Anchor brewery

On the southern bank of London's river Thames, between St. Saviour's Church and Southwark Bridge Road, with its principal entrance in Park Street, was the renowned Anchor Brewery, which has held a reputation for strong ale from very early times. We have met somewhere with an old couplet …

The nappy strong ale of Southwirke
Keeps many a gossip from the kirke.

That there were breweries here as far back as the fourteenth century, for Chaucer speaks of "the ale of Southwark" in his time; and readers of that poet will not have forgotten, among the inhabitants of this part …

The miller that for dronken was all pale,
So that unethes upon his hors he sat.


The Globe which was built in 1599 by actors Richard and Cuthbert Burbage was burnt down during a production of Henry VIII in 1613, three years before Shakespeare’s death. The playhouse was rebuilt by July of the following year but like all other theatres, it was closed down by the Puritans in 1642, and it was destroyed in 1644 to make room for tenements having not reached its previous popularity and was demolished in 1644.

On the 28th December 1598, actors Cuthbert and Richard Burbage, fearing that the landlord would seize their theatre at Shoreditch, forestalled him by pulling down the building and transporting the materials to the south side of the Thames. A site had been acquired on Bankside and on it, in 1599, the Globe was erected. Fourteen years later, in 1613, the thatched roof of the playhouse caught alight, as a result of the firing of cannon during a performance of Henry VIII, and in a short time the building was burned to the ground. The new building, erected in the following year, never attained the success of its predecessor and, on the expiration of the lease in 1644, was pulled down. The site became covered with buildings and, in 1777, passed into the possession of Henry Thrale to become part of his brewhouse.

James Monger, the elder : owner 1616-1657

Anchor brewery plaque in Park Street, Southwark

Anchor brewery plaque in Park Street, Southwark. Courtesy of Carol and Gerard Law

Anchor brewery in Southwark was established by James Monger the Elder of Southwark in 1616 in the grimly-named Dead Man’s Place, next to the site where the original Globe Theatre used to stand after it was burnt down in 1613. Monger was a "Citizen and Clothworker of London".

The site on which the brewhouse was built was leased to him initially by Sir John Bodley for a term of 26½ years at an annual rent of £21 10s 0d. The freehold was purchased shortly after by Sir Mathew Brend, who sold it to "Hillarie Mempris, Cityzen and Haberdasher of London."

Hillarie Mempris, in turn, sold the "brewhouse in the tenure or occupation of James Monger" to John Partridge for the sum of £400. John Partridge bequeathed it to his daughter, Susannah, who later became the wife of Edward Noell of Clements Inn.

From that time until 1854, when the last of the property was purchased by Barclay, Perkins & Co., it remained part of "Noell's Estate."

James Monger, the younger : owner 1657-1670

In 1665 the brewhouse was in the tenure and occupation of James Monger, the Godson of the founder who had died in 1657.

James Child : owner 1670-1693

James Child, a Liveryman of the Grocers' Company, took ownership in 1665. James married to Ann Minnie at St. Botolph's, Aldersgate on 27 December 1659.

An entry in the public records in April 1666 states:

“The King to the Brewer’s Company, and recommends James Child, merchant of London, who has done faithful service in supplying the navy with beer, and has bought a brewhouse in Southwark to brew for the household and navy, for admission as a free brother of the same company, for the same fee as the late Timothy Alsop the king’s brewer paid … ”

Records of both the Brewers' Company and the Grocers' Company show that he was practising "the Art and Mistery of Brewing" in 1670; and, by so doing, getting into trouble with the former Company. After being summonsed by the Court of the Brewers' Company on 7 October 1670, he became a member on 9 November 1671 before the Court of Aldermen. After holding every office in the Brewers' Company, James Child was elected Master in 1693.

Like John Courage at Horselydown, James Child fancied a nautical symbol because of his connection with shipping and during his ownership the brewhouse became known as the Anchor. He supplied the navy with masts, yards and bowsprits as well as stores and beer. His partner during this period, was a Bankside neighbour, Sir John Shorter, who became Lord Mayor of London in 1687, and had John Bunyan - author of Pilgrim’s Progress - as his unofficial Chaplain.

King Charles granted two brewing licenses to the Anchor brewery in 1690 and these, with their bulky seals, have been preserved.

James Child and Edmund Halsey: owner 1693-1696

Edmund Halsey had come to London from his birthplace in Hertfordshire. How he came to the brewhouse can only be a matter of conjecture, but it is known that the families of Halsey and Child were related.

Halsey’s was one of the most spectacular success stories in brewing. He was the son of a St. Albans miller who had come to seek his fortune in London after quarrelling with his father. He started at Southwark as a brewhouse ‘Broomstick Clerk’, the term for the lowly employee who swept the yard and performed other menial jobs. He later rose to be Chief Clerk.

Possibly, James Child, much preoccupied with his shipping interests, regarded the brewery as just a useful diversification and was glad of the services of young Edmund Halsey to take the routine work off his hands.

In 1692 he was receiving 20/- a week, half the salary of his master; and within 20 months had become a partner. There is no evidence that he purchased his partnership and, as the deed was drawn up on the 6th November, 1693, only ten days before his marriage to one of James Child’s daughters - Anne. It might well have been his wife's dowry. Child had a deep affection towards Halsey, describing him as "my loving son-in-law".

From the date of the partnership, Halsey ran the business, and very efficiently, as the Cash Bulletin for the years 1693 to 1702 shows regular sums of upto £100 per week, large amounts in those days, were paid in excise duty; and in May, 1695, both he and Child drew £400 each in profits. In his cash book, he records that, apart from his normal salary, he also received a further weekly sum as brewer, kept a "rideing horse at the Livery Stables" chargeable to the brewery and, in June, 1697, received £52 " as by consent of Mo: Child for manageing the trade last year.

Child died in September, 1696, and, by his will, directed that his estate be equally divided into three , one-third being left to Anne Child nèe Minnie, his wife, and the remaining two-thirds to his daughters under the age of 21 years, "the rest of my children having had their portions already". His widow retained her husband's interest in the brewhouse, Halsey paying her a weekly sum until her death in 1701.

Edmund Halsey MP : owner 1696-1729

Domestic accounts kept by Edmund Halsey in the 17th century

Domestic accounts kept by Edmund Halsey in the 17th century

During the first decade of the century Halsey amassed great wealth. Less than ten years after his first appearance at £1 a week in the firm’s accounts, on the 11th May, 1696, Halsey lent King William III £1,000. In 1698 he started to extend the Brewhouse and its trade. On the 23rd May of that year he "payd Mr. Coleman for Green Draggon Brewhouse £275". He paid large sums for new coppers and buildings and no doubt these included the extension of the business over the site of Shakespeare’s play-house: also he paid £3,500 to a Mr. Clarke, Brewer.

A valuable source of income seems to have been derived from lending money. One interesting item, dated 22 April 1700, reads…

"lent Tho: Winnett as per his noate £14. Lent Richd: Clarke as per his noate £15".

In the margin, he added "Excise Officers".

In March, 1701, he paid interest on a sum of £1,200 borrowed from E. Williams, but in June of the same year he repaid the principal.

By 1702 the last pages of his cash book record his personal expenditure — in 1701, £451 3s. 0d. and in 1702, £547 19s. 1.5d. — and detail such items as…

"Man's livery, new sadle and bridle, wine for Hunt, long wigs and short wigs, shoes, shirts and books and shooting for Tho. Halsey."

Edmund's wife, Anne, died in 1704. Thomas was his younger son, and both he and his brother, James, must have died young, for only Anne, his daughter, who married Richard, Lord Cobham, is mentioned in his will.

During the second decade he established his social position. In 1710 he stood for Parliament but was defeated. Later when his opponent died, however, he was returned as Member of Parliament for Southwark. This was disputed by Sir George Matthews who on the 14th January, 1711, petitioned the House of Commons, complaining of an undue return of Mr, Halsey, by bribery and other indirect practices, and also of partiality of the High Bailiff. The House resolved…

that Edmund Halsey is not duly elected

and also…

“that the said Henry Martin, Esq. (the Bailiff) be for the said offence taken into custody of the Sergeant at Arms attending this House”

Later Halsey fought two successful elections in 10th May, 1722 and 23rd January 1727 and represented in Southwark on and off for about ten years.

Edmund Halsey was Governor of St. Thomas’s Hospital in 1719, Master of the Brewers Company, and a Director of the South Sea Company. He followed the practice of other successful citizens of the Borough by acquiring agricultural land and a country seat.

His son Thomas, whose schooling was mentioned in the accounts in 1702, died young as did his brother James. His only daughter, Anne, was successfully married off into the peerage to Sir Richard Temple, 1st Viscount Cobham of Stowe from 1713 (1675-1749), friend of Alexander Pope.

He was described in the parish records as “Lord of the Manor” at Stoke Poges where he was buried on his death in August 1729. His will assigned not only the property in Southwark but farms at Orpington and Boughton Monchelsea and properties at Newington, Camberwell, Croydon and Mitcham, was left to his wife and daughter, then to Lord Cobham for life, and failing issue of the marriage, to his niece, Anna Smith, of St. Albans. Anna Smith was the sister of Ralph Thrale (1664-1711), the younger, who succeeded Halsey as the owner of the brewhouse and of whom Dr. Johnson wrote "he was employed for 30 years at 6/- a week in the brewhouse that was afterwards his own.

Ralph Thrale MP : owner 1729-1758

Ralph Thrale 1698-1758 by Hudson

Ralph Thrale 1698-1758 by Hudson

When public affairs and his manifold interests were taking up much of his time, Edmund Halsey having no sons to follow him, brought a young man into the business. This was Ralph Thrale, born in 1698, the only son of Ralph Thrale, the Elder (1665-1711), a yeoman, of Offley, Hertfordshire, and Anne Halsey, the sister of Edmund Halsey. He was described as…

a goodlooking fellow and as industrious as he was comely.

It seems likely that Ralph Thrale came to London to work in his uncle's Brewhouse after his father's death in 1711, aged around 13.

Samuel Johnson later wrote that Ralph Thrale…

worked at six shillings a week for twenty years in the great brewery which afterwards was his own.

Ralph learnt the business and did very well but managed to put his uncle’s nose out of joint domestically. When Ralph took a wife in the early 1720's, he choose Mary Dabbins, whom his uncle was contemplating as a second Mrs. Halsey. The uncle seems to have accepted the situation without complaint at the time. On Edmund Halsey's death in 1729, eighteen years after Ralph Thrale started at the brewery, there was no mention of Ralph Thrale in his will.

Transcript of William Hindley's 1747 conviction by the Old Bailey

Transcript of William Hindley's 1747 conviction by the Old Bailey

The brewery was inherited by Halsey's son-in-law, Viscount Cobham. A peer of the realm could not be connected with a brewery, so Cobham had to sell. This proved difficult, so it was suggested that the brewery be transferred to Ralph Thrale, known as being a sensible, active and honest man. Security for the sale price of for thirty thousand pounds was taken on the property (a hundred years previously it had changed hands for £400). That Ralph Thrale was the owner in 1731 is indicated by his name on a deed concerning the Brewhouse.

Eleven years after buying the Anchor Brewhouse, Ralph had repaid the loan and was making a large fortune.

Ralph Thrale … the greatest
brewer in England

—Grand Magazine I, 203

Ralph Thrale continued the expansion of the Brewhouse and purchased, amongst other land, a plot at Bankend upon which he built a waterworks to supply the business. Later these works were purchased by "The Borough Water Works," a company which replaced the machinery worked by horses with a steam engine in about the year 1770. Ralph expanded the business and by 1750 production rose to 46,100 barrels, equalling the other great London brewery - Benjamin Trumans. The same year the net assets were £72,000, however at the time of his death eight years later the net assets were £56,000. At this time Brewing was half as much as Trumans (60,000 barrels) and Whitbread (64,588 barrels).

Ralph Thrale was Member of Parliament for Southwark between 25 June 1741 and 1747. He was also High Sheriff of Surrey, and Master of the Brewers' Company in 1748.

In 1747 William Hindley was convicted at the Old Bailey of stealing two Butts from Ralph Thrale. Hindley's punishment was deportation.

Ralph had three daughters and a son called Henry Thrale. Henry’s allowance from his father was splendid, at least a thousand pounds a year.

Ralph used his riches to gave his four children the best education. Baron Cobham's esteem for Ralph gave him much attention, and his children associated with "men of first rank". Ralph used to say of his son Henry…

“If this young dog does not find so much after I am gone as he expects, let him remember that he had a great deal in my own time”

Ralph Thrale died on 9 April 1758. Upon his death a popular London Magazine of the time described Ralph as “the greatest brewer in England”. Grand Magazine I, 203.

Henry Thrale MP : owner 1758-1781

Henry Thrale had been brought into the brewer business by his father in 1748. Ten years later, after his father's death, Henry Thrale inherited the brewery aged 28. Dr. Johnson, said that Henry Thrale had…

"Good sense enough to carry on his father's trade."

Like his father, Henry expanded the business and in the first year alone the value of plant and equipment rose from £3,569 to £7,110 as a result of upgrading to more modern production increasing equipment. Henry was a pioneer in using a hydrometer and was the first major brewer to use it, in contrast to Whitbread and others. A short while later in 1760 Thrale's brewery was producing 30,000 barrels a year. Henry once said to Samuel Johnson…

“I would not quit the brewery for an annuity of ten thousand pounds a year. Not that I get ten thousand a year by it, but it is an estate to a family”

We are not here to sell a parcel of boilers and vats, but the potentiality of growing rich beyond the dreams of avarice

— Dr. Samuel Johnson

The brewery was situated in a 9 acre compound. Brewery House in which the Thrale's and Samuel Johnson lived during the winter, stood attached to offices at the entrance to the brewery yard, with the clerks' quarters, store houses, vaults and vats, dung pits and stabling for nearly 100 horses. It was plain, even bleak, but comfortable enough. During Henry's ownership more land was purchased, including the Castle Inn in 1764 and the Globe Playhouse in 1777.

Upstream towards Blackfriars Bridge (opened in 1769, during the Thrale’s time), some decent riverside houses had been built, but virtually everywhere else in the Borough there existed nothing more appealing than a jumble of workshops and poor workmen’s cottages. The very names of the streets were cheerless. The Thrales lived in Deadman’s Place, which led into Dirty Lane on one side and Foul Lane on the other. Deadman's Place, according to tradition, took its name from the number of dead interred there in the great plague, soon after the Restoration. Elmes, in his Topographical Dictionary, says it is the second turning on the left in Park Street, going from the Borough Market.

Entrance to Thrale's brewhouse in Park Street, Southwark. Southwark Bridge Road is also shown. by John Thomas Smith.

Entrance to Thrale's brewhouse in Park Street c.1850, by John Thomas Smith.

Maid Lane, which joined Deadman’s Place at the river end, according to Dodsley's London and Its Environs Described, published three years before Mrs Thrale’s arrival, was 'a long straggling place with ditches on either side; the passages to the houses being over little bridges'. The whole area was subject to flooding. Over the road was Clink Street, handy for the Clink Prison, described at the time as 'a very gloomy hole'. The prison was burnt down in the Gordon Riots of 1780, but even now prison is colloquially known as 'the clink'.

Virtually on the brewery premises was a stonecutter’s yard, noisy and dusty but presumably not too smelly. Behind lay an old burial ground, and nearby behind that an open sewer. Then there were the tanneries and Messrs Potts’s vinegar factory. Mixed in were odd patches of open space local used as tenter grounds for stretching cloth.

For friends and acquaintances elsewhere in London, the brewery was a difficult place to visit. To start with, cabmen could not find the way and boatmen one did not wish to. James Boswell one afternoon failed to persuade the boro boatmen at Hungerford Stairs - by Charing Cross - to go further than to ferry him over to the bank of the Thames immediately opposite, leaving him to walk the rest of the way. After all, there were few return fares to be picked up in Southwark. Later that night at 1 a.m., Boswell counted himself lucky to secure a hackney coach for the return journey. Society at the brewhouse then, Hester Thrale found very circumscribed, particularly in her early years there. It was some consolation that she had two carriages at her disposal, and she took to paying extended daily visits to her mother in Dean Street, Soho.

Thrale’s brewery

Thrale’s brewery. Click on image to enlarge.

Then Samuel Johnson came on the scene. His delight in London, coupled with his taste for paradox, did lead him to assert that Pepper Alley, a nearby lane leading down to the Thames, was as healthy a spot as Salisbury Plain and a much happier one.

At the same time his feet were never far off the ground. When the local clergyman preached on friendship, Johnson declared him a blockhead for choosing a subject so ill-fitted to such a busy place, where…

the men are thinking on their money, I suppose, and the women are thinking of their mops.

Johnson argued that Hester must come to terms with Southwark. To linger in the country, 'feeding the chickens till she starved her understanding', would do her no good and in particular it would sour her relations with her husband.

In November 1779 he wrote to her:

I do not see with so much indignation Mr Thrale’s desire of being the first Brewer, as your despicable dread of living in the borough … it is the business of the one to brew in a manner most advantageous to his Family, and of the other to live where the general interest may best be superintended.’ Four days later, he added: ‘You must take physick, or be sick; you must live in the Borough, or live still worse.

In 1772 Henry Thrale almost went bankrupt by the expense of a scheme for brewing beer without malt or hops. They were in debt to the tune of £130,000 (£13 million today). Hester Thrale raised money from her mother and other friends and cleared the debt in nine years. From this point on she took an active role in managing the Brewery and again after Henry’s stroke in 1779. In Thraliana, Hester lamented…

the Borough Winter which of all other things I most abhor’, but determined that she must go to the Southwark house& hack at the Trade myself. I hate it heartily, yea heartily! but if living in Newgate would be right I hope I should be content to live in Newgate.

In another entry, she added…

My duty shall make it Pall Mall to me.

Thrale's house at the brewery

Borough House at Thrale’s brewery in 1833. Click on image to enlarge.

More than thirty years after Hester Thrale had departed from grim, run-down Southwark she wrote to her friend Sir James Fellowes…

“The best years of my temporal existence — I don’t mean the happiest; but the best for powers of improvement, observation etc. — were passed in what is now Park Street, Southwark, but then Deadman’s Place”

Hester Thrale later compared the life of the wife of a country gentleman with that of a wealthy businessman…

“There is no doubt but that the wife of a trader who flatters himself that he has three or four thousand pounds o’ year, lives in much more splendour than the wife of a gentleman who has three or four thousand pounds o’ year estate: for the commercial man gains by his business a familiarity with money, tho’ totally unmingled with contempt of it, which the aristocrat cannot possibly obtain — who sees his cash so seldom, & finds it so necessary to his happiness. Meantime my country baronet or squire has what he thinks he has, & his wife knows how much and how little that amounts to — as well as himself: but the merchant’s lady never is informed of her husband’s circumstances any more than his whore is; she cannot be let in to the mysteries of a large & complicated business — probably she could not understand it if she was inform’d, more probably she would talk of it among her female companions, and most probably the acct. of it would interest her so little, she would drive away to the auction hoping wholly to forget it.”

Here was brewed Thrale’s Intire Porter which was well known as delicious ‘from the frozen regions of Russia to the burning sands of Bengal and Sumatra’. Henry was determined to out brew Whitbread. The brewery was also well known for it famous Thrale's Russian Stout and by 1760 Thrale had by become one of the top ten porter brewers in London.

Hester Thrale was not averse to using her golden tongue in the day-to-day business. She wrote to the brewery manager John Perkins in 1773…

'Cardess of the Blue Posts has turned refractory and applied to Huck's people who have sent him in beer. I called on him today however and by dint of unwearied solicitation - for I kept him at the coach-side for a full half hour - I got his order for six butts more.'

Entrance to Thrale's brewhouse in Park Street, Southwark. By John Thomas Smith

Entrance to Thrale's brewhouse in Park Street, Southwark. By John Thomas Smith (1766-1833). Click on image to enlarge.

The Globe site became covered in buildings and in 1777 it also passed into the hands of Henry Thrale who wished to expand the brewhouse.

On 1 March 1779 Hester Thrale wrote of the brewhouse in Thraliana

“The Government, for the second year, have taxed the brewery so as to curtail our particular income not less than two Thousand Pounds Sterling a Year.—dreadful Times!”

Shortly after Henry Thrale’s first stroke, Hester wrote…

“In the midst of publick & private Distress, here is my mad Master going to build at the boro’ House again:—new Store Cellars, Casks, & God knows what. I have however exerted my self & driv’n off his Workmen with a high Hand.—Is this a Time as Elijah say’d for oliveyards, & Vineyards? & Men Servants & Maid Servants? when our Trade & our profits are both decreasing daily? & the Nation itself stagnating with Imbecillity? I never saw any thing so absurd—surely his head is still confused; nothing but frenzy this Time excuse Expence to the amount of ten or twelve Thousand Pounds sure. ”

In July 1779, Hester Thrale wrote about that months brewery income. On 21 January 1780 she wrote in Thraliana

“We shall brew but Sixty Thousand Barrels of Beer this Year! pretty Times indeed; and Mr Smelt saying he wishes we had more Taxes, & the King more power: I wish the King would put an End to this destructive War I'm sure; the Year before last we brew'd 96,000 Barrels—last Year only 76,000, & this Winter we shall scarece turn 60,000. So horribly is the Consumption lessened by the War.”


Anchor Brewery Map 1875

Plan of Bankside (based on the 1875 Ordnance Survey) in Roberts H, Godfrey WH. Survey of London, Vol. 22, 1950. Note the Borough Waterworks Company (in red) which supplied water to the brewery. Click on image to enlarge.

The brewery had almost been burned to the ground a few months before Thrale’s death on 4 April 1781. The Gordon Riots, which broke out on June 2 and lasted until June 9, were a fanatical Protestant protest, led by Lord George Gordon, against the modification of the Catholic disability law, which Parliament had consented to in 1779. On 10 June 1780 following the appearance of a notice in a Bath and Bristol paper of that date in which Henry Thrale was falsely asserted to be a papist, the Thrales left Bath. Fanny Burney wrote in her diary…

“This villainous falsehood terrified us even for his personal safety, and Mrs. Thrale and I agreed it was best to leave Bath directly, and travel about the country.”.

The brewery was attacked on 6 June 1780. According to Perkins’s obituary notice (Gent. Mag. Ixxxii. 2, 592), the mob came direct from the release of the Newgate prisoners which was also destroyed in the riots, dragging the chains as spoils. Perkins mildly protested…

“it were a shame that men should be degraded by so heavy a load; and he would furnish them with a horse for that purpose:”

The bait succeeded. Perkins gave them some porter and food and they departed with loud Hurrahs when the troops arrived.

On 20 June 1780 Hester Thrale wrote this account of the riots in Thraliana

“I got back to Bath again, and staid there till the Riots drove us all away the first Week in June:we made a dawdling Journey cross the Country to Brighton where all was likely to be at peace: the Letters we found there however, shewed us how near we were to Ruin here in the Borough; where nothing but the astonishing Presence of Mind shewed by Perkins in amusing the Mob with Meat & Drink & Huzzaes, till Sir Philip Jennings Clerke could get the Troops & pack up the Counting House Bills Bonds &c: & carry them which he did to Chelsea College for Safety;—could have secured us from actual Undoing, The Villains had broke in, & our Brewhouse would have blazed in ten Minutes; when a property of 150,000£ would have been utterly lost, & its once flourishing possessors quite undone. Let me stop here, to give God Thanks for so very undeserved, so apparent an Interposition of Providence in our favour.

I left Mr Thrale at Brighthelmston, & came to Town again to see what was left to be done: we have now got Arms, & mean to defend ourselves by Force, if further Violence is intended. whenever I come on these mad Errands, Dear Mr Johnson is sure always to live with me, & Sir Philip comes every day at some Hour or another:—Good Creature how kind he is! and how much I ought to love him! God knows I am not in this Case wanting to my Duty. I have presented Perkins by my Master’s permission with two hundred Guineas, and a Silver Urn for his Lady, with his own Cypher on it, & this Motto—Mollis responsio, Iram avertit.”

In fact Hester’s letter of 29 June 1780, to Fanny Burney states…

“My master was not displeased that I had given Perkins two-hundred guineas instead of one—a secret I never durst tell before, not even to Johnson, not even to you”.

It is the greatest event of my life, I have sold my brew-house to Barclay the rich Quaker for £135,000

— Hester Thrale 1781

In February 1781, the Abroad-Clerk Mr Lancaster stole £2,000 from the brewery.

Henry Thrale died on 4 April 1781. Hester Thrale lacked the necessary technical knowledge necessary to run the brewery and was in the hands of the brewery manager John Perkins. With a Thrale son, she might have allotted Perkins a larger share of the profits - he anyway had to be made a partner - and kept the business in the family. But, as things were, a sale was inevitable. Of the twelve Thrale children, all the boys died, and there were left just four daughters; and, as Dr Johnson said…

What can misses do with a brewhouse?

Had ages and circumstances fitted, the solution might have been to marry one of the daughters to Perkins. But probably not, for his heavy, no nonsense north country features and the ungainly body look altogether too proletarian to be acceptable to society Thrales. Additionally, the ages were all wrong.

John Perkins married someone else. His second wife, Amelia Bevan, was the widow of an important City Quaker who was also a grandson of the yet more important David Barclay the elder (1682– 1769) - still known today for their bank. Through her, Perkins became part of a group of London rich with very different values to the Thrales. The Quakers brought up in a separate educational, cultural and social tradition, introduced an especial dedication and dynamism to business. Perkins and the Scottish-American David Barclay (1729-1809) united to buy out the Thrale interest in the Anchor Brewery along with The Castle. It was sold by H. Thrale &. Co. on 31 May 1781 for 135,000 pounds sterling (£13,500,000 or $25,000,000 today) and started trading as Barclay, Perkins & Company.


Thrale brewery circa 1785

Thrale brewery circa 1785. Click on image to enlarge.

Hester Thrale subsequently wrote…

“It is the greatest event of my life, I have sold my brew-house to Barclay the rich Quaker for £135,000 … I have by this bargain purchased peace & a stable fortune: restoration to my original rank in life, and a situation undisturbed by commercial jargon, unpolluted by commercial frauds; undisgraced by commercial connections … so adieu to brewhouse and Borough wintering, adieu to trade & tradesmen’s frigid approbation.”

Samuel Johnson - one of the executors of Henry Thrale’s will, when challenged about the value of the property by the wary bankers, famously replied…

We are not here to sell a parcel of boilers and vats, but the potentiality of growing rich beyond the dreams of avarice.

Thrale's purl (beer) recipe »

Barclay and Perkins Company Limited : owner 1781-1955

Thrale Brewery circa 1820 by Dean Wolstenholme the younger

Thrale Brewery circa 1820 by Dean Wolstenholme the younger. Click on image to enlarge.

Shortly after acquiring the Thrale Brewery, Barclay, Perkins & Company installed a Boulton & Watt steam engine (which was to last for a hundred years) as if to signal the resolve which was to turn the already very large business, henceforward known as the Angel Brewery, into the largest brewery in Europe and one of the sights of London. David Barclay the younger was one of the slave owners to emancipated his slaves in Jamaica.

From the 16th century on only Coopers Company in London owned the privilege of making all the casks used by London brewers. On 3 April 1797 Thrale and Co. were summoned to "answer complaint made against them for making casks on their premises." The outcome of this is unknown.

By 1810 production had increased to over 200,000 barrels a year, making it - at that time - the biggest brewery in the world, occupying 13 to 14 acres of ground. For sometime after the sale the brewery continued to be known as Thrale’s Brewery. It is known to have still been known as Thrale’s Brewery in 1790.

Entrance to Thrale's brewhouse in Park Street, by G Yates 1826

Entrance to Thrale's brewhouse in Park Street by G Yates 1826. Click on image to enlarge.

Samuel Johnson was was right. By 1815 Barclay, Perkins & Co. was the leading brewery in London, producing more than 330,000 barrels a year, with an extensive range of stabling, spacious enough to afford proper accommodation for 200 dray-horses. Visitors flocked to see the impressive Anchor brewhouse on the south side of Southwark Bridge, famous for its Russian Imperial Stout which was widely sold on the continent.

In 1832 the majority of the buildings were destryod in a fire, and rebuilt.

Victorian authors could not avoid pouring the celebrated porter into their books. There are many references to Barclay’s beer in the novels of Charles Dickens. Dick Swiveller claimed in the Old Curiosity Shop, published in 1840, that there was 'a spell in every drop against the ills of mortality'. It was a job at Barclay’s Brewery that Micawber had in mind when he was 'waiting for something to turn up'.

Anchor Brewery employed some 430 men in 1850 and had the largest output of beer of any firm in London. Dr Johnson eventually had his face plastered all over the brewery's bottle labels, as Barclay’s Doctor brand gained fame at home and abroad. An upright figure of the stout academic clutching a pint pot became the brewery's emblem.

Barclays Brewery in 1829

Barclays Brewery in 1829. Click on image to enlarge.

Shakespeare was not forgotten. In 1909 a bronze memorial was unveiled on the brewery wall in Park Street, showing a view of old Southwark, commemorating the fact that “Here stood the Globe Playhouse of Shakespeare, 1598-1613”. When the company produced a Festival Ale in 1951 to mark the Festival of Britain, the Globe Theatre was featured on the label.

John Perkins was killed at Brighton horse races by Lord Bolingbroke's horse, Highflyer. The horse had kicked out at an insect that was irritating it, and kicked Perkins in the head.

An International Incident

Visitors to Barclay's brewery during the 19th century included many of the leading figures of the day ranging from King Edward VII, when Prince of Wales, to Bismarck and Napoleon III. But one other visitor sparked an international incident. The Austrian General Haynau was notorious for the brutality with which he put down rebellions in Hungary and Italy. So the ink had scarcely dried on his name in the visitors' book in 1850 when the word spread that the 'Hyena' was in the brewery. The General and his companions had barely crossed the yard, reported The Times, when he was attacked by draymen and brewery workers with brooms and stones, shouting 'Down with the Austrian butcher'.

Entrance to Thrale's brewhouse in Park Street, by G Yates 1826

Entrance to Thrale's brewhouse, Park Street by G Yates 1826. Click on image to enlarge.

Haynau fled along Bankside pursued by the angry men and took refuge in the George pub (77 The Borough), from which he was rescued by the police with difficulty, and spirited away by boat across the river. The Austrian ambassador demanded an apology, but the Foreign Secretary Lord Palmerston sided with the brewery men, saying they were just 'expressing their feelings at what they considered inhuman conduct' by a man who 'was looked upon as a great moral criminal'. Only after the intervention of a furious Queen Victoria and the threatened resignation of Palmerston was a more conciliatory letter sent to Vienna. Even then Austria was still so resentful that it sent no representative to the funeral of the Duke of Wellington in 1852.

Public feeling in England was completely on the side of the draymen, who became the heroes of many a street ballad. When the Italian revolutionary Garibaldi visited England in 1864, he insisted on visiting the brewery to thank 'the men who flogged Haynau'.

Courage : owner 1955 - 1986

John Courage was a shipping agent at Aberdeen. He moved to London and founded a business in 1787 when he purchased a brewery in Southwark. Before the First World War (1914-18), the company - known as Courage & Donaldson between 1797 and 1851 - was a London brewery.  In the inter-war years it extended its operations to the England's Home Counties, however, its customer base rested on the thirst of London's dockers.  In the 1950s the docks began to decline. Courage responded with mergers and acquisitions most of them in southern England. In 1955 the company merged with its great Southwark rival Barclay & Perkins.

Barclay Perkins , Park Street, London on unknown postcard

Barclay Perkins , Park Street, London. Unknown postcard. Click on image to enlarge.

After the 1955 merger the brewery was known as Courage, Barclay & Company Limited. From 1960 it was known as Courage, Barclay, Simonds & Company Limited. After the merger Barclay's site was used to build a huge bottling factory, appropriately called the Globe Bottling Store. The company was renamed Courage Ltd in October 1970.

The Anchor Brewery finally closed in 1981 and the buildings were demolished. The land was sold for redevelopment as housing. All brewing being transferred to a new brewery at Worton Grange, Reading, Berkshire.

The remains of the ancient Globe Theatre were discovered during redevelopment on the old brewery site in 1989, and after seven years of campaigning led by Sam Wanamaker, a reconstructed Globe Theatre was opened to the public in August 1996 with a performance of The Two Gentlemen of Verona, the first production held on the site for more than 350 years.

Anchor pub

The Anchor public House - the old brewery tap pub - is still open.