Reading's Beer Revolution

Given the wealth of the owners, it is perhaps no surprise that H.G. Simonds became Reading's premier brewery.

While building their business the Simonds family faced obstacles their money couldn't clear with strong opposition from a powerful cartel of rivals and restrictions in the law.

When public pressure removed those barriers, Blackall Simonds seized upon his chance, and his brewery left its competitors in its wake.

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Legacy of H.G. Simonds

Malting was big business in Reading in the mid eighteenth century. William Simonds (1733-82) began his mating business using money inherited from his father, a land-owner in the Hurst-Arborfield-Wokingham area.

William Simonds died in 1782 and his son, William Blackall Simonds, inherited the business. William Blackall was a wealthy man, thanks to a further one thousand pound inheritance from his grandfather and a two thousand pound dowry from his marriage.

William Simonds used the money to open the first Simonds Brewery on Broad Street, Reading, in 1785.

In 1789, the business moved to a larger site on Seven Bridge Street in Reading. The brewery was fitted with a steam engine to ensure it could keep up with future demand.

In the 1790s, then, H.G. Simonds was like a shaken-up bottle of beer. Within were all the ingredients needed for an explosion but the lid was kept firmly on by a powerful cartel of rival brewers.

In 1814, this dire situation led William Blackall Simonds to give up and switch to banking, however, his eldest son, Blackall Simonds, convinced him not to sell the brewery.

The battle to destroy the cartel was won by the Reading public, who thought Simonds beer was the town's best and the public petitioned Parliament to change the licensing laws. The pressure finally made a difference in 1830, when the Beer Act made it possible to open a pub without needing a magistrate's licence.

Quick on the draw, Blackall Simonds bought pubs of his own or struck deals with newly opened establishments and succeeded in stopping the major London brewers from muscling in on his patch.

Output and profits grew and H.G. Simonds was on its way to becoming one of the UK's largest breweries.

Growth of business

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