The rise of the Ram
There has been commercial brewing at the Ram Brewery in the heart of
Wandsworth since the reign of Queen Elizabeth I - the oldest site in
Britain on which wholesale beer has been brewed continuously.
In 1581 beer brewer Humphrey Langridge was brewing at the sign of the Ram,
a prominent Wandsworth inn since 1533. It is now the site of the Brewery
Tap and present day tun room. Humphrey Langridge not only provided beer
for the Ram Inn's own customers, stabling for horses and beds for
travellers, but casks of beer for other local pubs and private houses. The
modern brewery takes its name and trademark from the sign of this ancient
inn - a ram traditionally denotes pugnacity and bravery.
Water for brewing originally
came from a well in the yard of the Ram, which still exists under the
floor of the modern brewery.
At the Ram Brewery original brewing techniques have been preserved to
produce award winning beers by methods that have stood the test of time.
The brewing equipment is a remarkable combination of ancient and modern -
with Victorian vessels standing alongside the very latest in brewing
Humphrey Langridge and his descendants ran the brewery for over 90 years,
until in 1670 it passed by marriage into the hands of Somerset Draper and
his brother Humphrey. It was already a large concern with a counting
house, clerks to keep the books, and horses and drays for local
deliveries. The Drapers were wealthy and well connected and their legacy
to us today is the early 18th century brewery house – now the oldest
building on Wandsworth High Street, except for the parish church.
In 1763, the Drapers sold the
brewery to Thomas Tritton. Tritton already ran another brewery in Kent,
and with connections in the banking world he was able to expand the Ram
Brewery, turning the production over to porter – an 18th century brewing
innovation – as well as buying and leasing public houses in Wandsworth,
Putney, Clapham, central London, even as far a field as Sheerness. On his
death in 1786, Thomas's son George took on the business.
Ram Brewery beer was
distributed by horse and dray on the roads and by barge up and down the
river Thames, but in 1803 the Surrey Iron Railway opened. This was the
world's first public railway, with horse drawn waggons. It ran from near
the Ram Brewery to Croydon. Shareholders included George Tritton and
Southwark manufacturer, Florance Young. For the first time, Wandsworth
beer could be distributed by rail.
The Youngs come to
In 1831 Florance Young's son, Charles Allen Young and his partner Anthony
Fothergill Bainbridge bought the Ram Brewery from the Trittons. The
purchase included 80 pubs, many of them still Young's houses today. Thus
began an association with the Young family that has outlasted all the
The new partnership suffered a
serious setback in 1832 when a disastrous fire destroyed most of the
brewhouse, but it was quickly rebuilt and in 1835 a new beam engine was
erected inside the brewery. It is thought to be the oldest working beam
engine of its kind in the world still in working condition and in its
original location. It and its sister engine built in 1867, provided steam
power in the brewery right up until 1976.
Young & Bainbridge bought a porter brewery, but by 1864 production had
turned to lighter and more sparkling beers and the first pints of what was
to become Young's Bitter were being brewed.
Charles Allen Young died in
1855, and his son Charles Florance Young entered the partnership. Anthony
Fothergill Bainbridge was succeeded by his nephew, Herbert in 1873. In
1882 another fire, started in the offices, caused extensive damage to part
of the brewery and the Ram Inn. Both were rebuilt the following year. This
was followed shortly afterwards in 1883 by the sudden dissolution of the
Young and Bainbridge partnership. Herbert Bainbridge had run off with
Charles Young's wife!
Charles carried on the
business alone as Young & Co. However, when he died in 1890, his wish
was the formation of a private limited company - Young & Co.'s Brewery
Limited, with his widow, now forgiven, and children as the principal
From inn sign to trademark
With the dawn of a more modern era, competition among brewers was
increasing and in 1893 the Ram trademark was registered. A Dorset horned
ram was chosen as the brewery symbol, and in 1905 Ram Brand bottled beers
began to roll out from a new bottling hall at the brewery. The first world
war had little impact on the company, but the second world war saw the
first woman employed on the site and, in 1940, bombs hit a nearby Young's
pub – the Bull, completely destroying it and damaging the cask shed
roof. The Ram Inn was also damaged in the air raids as were a number of
other Young's pubs – some of which had to be rebuilt.
After the war, the company
needed to modernise and invest in its growing number of pubs. It became a
publicly quoted company on the London Stock Exchange in 1955, and in 1962,
John Allen Young, great-great-grandson of the firm's founder, became
Chairman. He quickly became instrumental in promoting traditional draught
beer in all Young's pubs, sticking to his guns even though almost all
other brewers were abandoning what became known as 'real ale'.
Also in 1962, the company
built on its bottling capabilities by buying independent bottlers Foster-Probyn,
not only one of the biggest and oldest bottling firms but renowned for
their quality. This was followed in 1973 by the purchase of Cockburn and
Campbell Ltd., wine merchants of Edinburgh and London since 1796.
Local people and brewery
workers turned out in force in 1981 when Queen Elizabeth II visited the
brewery to celebrate Young's 150th anniversary.
New brewhouse, pubs and
With demand for real ale outstripping supply, a new £5 million
brewhouse was completed in 1984 to increase brewing capacity and to
replace some equipment that had been in use for more than 100 years. In
1990, the company expanded into the hotel trade with their first purpose
built hotel at the Bridge in Greenford.
The pub business was boosted
in 1991 when independent pub operator, H H Finch Limited was acquired. In
1998 a new bottling line was installed to satisfy increased demand from
supermarkets. Also in 1998 Young's shire horses took on the duty of
pulling the Lord Mayor's coach at the annual London event.
The year 2000 saw Young's beers winning 6 medals and 2 championship
trophies at the Brewing Industry International Awards - the most prizes
ever won by any brewery. The year was rounded off with the purchase of 17
pubs in the West Country.
Why not look at our own
website at www.youngs.co.uk