Acquired by Combe in 1840 and sold to Showell’s Brewery Ltd June 1921. Brewing ceased in 1927 but early home brew kits manufactured and sold there until 1939. Date stone on existing brewery buildings implies malting carried out by the Wood family on the site since 1769. Buildings refurbished in 1998 and the chimney stack was reconstructed. Now a private residence.
Thomas Combe, Brockhampton Brewery
Crispin Inn, 11 New Street, Cheltenham (owned Thomas Coombs in 1891)
Plasterers Arms, Abbey Terrace, Winchcombe (leased 1891)
Combes Brockhampton Brewery – Reproduced from ‘You Brew Good Ale – A History of Small-Scale Brewing’ by Ian P. Peaty 1997
A unique retail brewer, also of the West Country, was Combe’s Brewery at Brockhampton, near Cheltenham, Gloucestershire. Down a short cul-de-sac in the quaint Cotswold village lies the small brewery and malthouse complex that was once renowned locally for its very early ‘home brew packs.’ The malthouse, brewhouse and owner’s house and outbuildings are on the southernmost tip of the village of Brockhampton, on the River Coln. This emanates from the manor house grounds of Brockhampton Park. The buildings consist of an early eighteenth century house built of coursed and squared dressed limestone under a stone slate roof, this house is adjacent to the similarly built three-storeyed malthouse. This has two gabled buildings adjacent to the cul-de-sac road; on one of the malthouses thee is a dated and initialled stone plaque over a door which reads, ‘I WOOD, 1769’. The other building has a door to each floor in the gable end, giving access to the storage and top growing floor. to the right, and between the malthouse and owner’s house, is the former well, to the rear of this area is the kiln complete with perforated earthenware tiled floor. Sadly the roof cowl has been removed. inside the ground floor doorway is the still complete steep cistern, where the local barley was soaked before being hosted up to the top floor where it was spread out and allowed to germinate. At the appropriate stage it was raked up and transferred to the slightly lower kiln floor; there the grains were roasted until germination was arrested. Then the malt was shovelled down through hatches to the lower floor where it was sacked, stored and when required, taken across the yard to the brewhouse opposite.
The small brew house is constructed of similar dressed limestone, the earliest part is of late seventeenth or early eighteenth century construction, with the top gabled floor dating from the eighteenth century. A centrally placed doorway on the ground floor has a heavy timber lintel. On the second floor are two small casement windows to the front elevation and to the rear are two louvred windows either side of a Victorian brick chimney stack. On the top front elevation is a doorway which was evidently equipped with a hoist to draw up the sacks of malt and hops. the brewhouse roof has red tiles which compliment the elaborate red brick chimney stack at the rear which is a feature of the landscape. The head of the stack has an oversailing course of cream bricks while the top of the flue has cream and blue engineering bricks laid in a sawtooth design giving it the most pleasing aspect. Attached to the right hand side of the rectangular brewhouse is a two-storeyed building of the nineteenth century which has internal stairs to the top floor where the fermenting vessels were previously housed. The ground floor has engineering tiles and a drain, and this is evidently where the beer was racked and the drays were kept. To the left of the brewhouse, facing the house, were the stables, now demolished.
The malthouse and house were probably built for the Wood family, some of whose descendants still live in the village. George Combe, born in 1815, was recorded as being the village baker in 1870, while one of his sons, Thomas, was a tailor. Another son, Benjamin, owned the Grafton Brewery in Cheltenham which had ceased brewing by 1899 when it was taken over by the Nailsworth Brewery Co. Ltd. Family deeds indicate that the Brockhampton brewery, malthouse, bakehouse and cottage were purchased for £400 in 1840. George Combe died in 1871 aged fifty-six and so Thomas Combe inherited the family’s new wealth and it was probably he who extended the original brewhouse by an additional floor and the brick chimney stack. In 1885 Thomas was first recorded in Kelly’s Directory as a brewer and baker. He continued in this joint role until about 1897 when his son, George Thomas, took over the business prior to 1906. He had two sons, the eldest, Reginald George Thomas born in 1896, inherited the now flourishing concern. It was he who introduced the idea of packaging the home brew kits in the 1920’s. These contained ‘Celebrated Cotswold Malt and Hops, with Yeast’ which would make three gallons – the cost 10 1/2. A ‘light’ and ‘dark’ version were available, as was another style called Hopamalt which would make two and a half gallons of beer for 6d. Notes on the packaging included: ‘If you possess a Brewer’s Licence you may brew beer of any strength by reducing the quantity of water to this packet of Hopamalt.’ Also on this package a box note said: ‘This packet produces one and a half gallons of a nourishing and sustaining beverage similar in character to that which our forefathers drank and enjoyed and on which they thrived and lived happily together.’ The brewing directions stated that the contents of the packet should be added to one and a half gallons of water and boiled for one hour, then strained with one pound of sugar added. When cooled one tablespoonful of yeast should be added. This was to ferment for 24 hours or until fermentation ceased, then it was to be placed in jars or bottles. A final sales blurb said that the products were ‘prepared under the personal supervision of one whose forebears have for generations been handling similar ingredients.’
Brewing ceased in 1927 when the business was acquire by Showell’s Brewery Co. Ltd. of Oldbury but malting continued, so it is likely that it was the brewing goodwill which was acquired and not the premises. Besides the home-brew kits, R.G.B. Combe promoted the sales of yeast, supplied in quantities from one to twelve dozen bottles. Hops packed in quarter and half pound packages could be purchased in quantities from 7 lbs to 112 lbs. Two qualities of malt were available, roasted was priced at 12 shillings per bushel and pale malt costs ten shillings. A discount of 5 per cent on cash paid in seven days encouraged prompt payment and notice was required if the malt was to be ground read for immediate brewing. Some unusually sized wooden casks could also be purchased with a three gallon size costing 10s.6d each, four and half gallon at 11s, six gallon at 12s, nine gallon at 14s and twelve gallon for 16s.
At the outbreak of war in 1939, the home-brew packs had to be discontinued due to the shortage of sugar. The brewhouse and malthouse were taken over by the Ministry of Defence, and the Northumbrian Division was billeted there on their return from Dunkirk. The troops slept in the malthouse and the brewery side was converted into a kitchen; it may have been at this time when the brewing plant was removed, the precious metals being in great demand. . Several of the officers were billeted in the house and later on one or two German POW’s worked on the farm and malthouse, which was then used for drying corn. This had been salvaged from bombed or torpedoed ships which had been brought into Bristol Docks, the grain then being brought to Brockhampton to be dried in the malt kiln. Before being re-sacked, it was passed through a winnower to separate each grain. Other spoilt items such as spices and ginger were also dried.
One of the few workers remembered was Bill Locke whose job was head drayman, he was one of eleven children in his family. he delivered beer to several local pubs including the Bell and the Plaisterers in Winchcombe, the Kemble Inn at Fairview, Cheltenham, and the Horse & Groom, St James Street, Cheltenham, now demolished. Evidently the pub adjacent to the old brewery, the Craven Arms, is of comparatively recent licensing and was never owned or supplied from the Combe’s Brewery.
I am grateful to Paul Best for his comprehensive research into the Combe family
1889 Combe Thos. Brockhampton Cheltenham. Kellys Directory.
1902 Combe George Thomas, Brockhampton, Andoversford. Kellys Directory.
1906 Combe George Thomas, Brockhampton, Andoversford. Kellys Directory.
1910 Combe George Thomas, Brockhampton, Andoversford. Kellys Directory.
1923 Combe George Thomas, Brockhampton, Andoversford. Kellys Directory.
1861 census George Combe.Dwelling; Public House, Brockhampton.
George Combe Head. Age 46. Maltster, Brewer & Baker.
Mary Ann Combe. Wife. Age 46.
Thomas Combe. Son. Age 16.
Mary Combe. Mother. Age 77.
Thomas Henry Beard. Visitor. Age 7. Scholar.
Elizabeth Harris. Servant. Age 15. Domestic Servant.
1871 census George Combe.
George Combe. Head. Age 56. Brewer, Maltster & Baker, employing 3 men.
Mary A. Combe. Wife. Age 62.
Thomas Combe. Son. Age 26. Brewer, Maltster & Baker.
Letitia Combe. Daughter in Law. Age 25.
John E. R. Combe. Grandson. Age 1.
Sarah Stevens. Servant. Age 21. Domestic Servant.
1881 census Thomas Combe.
Dwelling; The Malthouse, Brockhampton.
Thomas Combe. Head. Age 36. Maltster, Baker & Brewer, employing 3 men.
Letitia Combe. Wife. Age 35.
Mary A. Combe. Widow Mother. Age 72. Bakers Widow.
John E. Combe. Son. Age 11. Scholar.
Florence M. Combe. Daughter. Age 7. Scholar.
Headley W. Combe. Son. Age 3. Scholar.
Elizabeth M. Kirby. Servant. Age 32. General Servant.
1891 census Thomas Combe.
Thomas Combe. Head. Age 46. Farmer, Maltster, Brewer & Baker.
Letitia Combe. Wife. Age 45.
George T. Combe. Son. Age 23. Baker & Brewer.
Hedley H. Combe. Son. Age 13. Farmers Son.
Elizabeth M. Kirby. Servant. Age 42. Domestic Servant.
Thomas Combe Deceased 1896.
Thomas Combe of Brockhampton, Sevenhampton, Gloucestershire, Brewer, Bake, Maltster and Farmer died September 1896 at Talybont Cardiganshire. Probate London, 2nd November to Letitia Combe, Widow, George Thomas Combe Brewer and John Evan Raymond Combe Brewers Assistant.
Effects £2668,1 shilling and 4 pence.
Source; England & Wales Probate Calendar Index.
1901 census George T. Combe.
Dwelling; The Brewery, Brockhampton.
George T. Combe. Head. Age 33. Maltster and Brewer.
Emily A. Combe. Wife. Age 38.
Edith V. Combe. Daughter. Age 3.
Reginald G. Combe. Son. Age 2.
Florence Herbert. Servant. Age 18. Domestic Servant.
1911 census George T. Combe.
George Thomas Combe. Head. Age 43. Brewer, Maltster and Farmer.
Emily Alexandra Combe. Wife. Age 48.
Arthur Combe. Son. Age 8.
Alice Howse. Servant. Age 17.
George Thomas Combe Deceased 1930.George Thomas Combe of Brockhampton, Sevenhampton, Gloucestershire died 21st October 1930. Probate Gloucester 3rd December to William Silas Smith coal merchant and Hedley Wilkins Combe farm manager.
Effects £6446 7 shillings and 6 pence.