This is a Hampstead alley that gives away its history the moment you look at it, with a covered entrance proudly announcing a brewery was here.

Although Hampstead was a growing town outside London, the mews was still on the far edge of town as it was when, in 1720, the Hampstead Brewery was founded on land behind the shops. There was a wooden building on the site before, but it was demolished in 1820 for a large brick brewery, which survived into the 1860s, when it was in turn, demolished and replaced with an even larger iron-framed brewery.

The brewery, by then owned by Shepheard and Buckland, was sold shortly after rebuilding to Mure & Co, and sold to Reffell’s Bexley Brewery in 1931. However, it seemed to close shortly afterwards, possibly when it was taken over by Courage Brewery in 1956, and by the 1960s the buildings around the main brewery were being used as a car repair shop.

Restoration finally arrived in 1972-73, when the main building was converted into offices, retaining much of the original iron framed windows. However, the huge chimney was demolished because it had become unstable. The rest of the estate was converted into housing.

The alley today still announces its brewing heritage, with the grand frontage decorated with sheaves of barely and hops and stating that the brewery was established in 1720 and rebuilt in 1869.

Above is the remains of an old Whitebred pub sign, and sitting next to the entrance was a pub, directly connected to the brewery behind. If you look at the buildings, you might guess the older buildings that straddle the archway were the pub, and while they were owned by the brewery, in fact the pub used to sit on the left hand side, in what is today a modern shop and set-back block of flats.

The King of Bohemia stood at 10 Hampstead High Street from the 1680s and was rebuilt in the 1930s. It closed in 2003, and the ground floor was converted into a retail store.

Heading down the covered passage, you enter a large cobbled yard with the old brewery building on the left side.

However, what will almost certainly catch your attention isn’t the brewery but something else essential to brewing — water. There’s an old well in the yard, and you can, just about hear water gushing deep down in its depths. If you are careful, it’s possible to hold a phone through the railings and get a photo of the depths.

The brewery buildings were much larger when first built, and much of the yard was covered over, so it seems likely that the well was inside the brewery building and only later ended up as a decorative outdoor well when some of the old brewery buildings were demolished.

Although called a mews, that seems to be a more recent renaming of the old yard, as mews was more fashionable for residential conversions, and at least there’s a usage link as mews were for horses, as there would have been a lot of horses for delivery wagons in use here.

It’s quite a charming residential and office conversion of an old industrial site, but the surviving old well makes it worth a detour in the area.

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One comment
  1. Max Ingram says:

    Whitebred? Whitbread, surely!

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