Huge guffaws from me at the news that Punch Taverns is to bring back to life for a third time the name Taylor Walker, a former London porter brewer that had strong links with the earliest days of brewing in Philadelphia. Clearly, to be a marketing man you have to have every irony-containing cell filleted from your body. This really does smell of desperately reinventing the past to paint over a tawdry present.
Although Taylor Walker’s substantial brewery in the East End closed exactly half a century ago, the name will still be familiar to many drinkers in their late 20s and upwards. This is because in November 1979, what was then the giant brewing/pub owning corporation Allied Lyons decided to revive the name Taylor Walker for its London pub operations, as part of a plan, apparently, to pretend that it wasn’t a giant brewing/pub owning corporation. (This also involved reviving other vanished brewery names, such as Benskin’s of Hertfordshire and Friary Meux of Surrey.) Suddenly hundreds of London pubs had the Taylor Walker name painted on to their fascias (even though many had never belonged to Taylor Walker), while their innsigns sported a “cannon” trademark that had, in fact, belonged to one of the many concerns Taylor Walker had taken over, the Cannon Brewery of St John Street, Clerkenwell.
Twenty years later, in 1999, Allied (by now Allied Domecq) sold all its pubs to Punch, and the Taylor Walker name disappeared again. Now, 11 years on, Punch has decided that it wants to dig this twice-dead corpse up once more and slap the words “Taylor Walker” on the front of about a hundred or so of the more “iconic” (for which read “old-looking and marginally upmarket”) outlets run by its managed pub arm, Punch Pub Company.
If you think this is copying the rival pub company Mitchell & Butlers (itself operating under the name of a long-vanished brewery) and its up-market Nicholsons pub chain, tsk – you’re as cynical as me. Clive Briscoe, Punch Pub Co’s marketing director, insists: “This is not a rebranding exercise but an opportunity to badge together a whole range of iconic London pubs.” But among the basketful of ironies in this is that one of the pubs that will bear the revived Taylor Walker name is the Anchor at Bankside, Southwark, which was once the brewery tap of Taylor Walker’s great porter-brewing rival, Barclay Perkins. (Another irony is that Punch, even though it owns many former Taylor Walker pubs, has had to licence the Taylor Walker name off Carlsberg, which acquired Allied’s brewing business, and all its beer brands, in the 1990s.)
Naturally, Punch’s PR company has screwed up the history, claiming in the announcement of the revival that “the Taylor Walker name dates back to 1730”. No it doesn’t: the concern never became Taylor Walker until 1816. But the history of Taylor Walker as recorded pretty much everywhere is full of errors: you’ll see it stated, for example, that the brewery “moved to Fore Street, Limehouse” and then “moved to Church Row, Limehouse”, when in fact it stayed exactly where it was, expanding from a small 18th century brewhouse to eventually cover more than seven acres, which abutted Fore Street (now part of Narrow Street) on one side and Church Row (now Newell Street) on another.
Let’s take a history of Taylor Walker you might cobble together in 10 minutes from various internet sources and see how much is actually true:
Founded 1730 as Salmon and Hare at Stepney – I don’t know what the evidence for this is, but the title deeds for the brewery’s properties only, apparently, go back to 1732, and there’s no evidence I know that the concern began in Stepney itself. Certainly a man called Hare was the earliest known owner and he was in partnership, at least later, with various people called Salmon – and later became Hare and Hartford. HARFORD, not Hartford (I’m looking at you, Wikipedia – again). And I can’t find any evidence that Harford had a partnership with Hare. Hare and Harford operated the brewery until 1796, when John Taylor bought Richard Hare’s share in the business – no, Hare was gone by 1792, at least, and Harford and Taylor ran the brewery. I don’t know if it was Hare’s share Taylor acquired – and was joined by Isaac Walker in 1816 when the business became known as Taylor Walker. That’s true, at least. Moved to Fore Street, Limehouse by 1823. No, it had been just off Fore Street from at least 1745, and the concern’s address was given as Fore Street proper in the 1760s. In 1889 the business moved from Fore Street no it didn’t, and a new brewery was built at Church Row, Limehouse no, the new brewery was at least partly developed on an extension of the old site, and the “front door” was now in Church Row rather than Fore Street or Ropemakers’ Fields, named the Barley Mow Brewery. That’s true. So that’s 12 “facts” about the history of Taylor Walker, five unproven/with no evidence, five wrong and only two definitely correct.
There’s actually very much more to the history of Taylor Walker, at one time one of the three Quaker-owned London porter giants, alongside Barclay Perkins and Truman Hanbury & Buxton, than that brief selection of mis-statements indicates. There’s the Philadelphia connection, for example; and the dodgy dealings involving hidden brewery pipes, tax avoidance and unlawful ingredients; the marital row that broke up the brewery partnership; the family of almost legendary cricketers, rivals to WG Grace and his brothers; the exports to India and Australia; the takeovers of ten other breweries from Kent to Bristol; and the near-death by German bombing. Who wants to buy the TV rights?
Taylor Walker themselves claimed to have been founded in 1730. Breweries’ claimed foundation dates are astonishingly unreliable, sometimes too early, sometimes too late, and without evidence this has to be marked as “unproven”. It is also sometimes said that the concern was founded by two men called Salmon and Hare “in Stepney”, moving later to Limehouse. Again, I have seen no evidence for this. Limehouse was originally part of Stepney parish, and became a parish in its own right only in 1729. Any original documents placing the concern in “Stepney” in 1730 may have actually meant Limehouse.
The brewery certainly seems to have been going by 1735, because Richard Hare, brewer of Limehouse, is recorded in April that year in the Hackney petty sessions books putting up £20 bail money for one John Williams to appear in court on an assault charge. Hare was born in 1700, and he is sometimes said to be a member of the Hare family of Stow Hall in east Norfolk, though Hare family historians have been unable to make any link. His premises, in 1735 or later, were the Ship Brewhouse in Becks Rents, between Fore Street, Limehouse and Ropemakers’ Field. The Ship brewhouse is shown on John Rocque’s map of London, drawn up circa 1741-45, and it grew into “one of the largest establishments for brewing porter in England”.
When exactly the Salmon family interest started in the brewery in Limehouse I haven’t discovered. In 1745, according to the deeds of the Crown at Bellwater Gate, Woolwich, across the Thames from Limehouse, Richard Hare was in partnership in Limehouse with John Hare of Woolwich,
(presumably a relative – his elder brother, born 1693 (Richard Hare also lived in Woolwich by 1752) and James Salmon. In 1749/50, according to another lease in the London Metropolitan Archives, John Hare, Sarah Salmon and Richard Hare were “copartners in a brewhouse”. Another lease in the same set of records, from 1753, refers to “John Hare, Sarah Salmon and Richard Hare, brewers”. Three years later a lease for the Duke of Cumberland in Woolwich High Street lists the partners as John Hare, Richard Hare and John Salmon.
In 1757 Richard Hare evidently had two new partners, when he, Robert Salmon and John Kilner were leasing a pub called the Roman Eagle in Church Street, Deptford. The Universal Pocket Companion of 1767 lists “Hare, Salmon and Kilner, brewers, Fore Street, Limehouse”, while the St Anne’s church, Limehouse poor rate records for the same year show Robert Salmon and “Hare, Messers & Co” in Fore Street. In April 1772 the Town and Country magazine recorded that “Mr Robert Salmon, brewer, at Limehouse” had married Miss Thornton of Halton, in Lancashire. After that, the Salmons’ connection with the brewery seems to vanish.
Richard Hare, who married twice, the second time, in 1745, to Martha Harford, daughter of the Reverend Henry Harford, had five sons, including Richard junior, born 1747, James, born 1749, who joined the Church of England, Charles, who became a captain in the Royal Navy, and Robert, born 1752. In 1773, aged 21, Robert emigrated to America with a gift from his father of £1,500 and, it appears, a notebook of porter-brewing recipes, dates 1770-71 and now in the possession of the Historical Society of Pennsylvania. Robert arrived in Philadelphia and within a short while set up, like his father, as a porter brewer, supposedly the first in America. The business was an almost instant success. George Washington became very partial to Robert Hare’s porter, and would send his carriage from Virginia to Hare’s brewery in Callowhill Street, Philadelphia to pick it up. In 1776 Robert was described in a letter written by John Adams, later the second president of the United States, as “the famous brewer of porter, who is carrying on that business here with great reputation and success and on a very large scale.”
(There is evidence that the Limehouse brewery may have been previously exporting its own beers to America: “Robert Salmon Esq, brewer, Limehouse” appears as a subscriber to a book published in 1764 called The American Negotiator or the Various Currencies of the British Colonies reduced into English money, along with at least 11 other brewer-subscribers, including Henry Thrale of the Anchor brewery, Southwark, later Barclay Perkins. This suggests that there were times when the Limehouse brewery was being paid in Pennsylvania pounds or Massachussetts pounds for its beer and wanted to know the exchange rate into sterling.)
Robert’s father actually died in 1776 – he was described in the Gentleman’s Magazine as “Richard Hare Esq an eminent brewer and justice for Middlesex, remarkable for his son’s having carried porter brewing to the highest perfection in Philadelphia” – and the father was followed at the Limehouse brewery by his eldest son, Richard junior.
In January 1785 Richard junior was contemplating buying a steam engine for the brewery and wrote to Boulton and Watt in Birmingham requesting an estimate for one “like that of Goodwyn and Co’s” at the Red Lion brewery, another substantial porter brewer a little further up the Thames, between Wapping and the Tower of London. However, Hare warned the Birmingham firm, he had heard that Boulton and Watt were very expensive, and he had also talked to “Mr Wood of Oxford” about buying one of Wood’s patent steam engines. A short while later Hare told the Birmingham firm that “another brewer Mr Clowes [of the Stoney Lane brewhouse in Bermondsey, one more ‘top 15’ London porter brewer] has made calculations that a 9 horse steam engine saves nothing for a brewery”, and he would make no purchase until he had talked to Clowes.
The following year Hare was hammered by the authorities for a long list of offences in connection with the brewery, and fined the considerable sum of £1,250 in total: £800 for failing to pay the £400 duty on 1,000 barrels of strong beer; £200 for illegally possessing 100 pounds of molasses and using it in the brewing of 1,000 barrels of beer; £50 for illegally mixing together 500 barrels of strong beer and 500 barrels of small beer; £200 for illegally having underground pipes to convey beer about the brewery (presumably to hide brews from the exciseman); and £20 for using 100 pounds of “essentia bina”, an illegal colouring made from burnt sugar, in brewing 1,000 barrels of beer (probably porter).
Eventually Richard Hare junior left the by now “extensive” brewery (he was later described as “a gentleman of Bath”, and died in Bath in 1822) and handed it over to two Quakers, John Vickris Taylor from Southgate, North London and Truman (or Trueman) Harford from Bristol. Whether Truman Harford was a relative of Richard Hare through Richard’s mother Martha, née Harford, I have been unable to discover. John Taylor may have been the nephew of the Esther Taylor who was married to Captain Charles Hare, son of Richard, though I doubt it: I can’t see someone from a Quaker family marrying someone who was in the Royal Navy.
Taylor and Harford were certainly in business together by December 1793, when “Trueman Harford and John Vicaries Taylor” (sics) are described as partners and porter brewers in a case at the Old Bailey involving copper worth eight shillings and ninepence allegedly stolen from their brewery. A likely date for Taylor joining Harford at the brewery (and possibly for Richard Hare leaving) is November 1792, judging by the evidence given in a pair of court cases in 1803 and 1805. It appears that Hare had taken out a patent in September 1791 on an apparatus designed to use the steam from the wort as it was being boiled to heat water for the next mash, at the same time capturing the hop oils evaporating off the boiling wort. On November 5 the following year, Hare signed an agreement that allowed Taylor and Harford the right to use his apparatus for 14 years, for an annual payment of £100.
However, Taylor and Harford eventually discovered that something very similar to Hare’s steam-capture idea had been invented earlier by a brewer from Oxford called Thomas Sutton Wood, who looks as if he might be the same man Hare had talked to about steam engines in 1785, and who had been given a patent for his invention in that exact year. You might think that someone as dodgy as Hare, judging by the events of 1786, was well up to nicking someone else’s patent idea and passing it as his own. I couldn’t possibly comment. Taylor and Harford stopped paying Hare his £100 a year in 1797, and Hare sued for the rest of his money. In July 1803 a jury at the Guildhall court in London ruled that Wood’s prior invention invalidated Hare’s patent, and Hare was therefore not entitled to any more money. Taylor and Harford then sued Hare in their turn, to get back the £425 they had already paid him. Unfortunately for the partners, the Court of Common Pleas in London ruled in 1805 that Hare could keep the cash.
Harford was evidently the senior partner in the brewery: Kent’s directory for 1794 records the concern as “Harford & Co. Brewers, Fore street, Limehouse”. He was named for his grandfather, Truman Harford, a Quaker merchant born in Bristol around 1700, son of Charles Harford and Rachel Truman. The younger Truman was born in July 1758, and by 1776 he seems to have been a silk merchant in Bristol. In August 1789 he married Mary Biddle in Esher, Surrey.
John Vickris Taylor and Truman Harford knew each other through the Society for Effecting the Abolition of the Slave Trade, in which each played a leading part, as well as through their membership of the Society of Friends. Taylor was another member of an old Quaker family, his name dating back to the marriage of James Taylor, a Cheapside linen draper who died in 1716 in London, to Elizabeth Vickris, who was born in 1673 in Somerset, and whose mother had been a member of an influential Quaker family in Bristol, the Bishops.
A map of London drawn up around 1795 shows “Harford & Co’s brewery” as three substantial buildings now filling in between Ropemakers’ Fields and Fore Street, with what looks like possibly more brewery buildings on the north side of Ropemakers’ Fields. The main yard looks to have opened out into Ropemakers’ Fields, and this is the street that seems to have been regarded locally as the brewery’s address, judging by a couple of court cases in which it is mentioned, until its rebuilding in 1889.
One innovation tried out at the Limehouse brewery under the new partners was to use mules rather than drayhorses to pull the drays. John Lawrence, author of A Philosophical and Practical Treatise on Horses, wrote in 1796:
It is urged that the chief use of large horses in town is as fillers to stand the shaking of slop carts and other very ponderous loads but I think a gross and bulky or a tall leggy horse can never be so able to endure this, as a square muscular boney one of fifteen three or sixteen hands high. Those over-grown cattle are apt to be too much shaken by their own weight. The practical arguments, however, of Messieurs Trueman [sic] Harford and Co of Limehouse are of more validity than a whole folio of my theoretical ones. The drays of those gentlemen have for some months past been drawn by three mules each, the highest of which did not appear to me above fourteen hands. They carry three butts of beer from Limehouse to London, the same weight precisely which the London drays carry with three large horses
Truman Harford died three days before his 45th birthday, in July 1803, the same month he and Taylor won their first court case against Richard Hare over the patent brewery heat-saver. John Vickris Taylor carried on the brewery under his own name, slowly pushing it up the league table of London porter brewers: for the year July 1807-July 1808 it was the 12th largest in the capital, at 32,800 barrels (with Henry Meux the largest at 190,160 barrels), by 1817-18 Taylor’s was 10th with 47,775 barrels, still a long way behind the leader, Barclay Perkins, on 340,560 barrels, and by 1827-28 it was ninth, on 65,238 barrels.
In 1816 Taylor had taken as a partner in the brewery another scion of a wealthy Quaker family, Isaac Walker, then just 22. Isaac’s grandfather, also called Isaac, a linen merchant had bought Arnos Grove, a seventeenth-century mansion in Southgate, north-east Middlesex in 1777, making him a neighbour of the Taylors: the families were already linked by both being related to Walker Gray, a Quaker brandy merchant who owned Southgate Grove (later called Grovelands). John Vickris Taylor had married a Miss Donnithorne in Fetcham in 1797. Their eldest daughter, Sarah Sophia, was born around 1801 at her parents’ home in Palmers Green, Southgate. Naturally the Walkers and the Taylors, neighbours, relatives and business partners, mixed socially, and it can have been little surprise to anyone when, in 1823, Isaac Walker married Sophia Taylor.
Sophia’s brother John Donnithorne Taylor, born 1798, eventually joined the brewery partnership, and so, too, apparently, did Isaac Walker’s brother Edwin, born 1805. John D Taylor, who was to inherit Grovelands from his uncle Walker Gray, married Elizabeth Thompson in 1830. They had six children, before his wife left him in 1837, accusing him, he claimed, of adultery, a charge he denied. The next year she demanded that he take her back, which he refused to do. The courts found for Mrs Taylor and ordered her husband, who was said to have an income of £8,000 a year, to pay his wife £800 a year until he restored her conjugal rights by taking her back. He appealed, and in 1842 the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council, the highest court in England, ruled against him. To avoid having to take his wife back, Taylor fled abroad, resigning from the brewery partnership in 1843. But while the Walkers carried on as sole partners, the concern continued to be called Taylor Walker. Isaac Walker was replaced after some years as a partner it appears, by his eldest son John, born 1826, and Edwin by his eldest boy, Charles Hoggart Walker, born 1831. (John D Taylor eventually returned to England and died in 1885, by which time he owned more than 600 acres in Southgate and Winchmore Hill.)
Isaac Walker, who died in 1853, apparently in an epileptic fit, and Sophia had seven sons and five daughters: enough offspring to ensure continuity, you might have thought. In fact none of the sons married (though all of the daughters did); instead the Walker boys spent much of their time playing cricket, with remarkable success. They were mainly responsible for the founding of the Middlesex County Cricket Club in 1864, and one Walker brother after another captained the club for its first 20 years. The star of the family was Vyell Edward Walker, known as Teddy, who devoted the two decades after he left school to cricket, before finally joining the family firm. In July 1859, aged 22, he scored a century for England versus Surrey at the Oval, and took all ten Surrey wickets in the first innings for 74 runs. He was to take all ten wickets in an innings on two more occasions. Before WG Grace began his long dominance of the game, VE Walker was considered, in the early 1860s, the best all-rounder in the country, and he and his two younger brothers, Isaac Donnithorne Walker and Russell Donnithorne Walker, helped make Middlesex a powerful cricketing county.
By 1868 at the latest (and probably long before) Taylor Walker was brewing India Pale Ale and shipping it to Bombay, using shippers based in Fore Street, Duncan Dunbar and Sons. The brewery also exported its beers to Australia: in October 1858 L Solomon’s Stores of Currie Street, Adelaide told readers of the South Australian Advertiser that it had in stock Taylor Walker’s stout, as well as Bass No 3 Burton, and ale and porter from the London beer bottler RB Byass. Like most London breweries, Taylor Walker took its brewing water from wells: a book in 1875 said that a well bored between 80 and 90 Fore Street found water 160 feet down which was calculated to give a supply of more than 25,000 gallons an hour.
The brewery looks to have been rebuilt about 1820, but in 1889 a substantial new brewery, designed by the brewery architects Inskipp & Mackenzie, was added on, covering land once used for the Limehouse workhouse. The additional 150-quarter plant now gave the concern a new address, as well, with the brewery offices being in Church Row, part of a street originally running north from Ropemakers’ Fields. The concern was now called the Barley Mow brewery, rather than the Limehouse brewery, as it had been before. The name evidently came from the now-demolished Barley Mow pub opposite the Grapes in Fore Street/Narrow Street (not to be confused, though it has been, with the later Barley Mow further west along Narrow Street, now called The Narrows, which was the former Limehouse Basin dockmaster’s house. Among the sources making this mistake is Wikipedia – there’s a shock).
The Walker brothers were replaced at the brewery by sons of their sisters, notably John Bradshaw, who joined Taylor Walker in 1885 (and who spent 54 years at the brewery, rising to chairman), his brother Robert and their cousin Edward Stanhope Rashleigh. Taylor Walker became a limited company in 1907, the year after the death of Vyell Edward Walker, who left an estate worth £1.6 million.
Even before the First World War, Taylor Walker was acquiring other brewery firms to boost its tied house estate: John Furze & Co of the St George Brewery in the Commercial Road, not far from Limehouse, in 1901, and the Highbury Brewery, Holloway Road, North London in 1912.
In 1927 Taylor Walker became a public company. The takeovers of other concerns continued: Smith Garrett and Co of the nearby Bow Brewery (once owned by the Hodgsons, famed for their India Pale Ale), also in 1927; the Victoria Wine Company, a chain of off-licences, in 1929; Glenny’s brewery, Barking, Essex, with 15 pubs, in October the same year; the Cannon brewery in Clerkenwell, with nearly 600 pubs, in November 1930 (the Clerkenwell brewery stayed open another 25 years, closing only in September 1955); Wells & Perry’s Chelmsford brewery, Essex in June 1934. It also acquired along the way a gin distillery in the nearby Mile End Road, Curtis & Co.
In March 1941 German incendiary bombs set the brewery on fire, halting production for 18 months, and forcing Taylor Walker to rely on other breweries to supply its pubs. The blow did not stop the company from making more acquisitions: in 1943 it extended its reach to Truman Harford’s birthplace, buying EA Mitchell of Bristol. Three years after the war, in 1948, it bought Bushell Watkins & Smith’s Black Eagle brewery in Westerham, Kent.
As the British economy slowly recovered from the war, in 1949, Taylor Walker brought out a new strong beer, Reserve pale ale. The company’s best-known beer, however, was a strong(-ish) dark mild called Mainline, a name well enough associated with the brewery that when it produced an illustrated map showing all its pubs in the south-east of England some time in the mid-1950s it called the area “Taylor Walker Mainland”. It carried on acquiring other brewers: Chesham and Brackley Breweries in 1956; Ward and Sons of Foxearth, Sudbury, Suffolk in 1957, with 29 pubs. In 1959 Taylor Walker was still brewing at Limehouse, and in Westerham and Brackley, and controlling an estate of 1,360 pubs and off-licences, with 650 in London.
That June, however, after four years of rumours, the company announced that it was being taken over by Ind Coope, brewer of one of the biggest nationally advertised bottled beers, Double Diamond, and owner of breweries in Burton upon Trent and Romford, Essex. For shareholders, it was extremely welcome: Ind Coope was offering 56 shilling for every Taylor Walker share, 21 shillings more than the highest price they had reached at any time in the previous five years. Taylor Walker admitted that talks between the two concerns had begun back in 1953. Seven months after the takeover announcement, in January 1960, Ind Coope declared that Limehouse brewery site would be closed, with 1,350 of the 1,950 workers losing their jobs. Within a few years the Barley Mow brewery was demolished.
The revival of the brewery’s name in 1979 included the brewing (at Romford, initially) of a beer called Taylor Walker Bitter, and even, for a short while, the return of a beer called Mainline. Selling a dark mild in the 1980s, however, was tough, and it disappeared quickly. When Punch acquired the Allied pub estate, Taylor Walker bitter died too. Now the name, at least, is back again – the brewery they just can’t kill.
I hope you found bits of that interesting: what is interesting, I think, is that it contains more information, and more accurate information, on Taylor Walker’s history than you’ll find in any other single place, and I put it together from just a couple of days’ Googling. You could have done it as well. The increasing digitisation/internetting of old documents is starting to make it almost trivially easy for anyone to research practically anything without moving from their computer. The problem is that the internet also makes it easy to spread rubbish, so that far too many sites now repeat, for example, that the Taylor Walker name goes back 280 years, or that Gordon Ramsey’s The Narrow restaurant, when it was called the Barley Mow, was “attached” to the Barley Mow brewery – please, they were 400 yards apart and on different sides of the road and different sides of the entrance to Limehouse basin.
There’s plenty more to discover about the history of Taylor Walker that’s not available, or doesn’t seem to be available, on the net – I’d like to know, for example, when the dockmaster’s house took the name of the old Barley Mow pub further up the road, and when Fore Street as an address disappeared and it became an extension of Narrow Street. Over to you.