Friday, 2 October 2015

H & G Simonds acquisitions

I am indeed continuing my Courage theme. Or rather, my theme of how the Courage group coalesced. And what better way to do that than with a table and a map?

Thicko that I am, I’ve only just realised that a map – or series of maps – is the best way to demonstrate how the group was assembled. I’d been fairly certain that all Simonds acquisitions were West of London and the map confirms this.

They were very active in buying other breweries, with 17 purchases between 1930 and 1954. With the exception of the war, they averaged almost one a year. In doing so, they amassed quite an estate of tied houses. In 1896 they owned 158 pubs, but by 1916 that was already up to 316. When they were absorbed into the Courage group in 1960, their estate stood at around 1,200 pubs.  Or around one-fifth of the later Courage estate.

Looking at the map, something immediately struck me: a similarity with the map of the Great Western Railway I have hanging over my telly. Simonds expansion until 1950 mostly followed the Great Western mainline from Reading out towards Wales. While in the 1950’s it was in the extreme Southwest of England, in Devon and Cornwall, another branch of the GWR. Coincidence? I suspect not.

You can see why they made a very attractive takeover target for anyone wanting a presence in the West Country and South Wales. To Courage, very much centred on London and the Southeast, they offered an easy route to total coverage of the South. When John Smiths was added in 1970, pretty much all of England was covered.

Like J W Green, Simonds seem to have run out of breath in the mid-1950’s and just coasted along for a few years until themselves being gobbled up. What was the reason? Personal? Financial? Or both? I’ll need to dig a bit deeper.

These are the breweries Simonds took over in handy table form:

H & G Simonds acquisitions
year brewery address tied houses closed
1919 George Crake Tamar Bry Plymouth 28 1975
1919 Mackeson & Co. Ltd. Hythe 1929
1920 South Berks Brewery Ltd. West Mills Brewery and Atlas Brewery Newbury 150/200 1920/1930
1930 Ashby’s Staines Bry Ltd Staines 185 1931
1930 Wheelers Wycombe Brys Ltd High Wycombe 148 1931
1931 Newbury Bry Co Ltd Newbury
1935 W J Rogers Ltd Bristol 1952
1938 Cirencester Bry Ltd Cirencester 90 1937
1937 Lakeman’s Bry Brixham 50 1950
1938 R H Stiles Bridgend 27 1937
1939 J L Marsh & Sons Ltd Blandford Forum 8
1945 R B Bowly & Co Ltd Swindon 41 1945
1947 John May & Co Ltd Basingstoke 90/100
1948 East Africa Brys Nairobi, Kenya
1949 Phillips & Sons Ltd Newport 125 1968
1951 R Grant & Sons Torquay
1951 South Devon Brewery Ltd plus C W Blundell (Plymouth) Union Road, Kingsbridge 25 1948
1953 Pool & Son Ltd Penzance 1953
1954 Octagon Bry Ltd Plymouth 50 1970
"The Brewing Industry a Guide to Historical Records” by Lesley Richmond and Alison Turton, 1990, page 298.
"A Century of British Breweries plus" by Norman Barber, 2005, pages 3, 5, 22, 24, 25, 34, 35, 39, 45, 46, 118, 131 and 158

And here’s the map:

Black: original brewery
Green: <= 1920
Red: 1930 – 1945
Blue: 1945 – 1949
Orange:  > 1950

And, what the hell, here’s another table, too:

Simonds tied houses 1839 - 1916
year tied houses
1839 37
1872 79
1896 158
1916 316
"The Brewing Industry a Guide to Historical Records” by Lesley Richmond and Alison Turton, 1990, pages 297 - 298.

I’ve drawn up a map of the breweries John Smiths bought. That also tells a story.


The Beer Nut said...

"Swindon, Basingstoke, Nairobi" must have looked great on the letterhead.

Stonch Beer said...

What about their JV with Farrugia & Sons in Malta?

Stonch Beer said...


Ron Pattinson said...


I left out Farsons because it didn't fit in nicely.

I'm not turning off comment moderation. Too many nutters out there.

Graham Wheeler said...

Being a Wheeler, being closely interested in Wheeler's Wycombe Breweries, and still living in Wycombe, I feel compelled to comment. Wheeler's got shot of the brewery in 1929 in a spasm of spite over the local council's tampering with licences, both existing licences and attempted applications for new houses. They seemed to have been rather proud of putting more than 70 brewery employees out of work and viewed it as teaching the local council a lesson. It was billed as a merger between Ashby's of Staines and Wheeler's, and I suspect that the Wheelers acquired a substantial shareholding in the joint company as a consequence of this, but it might have amounted to a takeover. Wheeler's willingly sold out and were the prime movers in this action, and they then buggered off to the Channel Islands. Within six months of this "merger" Simonds took over Ashbys. The number of pubs involved were up in the high 160s which is a huge number for a small market town such as Wycombe, but they had pubs scattered over a very wide area. Some of these pubs were leased from the Lords of the Manors, and may account for your figure of 148, because they probably did not count as true acquisitions.

The convoluted history of Wheeler's makes it very difficult to research because the surviving documentation is scattered over a number of locations; Buckinghamshire central archives at Aylesbury in which some of the documents are "sealed", for reasons that I don't understand and I have to get permission from someone to view and nobody seems to know who that someone is; Reading library archives; The Courage archives at their regional head office on the old Ashby's site at Staines, presumably now gone; one or two other ex-courage brewery sites as high probabilities and national Archives. So if you do stumble across anything interesting that is Wheeler related I would be much obliged if you make it known.

madtom said...

The South Devon Brewery location has been left blank. They were based in Kingsbridge, Devon and also known as Prowse and Sons.