost a recreation of Whitbread's original porter.

In the mid-1920s Whitbread was experiencing a slump in trade. Sales were down overall by an average of 34%, twice that experienced by the trade as a whole. In response Sydney Nevile, the managing director, decided upon an avid advertising campaign using popular celebrities such as Gertie Lawrence and Ronald Squire and hired a publicity manager in the form of Hal Douglas Thomson, a newspaper advertising executive. He also attempted to widen the range of products available with additions such as cider and to develop exports to the colonies although the latter was not particularly successful. However it was the popularity of Mackeson's milk stout which buoyed sales in the the late 1930s and although still a long way off their 1913 peak they were a third higher than in 1932.

Unlike the Great War of 1914-18, general beer production across the country rose rapidly during the Second World War with Whitbread's production up 50% to 914,000 barrels by 1945 - almost beating the 1912 record of 989,000. Despite mass devastation of buildings in the surrounding area due to fire raids, Whitbread's own fire brigade was able to protect the Chiswell premises. Even after the great raid on 29th December 1940, production at the plant restarted after only four days. Between 1939-1945, 565 (90%) of Whitbread's licensed public houses in London were damaged by the Blitz, with 29 completely destroyed and an additional 49 so badly damaged that they had to close.

By 1948, the Company was employing 5,000 people. In addition to Brewery workers, by the 1950s over 5000 people were employed in the cultivation and harvesting of the hop bines that were grown by the Company in Kent. New breweries were built at Luton, in 1969, Samlesbury, Lancashire, in 1972 and Magor, Gwent in 1978. The Chiswell Street Brewery ceased brewing in 1976. In 1989 the Company operated 6 breweries at Castle Eden, Durham; Magor, Gwent; Exchange Brewery, Bridge Street, Sheffield; Court Street, Faversham, Kent; Monson Avenue, Cheltenham, Gloucestershire; and Cuerdale Lane, Samlesbury, Preston, Lancashire.

During the final decades of the 20th Century, Whitbread seriously invested in the food and lodgings sectors. The Beefeater brand was launched in 1974 and Brewers Fayre followed five years later. Whitbread introduced Pizza Hut and TGI Friday's to Britain in the 1980s and adding continental-style high street brands like Costa, Cafe Rouge and Bella Pasta in the nineties. During that time Whitbread Hotel Company developed from a small number of three and four-star coaching inns and country houses, establishing Travel Inn in 1987 and securing the UK rights to the Marriott brand in 1995.

The Whitbread Beer Company was sold to Belgian brewer Interbrew in May 2000. First Quench (off-licences business) was sold in September 2000 to the Japanese investment bank Nomura (then jointly owned with Punch Group). Whitbread continues as a company with interests in hotels, restaurants and health and fitness clubs.


Scope and content/abstract:

Sales records of Whitbread and Company Limited, brewers, including beer returns (1903-1959), complaints books (1925-1952), excise books (1935-1976), export ledgers (1953-1957), sales and nominal ledgers (1790-1821), estate trade books (1889-1979, these include both public and private trade along with records of the bottling stores), off-licenses and Company interests arranged by region. Also includes summaries, estimates and other sales statistics from across the Company together with papers from the Take Home division.

Access & Use

Language/scripts of material:

System of arrangement:

LMA/4453/C/01: Beer returns;
LMA/4453/C/02: Complaints books;
[LMA/4453/C/03: not used];
LMA/4453/C/04: Excise books;
LMA/4453/C/05: Export ledgers;
LMA/4453/C/06: Sales and nominal ledgers;
LMA/4453/C/07: Estate trade books;
LMA/4453/C/08: Trade books;
LMA/4453/C/09: Take home division.

Conditions governing access:

Available for general access.

Conditions governing reproduction:

Copyright to these records rests with the Corporation of London.

Finding aids:

Please see online catalogues at:

Archival Information

Archival history:

Immediate source of acquisition:

Received in 2001 as a gift.

Allied Materials

Related material:

See also:
LMA/4453/A: Whitbread and Company Corporate
LMA/4453/B: Whitbread and Company Accounts
LMA/4453/C: Whitbread and Company Sales
LMA/4453/D: Whitbread and Company Production
LMA/4453/F: Whitbread and Company Premises
LMA/4453/G: Whitbread and Company Advertising and Memorabilia
LMA/4453/H-Z: Whitbread and Company subsidiaries.

Publication note:

Histories published by Whitbread include: Whitbread's Brewery founded 1742: an illustrated history of the House of Whitbread (1934); Whitbread's Brewery incorporating 'The Brewer's Art' (1951); This is Whitbread (1979) and Monckton, Whitbread's Breweries: a chronological survey of the evolution of one of the oldest groups of breweries in Britain (1984).

See also L Richmond and A Turton, The Brewing Industry: A guide to historical records (1990), LMA Library reference 60.43 RIC.

Description Notes

Archivist's note:

Rules or conventions:
Compiled in compliance with General International Standard Archival Description, ISAD(G), second edition, 2000; National Council on Archives Rules for the Construction of Personal, Place and Corporate Names, 1997.

Date(s) of descriptions:
November 2009 to February 2010

Related Subject Search

* To search for other records with similar subjects, tick any subjects above then click "Run New Search"

Related Corporate Name Search

* To search for other records with similar names, tick any names above then click "Run New Search"

Related Placename Search

* To search for other records with similar placenames, tick any names above then click "Run New Search"