Fuller’s Brewery trade card, 1890s
There have been brewhouses in Chiswick since the Middle Ages, but the first written reference dates from 16 December 1588, the year of the Spanish Armada, when one William Holden took out a lease “on a Brewhouse, Horsemill and Chambers at Chiswick… for five years at 40 shillings per year.” This brewhouse was located on the Corney House estate, which was roughly half a mile west of the present Griffin Brewery, close to the banks of the Thames.*
By the end of the 16th century, old-fashioned ‘ale’, made simply of water, yeast and malt, and often with spices and herbs added, had a competitor in the shape of ‘beer’, a hopped beverage that was introduced into England by Flemish immigrants in the 15th century. The hops not only added a delicious and much-needed bitterness to the flavour; they also improved the keeping qualities of the brew. By the time of the Restoration in 1660 there were at least two brewhouses in Chiswick, one of which was in the garden of Bedford House on Chiswick Mall, the home of the Russell family. The other was nearby at the Mall end of Chiswick Lane. By 1699 Thomas Mawson, after whom the Mawson Arms is named, had bought the smaller brewhouse and in 1701 he acquired the Bedford House brewhouse. Thus united, the brewery continued to prosper under various owners.
1816 saw the first appearance in Chiswick of the name ‘Griffin Brewery’, which it has retained ever since. After a complex series of business ventures and re-mortgaging, the owners approached a country gentleman in Wiltshire, one John Fuller, to enter the partnership. “Fuller was the white knight, the saviour, the firm hand on the tiller that steered what would eventually become Fuller, Smith & Turner into calmer waters.” Soon Fuller became the major shareholder, with two thirds of the total. However, he spent most of his time at his country estate in Wiltshire, so an accountant was hired to keep a close eye on matters. John Fuller died in March 1839 and his estates were inherited by his son, John Bird Fuller. The ineffectual old partners were bought off and new partners with brewing experience – John Smith and John Turner – were brought in. The new partnership, Fuller, Smith & Turner, started in 1845, bringing “stability and profitability to the business.”
In the 1840s there were 23 pubs in Chiswick, of which 12 belonged to the Griffin Brewery. They also owned 20 pubs in Brentford, six in Ealing, three in Hounslow, 13 in Hammersmith, five in Acton and two in Hayes, with more in Parsons Green, Hangar Lane and Knightsbridge. A close rival, the Lamb Brewery (now residential flats), was right on the doorstep of the Griffin Brewery. The brewery itself comprised counting house, strong-room and offices, kitchen, hop and sugar store rooms, the brewhouse including mash tuns, malt loft and cellar, carpenters’ shop, store rooms, engine house, boilerhouse, vat house, cask shed, stable yards, stables, smithy, cooperage and staff residences. Small wonder that Fuller’s was – and still is – one of Chiswick’s most important companies.
The trade card shown on our mural is from the Fuller’s archive. It probably dates from the 1890s, and is very small – smaller than a postcard – with a price list of beers inside. There was a space for individual off-licences to over-print their own address.
Acknowledgements: Fuller’s Brewery has very generously sponsored this mural. We are delighted to be able to thank one of our most important local businesses, and certainly one of the very few local businesses that can look back on nearly two centuries of staunch Chiswick presence. Brewing still continues there today and the Griffin Brewery is open for public tours. With thanks also to Val Bott.
* Adrian Tierney-Jones, Crafting a Company: How Fuller, Smith & Turner became London’s Iconic Brewery, Fuller, Smith & Turner plc, 2015. Further information at https://www.fullers.co.uk/brewery/history-and-heritage