London Breweries – 1787 – Royal Visit

This is the second part in our two part series on the breweries of London – it covers a time when King George III visited Samuel Whitbreads brewery.  The article is from the book London – Volume 3 published in 1824 by Sholto and Reuben Percy – Brothers of the Benedictine Monastery

Read other posts in the London series


London Breweries – 1787 – Royal Visit

Some of the principal breweries are among the curiosities of London which every stranger is anxious to see. That known by the name of Whitbread’s brewery, in Chiswell Street, the plant of which was, a few years ago, sold for nearly a million of money, was deemed worthy of a royal visit at a time that its business was not so extensive, nor its arrangements so complete, as at present.

It was on the 28th of May, 1787, that his late majesty, George III., accompanied by his illustrious consort and the three princesses, and attended by several lords and ladies in waiting, visited the brewery. They arrived at ten o’clock in the morning, and were received by Mr. Whitbread and his daughter, who conducted them over the brewery. In the stone cistern there were 3007 barrels of beer, but the vat excited the most surprise, and the queen and princesses determined to enter it, though the aperture was so small that it was with difficulty they could accomplish it. This cistern, which is of stone, will hold upwards of 4000 barrels of beer. After their Majesties had passed nearly four hours in investigating the brewery, they were conducted to the house, where a cold collation with every delicacy had been provided. There were wines of every sort, and a quantity of Whithread’s Entire, of which the royal visitors partook, and then retired highly gratified. The brewery of Messrs. Barclay is on an equally magnificent scale.

A singular and melancholy accident happened to one of the London porter breweries, that of Messrs. Henry Meux and Co., in Tottenham Court Road, on the 17th of October 1814, when one of the largest of their vats, filled with beer, burst, and the liquor, like a mighty torrent, swept away every thing before it. One side of the house, in which the vat was placed, was entirely thrown down, though twenty-five feet high, and part of the roof fell in. The back part of several houses in Great Russell Street and New Street were thrown down, and the whole neighbourhood was inundated. The height of the vat which burst was twenty-two feet, and contained 3555 barrels of porter. On this vat there were twenty-two hoops, the least of which weighed seven cwt, and the largest a ton. The  explosion was supposed to be owing to one of the hoops having burst. Several other vats were injured, and nearly 9000 barrels of beer wasted: the loss amounted to £25,000, and eight persons were killed by this fatal accident.

It has already been stated that great quantities of London porter are exported. It was, however, long before malt liquor could be kept in a tropical climate; and the inhabitants of the East and West Indies are indebted to the late Mr. Kenton, for being enabled to regale themselves with London porter. This gentleman, who died worth £300,000, fifty thousand of which he saved at the Crown and Magpie public house, Whitechapel, discovered, that by leaving the bottles uncorked for a few weeks, and shipping the beer as flat as possible, it might be conveyed to the East Indies, and that during the voyage it had so completely recovered its briskness as to possess all the virtues of London genuine porter. The ale and small beer breweries, and the distilleries in London, are on a great scale, though inferior to the potter breweries.

Excerpt from London Volume 3 1824 by Sholto and Reuben Percy – Brothers of the Benedictine Monastery


Further reading and external links

The Whitbread Brewery on Wikipedia

Samuel Whitbread on Wikipedia