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London Breweries

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Youngs & Co

Youngs & Co Brewery


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 technology.

Early Days
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 Wandsworth
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 previous owners.

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 shareholders.

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 brands
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.

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