Although not a Gloucestershire Brewery, Arkells of Swindon have had a strong presence in the county since they were founded in 1843 by John Arkell who was born in Kempsford in 1802. Their first ‘country’ pub was the George at Kempsford, an Arkell’s pub in 1861 and still selling Arkell’s beers today (2022).

I am grateful to Paul Best for providing the following meticulous research on Arkell’s Kingsdown Brewery.


TO BREWERS, INNKEEPERS, AND OTHERS.To be SOLD by AUCTION, by Messrs DORE and FIDEL, at the Goddard Arms Inn, Swindon, on Thursday the 2nd day of March, 1848 at 3 o’clock in the afternoon precisely; subject to conditions, the following
Situate at Kingsdown, in the parish of Stratton Saint Margarets, and adjoining the cross roads there, distance about three miles from the market towns of Swindon and Highworth, and  6 from Cricklade, in the undermentioned Lots, Viz:-

LOT 1. A newly erected and commodious Inn known as “Kingsdown Inn” with brewery, store rooms and cellarage, counting house, cart and cattle sheds, blacksmiths shop, barn, stables, and other convient offices, all well supplied with excellent water: together with a large Garden, and two closes of Pasture Land, containing althogether about 5 Acres, in the occupation of Mr John Arkell, the proprietor.

LOT 2. A newly built Dwelling-house. with bakehouse, back kitchen, stable, and cart house, &c., and about 2 roods of Garden Land behind the same, in the occupation of William Willis, at the yearly rent of £12; and also a newly erected Cottage adjoining, with about 2 roods of Garden Land, in the occupation of Thomas Crane, at the yearly rent of £8.

LOT 3. A newly built Cottage, with wash-house and, and about 2 roos of Garden Land behind the same.

LOT 4. A capital piece of Arable Land, called “Blunsden Water Field”, containing 3A 1R 3-4P., with frontage to the road leading from Swindon to Cricklade.

The two last Lots are in the occupation of Mr Thomas Harris, and are held by him on lease, for the lives of himseld and Elizabeth his wife, aged respectivly 70 and 58, at a reserved yearly rent of one shilling.

LOT 5. A newly built Cottage, with wash-house, and about 2 roods of Garden Land behind, in the occupation of William Saindbury, at the yearly rent of £5.

LOT 6. A small Cottage, with nearly 1 acre of Garden Land attached, with sufficient frontage to the road for building two other Cotages, in the occupation of William Bush, at the yearly rent of £5.

LOT 7. A piece of Building Land, forming the angle of the cross roads, and lying opposite to the brewery, conatining about 3 quarters of an acre, in the occupation of Mr John Arkell.

For a view of the several Lots apply to Mr Arkell, at Kingsdown; and for further particulars to the Auctioneer, Swindon; or Messrs Mullings, solicitors, Cirencester.

Devizes and Wilts Gazette February 1848.

1856. Dinner in a Beer Barrel.
Mr John Arkell, of Kingsdown Brewery, lately invited his friends to dine with him, in a large barrel which he has recently purchased, estimated to hold 3,000 gallons. The novel dinning room was the occasion of much mirth and gaiety.

Salisbury and Winchester Journal May 1856.

1866 The Malt Tax.
Sir – As you were good enough to take some little notice of my pamphlet on the evils and injustice inflicted upon the working classes by the Malt-tax, I take the present opportunity of informing you that notwithstanding the most foolish infatuation which seems still to exist amongst the planters of turnips and barley in the district around you, the manufacturers in the north of England, and the working people along with them, are now beginning to move themselves in the matter, in right good earnest I think; and with the farmers and landlords now engaged in the cause, there appears a likelihood of matters going in the right track towards the consummation of past labours, or I shall feel most grievously deceived when the issue comes. At a public meeting held in Yorkshire, where a Mr E. Cayley of Wydale Hall took the chair, I find there are already propositions going on for the purpose of raising amongst farmers £2,500 by five pound subscription each person, and in the like manner a further sum of £1,000 by fifty manufacturers at £20 each.

Whether this movement, in conjunction with other subscriptions already tendered to the amount of nearly £2,000, will be contained and carried on by the farmers and landlords of Wilts and Dorset I cannot tell; but one thing I do know, whether a man be a landlord or a farmer, and belongs to either faction of politicians in the country, any person endowed with the most common sense and abilities as an Englishman must be the most prejudiced and ignorant of all politicians and statesmen who, under existing circumstances, cannot possibly see as plain as the sun at noon-day the many and various immoralities and injustice inflicted upon the working classes and country people altogether by the Malt-tax, and the existing systems of licensing persons to retail beer and porter, as well as the monstrous injustice upon the planters of barley and turnips, who have to raise corn and other produce of the farm under the principle of free trade; and notwithstanding the ignorance of Wiltshire and Berkshire farmers generally, who grow the best qualities of barley (on the bearing of the Malt-tax) and as regards it’s oppressions on labour and productive industry generally, only because they themselves sell their product at a higher price than farmers who raise barley on strong lands. Yet, I will ask you candidly and honestly what yourself or any other intelligent man would now think of any barley farmer in Devizes market who is bold enough, even if he be six feet in height, to proclaim in the Market-place openly that a removal of the 85 per cent from off the malted barley, as it now stands before it can be made into beer and sold retail to working people – that such repeal would not add one penny to the value of his crops or otherwise increase consumption of malt, so as to raise the price of barley another years when the repeal of the Malt-tax had become a settled fact before him and his fellow farmers everywhere. Nor even this, I will ask you just one other question which is plain and in comparison with the last. Where is the intelligent manufacturer now-a-days, either of cotton of woollens, who can possibly be found simple-minded enough to openly declare before the worlds at large, that any tax of one hundred per cent duty, assed to the price of his raw cotton or wool, would not make the slightest difference to either manufacturers or consumers when made up into goods for wear and sale? We have certainly heard much about the Wiltshire moon-rakers and the Berkshire pig-diggers, but from all we do hear of these stalwart, bonny, jack-booted, broad-brimmed hated old fellows who strutted about by night moon raking in the ponds and digging wooden pigs by night in churchyards, these fellows had some sense and forethought of business about them, otherwise they never could have drunk French brandy so long as they did without paying duty. But what sense or reason the Wiltshire and Berkshire barley growers can have in continually resisting the repeal of the Malt-tax I cannot possibly comprehend, save it be in the obstinate blood inherited from their fathers, who resisted the tax upon foreign spirits, and who cannot be made to see that any change however beneficial to themselves, is now requisite under any circumstances whatsoever, good or bad.

Some few years ago I was the means of bringing down to Devizes and some other towns, several valiant farmers and hop growers from Kent and Sussex, who were desirous of enlightening the people there, but even the appearance of these fine, noble looking fellows in Devizes, could not possibly wake up the Wiltshire farmers to the requisite point of attraction, as was the case with other county-men, who worked on for a while in right good earnest, until they found themselves not supported by subscriptions and in person, as they assuredly ought to have been, even then. At the same time let us now hope for the best; it is a very long dreary road which has no turn at all in it; for my own part I am ready to forgive all the past offences in the cause, so that men calling themselves Whigs, Tory’s or Reformers will now work on together for the repeal, and fight the battle with our opponents as good Englishmen ought to fight, namely, under one banner and one heart. The same united power of action amongst the producers every where, which can so easily repeal the Malt Tax, can perform at any future time any other act of necessary justice to the farmers and the people generally, which can be shown to exist, when we have once obtained the repeal of this one Tax. While, on the other hand, so long as the whole of the great producing interests shall remain divided and subdivided under one name and another, and they keep harping after impossibilities and being protected above other portions of the community, the present wasteful extravagance of ruling factions will go on year after year as heretofore, while many thousands of the great producers for the nation are being driven away yearly into foreign lands to seek out a home and a comfortable living, where the tax-gatherer is not allowed to take away the wages of labour and the comforts of the fire-side, as that are here in this country.

It is the division of sentiment existing amongst farmers in general, which causes them to be the only master-men not represented in the House of Commons. Look at Cirencester Farming College, for instance, which was first set about by farmers and with farmer’s money too. There you now see a Gentleman’s Don’s College instead of a real farming school, and in the town itself, where every man would expect wisdom and foresight, the Tory scribes and farmers friends now openly advocate a new beer tax as a substitute for the Malt Tax, as if the great mass of working people’s interest was out of the question of repeal altogether, and as if the people would derive a benefit in some unforeseen way by drinking taxable beer instead of beer made from taxable malt.
If Sir Michael Hicks Beach, M.P., be wise, he will go in for the total repeal at once, otherwise for reducing the tax down to one shilling per bushel, and the remainder to run off in half-a-dozen years at the least.

Many years ago Napoleon and the French armies were held over our repealing heads as a sort of terrorism to all tax repealers in general; but we now have the valiant Rifle Volunteers along with Militia, and the Yeomanry Cavalry into the bargain, to protect us, with a standing army double what it was not so very many years since. Then why shall we fear any bugbears, now property and income tax is made perpetual or nearly so, upon us, and when we only ask five or six millions to be deducted from the extravagancies of Government, and not from the real necessities of the public exchequer?

Hoping you will rouse up the energies of the people and the growers of barley in particular to the coming fight around your neighbourhood.

I remain, your humble servant,
Stratton Saint Margaret, Wilts, Jan 31st 1865.

Source; Devizes and Wilts Gazette 9th February 1865 

1869 Fire near-miss for Kingsdown Brewery.

The fire at Mr Ing’s Swindon soda water factory, had hardly been subdued when there was an alarm of fire at Stratton St Margaret, where it appeared that a hay rick had caught fire, from the spark of a chimney, on the premises of Messrs John Arkell and Son, at the Kingsdown Brewery. The Great Western Railway steam fire engine, with the Swindon town engine, at once procedded thither, but several hay ricks were destroyed or damaged by the fire and water. The Brewery had a narrow escape. The steam fire engine was built by Hand and Mason, and is well worth the attention of local authorities. Where water can be abundantly obtained the effect produced by the engine is very marked.

Devizes and Wilts Gazette September 1869.

Tied houses in Gloucestershire in the 1891 and 1903 licensing books:

Brewers Arms, 70 Cricklade Street, Cirencester (1891,1903)

George Inn, Kempsford (1891,1903)

Golden Cross, 20 Blackjack Street, Cirencester (1891,1903)

Eight Bells, East End, Fairford (1891,1903)

Fox and Hounds, Clay Hill, Lechlade

Plough Inn, London Street, Fairford (leased 1891, owned 1903)

Plume of Feathers, 133 Watermoor Street, Cirencester (1891,1903)

Red Lion, High Street, Lechlade (1891,1903)

Sherborne Arms, Sherborne Street, Lechlade (leased 1891 and 1903)

Talbot Inn, 14 Victoria Road, Cirencester (1891,1903)

Still in the Arkells family, the brewery now has 99 pubs in Berkshire, Gloucestershire, Oxfordshire and Wiltshire.

The 18 Gloucestershire Arkell’s pubs in 2012 were:

Adam and Eve, Townsend Street, Cheltenham

Bees Knees, Watermoor Road, Cirencester (was The Plume of Feathers)

Brewers Arms, Cricklade Street, Cirencester

Bull Hotel, Fairford

Exmouth Arms, Bath Road, Cheltenham

George Inn, Kempsford

Golden Cross, Black Jack Street, Cirencester

Hare and Hounds, Fosse Cross

Highwayman Inn, Beech Pike, Elkstone

Masons Arms, Meysey Hampton

Plough Inn, Stratton, Cirencester

Plough Inn, London Road, Fairford

Riverside Inn, Lechlade

St James Hotel, Ambrose Street, Cheltenham

Talbot Inn, Victoria Street, Cirencester

Victoria, Eastleach Turville

White Hart, The Square, Stow on the Wold

Whitesmiths Arms, Southgate Street, Gloucester

Arkell’s have also disposed of a number of pubs in Gloucestershire in recent years:

Cassidy’s (became the Pickled Duke and Bar Cuba), Swindon Road, Cheltenham (pub was originally called Duke of Sussex)

Cat and Fiddle, Whaddon Road, Cheltenham (demolished)

Hereford Arms, Winchcombe Street, Cheltenham (now an Indian restaurant)

Sir Colin Campbell (later known as Inn on the Docks), Llanthony Road, Gloucester

Red Lion, High Street, Lechlade

Royal Oak, Lechlade

Ye Old India House, Barton Street, Gloucester (to be a mini-supermarket)

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