Five generations of brewers in Amersham
This article is based on research done by Gerry Selby for a panel produced for the Museum. Additional content has been provided by John Clutterbuck.
William Weller (1727-1802), a maltster from High Wycombe, bought an interest in the brewery near St. Mary’s Church in Amersham and two local pubs, the Saracens Head and the Old Griffin at Mop End in 1775. He added the old malthouse off the Broadway to the business in 1783. After his death, his sons, John (1759-1843) and William (1764-1843), took over the Brewery. They immediately bought more pubs including the Chequers at Bury End, the Queen’s Head in Whielden Lane and the Red Lion at Coleshill and land at Little Pondwicks opposite the brewery for new stables and a cart shed for their drays.
In 1818 they bought the freehold of the brewery and Barn Meadow where they completed the new Maltings with a water wheel powered by the River Misbourne in 1829. They named their strong dark beer ‘Weller’s Entire’. Even a disastrous fire at the Maltings in 1837 did not hold back the business for long and they soon bought more pubs: 1837 Red Lion, Amersham; 1838 Eagle, High Street, Amersham; 1842 Wheatsheaf, London Road.
John Weller lived at the Firs, now known as Piers Place, until his death in 1843. The Weller family were second only to the Drakes in local importance and wealth.
When the brothers both died in the same year, the business was inherited by John’s son, Edward (1791-1850) and William’s son, also called William (1797-1859). They expanded the number of tied houses buying properties in Aylesbury and Harefield and in 1848 the Boot and Slipper on Amersham Common.
By 1872, when Buckinghamshire County Council undertook a census of pubs and beer houses, the Weller business had expanded rapidly to include 97 pubs in Buckinghamshire alone. An example of a Weller acquisition in this period is in an article on the Lacey Green website, Page 9 relates to the purchase of the Crown at Lacey Green by Richard Weller in 1831 and pages 20 to 21 relates to the Weller brewing business and the Crown between 1832 and 1929. The Crown at Lacey Green closed in 1972 and is now in residential use.
Other pubs that had been part of the Weller business include the Plough at Cadsden, their website states that “The Plough is probably the most famous Pub in England, situated just outside of Princes Risborough in Buckinghamshire near Chequers, the country seat of British Prime Ministers.” The Bernard Arms, which was near the Plough, closed in 2011; the closedpubs website states of the Bernard Arms that “Due to its proximity to the Prime Minister’s country residence Chequers, several world leaders enjoyed a drink there over the years, including Dwight D. Eisenhower, Ronald Reagan, Boris Yeltsin and John Howard.” The Crown at Little Missenden was named as “Best Country Pub” in the 2019 Good Pub Guide.
Between 1850 and 1917 there were seven sets of Weller family deeds, which have been made available by Allied Breweries, the ultimate owners of the Wellers’ business. The deeds demonstrated the growth of the Weller family holdings in pubs, beer houses, land and property in the mid-19th century. The deeds for 1875 related specifically to the malthouse in Amersham and surrounding properties, including at least 2 cottages, one of which was a “cottage formerly occupied by William Clark and used as a Cotton Mill”.
Edward died in a hunting accident leaving William in charge of the Brewery and so in 1859 it was left to his three sons – William, Edward and George. By 1909 only George was involved with the business.
When George Weller died in 1929, his son Gerard sold the family brewing business to Benskins of Watford for £360,000. There were 142 pubs, 132 of them freehold and 10 leasehold, 107 of which were in Buckinghamshire, 24 in Hertfordshire, 5 in Middlesex (now Hillingdon), 4 in Oxfordshire and 2 in Berkshire. Although many of the pubs were not far from Amersham, some were quite distant, such as the Pheasant at Hambleden between Marlow and Henley, the Sun at Markyate in north west Hertfordshire and Uncle Tom’s Cabin at Cookham in Berkshire. After buying the Weller business, Benskins kept the pubs. In 1930, they sold the brewery and its associated buildings at auction.
The Weller Family were great benefactors to Amersham. William Weller (1840-1908) started ‘Messrs Weller’s Fire Brigade’ in 1874 and in 1886 Edward Weller let a corner of Barn Meadow to the Amersham Lawn Tennis Club and by 1901 the Hockey Club also played there.
The family supported the building of the railway and in 1892 opened the Station Hotel. According to the closedpubs website, the Station Hotel took over the license previously held by the Black Horse in Woodside Road (now a kindergarten). The Station Hotel subsequently became the Iron Horse, which closedpubs states was closed in 2004 and replaced by residential accommodation and a restaurant.
In 1896 George Weller was involved with providing a footpath through Rectory Wood to the new station. He opened the new Amersham Grammar school building in 1905 and organised the distribution of 800lbs of beef to local families at Christmas in 1905, 1907 and 1914.
William Weller (1797-1859) bought a house on Church Street from Dr Rumsey. This house, known as Rumsey’s until renamed Badminton House, became home to his widow Lydia and provided three offices near the Brewery for his sons.
By 1851 the Brewery employed 45 men and organised its first staff outing to the Great Exhibition in London. It grew to be the largest employer in Amersham and so other excursions followed to the Crystal Palace, Earl’s Court, Windsor, Brighton, Eastbourne, Southampton, Southend and Margate. Christmas dinners were held at The Griffin until 1914 and later at the King’s Arms.
An article appeared in the Bucks Herald on 3rd June 1854 about a dispute between the innkeepers and Mr Weller:
THE INNKEEPERS A circular having been issued to the innkeepers of this town and neighbourhood since the passing of extra duty on malt, recommending a rise of one penny per pot on beer, followed by another circular inviting them to convene a public meeting on the subject, a meeting of innkeepers, variously estimated from 70 to 120, met at The Griffin Inn in this place on Monday last, Mr Day of the Swan Inn in the chair. A resolution was passed to continue the price of beer to the public as it has hitherto been, and offering Mr Weller one shilling per barrel towards the cost of duty; but that gentleman having declined taking less than two shillings, the meeting separated without coming to any other determination.