The date of the introduction of beer into England is uncertain. Since the preparation of beer demands knowledge of agriculture it is probable that the art was acquired from traders who visited these shores. We know that alehouses were in existence as early as 721 AD as they are mentioned in the laws of Ina, King of Wessex.
We know that Roman occupation existed in Reigate with the discovery of a roman kiln in Doods Way dated to AD 92 and some Roman legionaries did enjoy their beer. They called their brew cerevisia, from the Celtic word for it. Further back druid priests were the brewers of Ancient Britain and their beer was used at feasts and gatherings.
For a short time after the Norman Conquest the popularity of ale waned in favour of French wines but by the 12th century ale had regained its popularity and as noted in the previous murals talk, monasteries probably contributed significantly to this resurgence.
On the dissolution of the monasteries, brewing passed into the hands of innkeepers and common brewers and became something more than a mere domestic industry.
The first documentary evidence of brewing in Reigate is from 1569, when Thomas Thornton, a brewer in Bell Street had a tragic accident at his brewery. On the 17th July It is recorded that two of his men lost their lives when they were ‘Scalded in the mashing vat and they died’. Not a nice way to go. Thornton was also repeatedly prosecuted for selling his beer at excessive rates from 1538 onwards.
Another building that boasts a long history was 43 High Street, Reigate. The building is no longer there but an extension of the building dating from the 17th Century survives at The Weald and Downland Museum in Chichester. In 1981 it was due for demolition to make way for a shopping centre development. Thankfully it was carefully dismantled and reassembled at Chichester by the museum. .Records for 43 High St date back to 1382 when the site was owned by Richard Skinner, Burgess for Reigate, however it wasn’t until the 16th century that it was specifically referred to as a brewery.
If you look at the largest mural on the left you will see a floral border surrounding the central painting. During dismantling it was discovered that substantial fragments of decorative painting were concealed under later coats of paint.
This floral pattern covered a wall and surrounded the fireplace. The quality of the interior design suggests that the building represents a good standard of provincial life in Reigate. From 1587 to the mid-17th Century the site was occupied by a family of brewers named Cade. On the death of Walter Cade in 1621 the property was divided amongst his three children and a grandchild and it is possible the extension was built at that time to accommodate one of these new owners.
Throughout the 17th century there are fleeting references to a great number of brewers, many of whom were probably retail brewers, landlords who had a brew house at the rear of their inn, rather than common brewers.
John Richardson whose father had owned the Bull Inn from 1627 to 1639 , built a brewery in Bell Street that was later owned by James Apted, maltster and brewer. James Apted’s business was established just before 1786. Access was achieved from the High Street but later a new road connected it with Bell Street.
Other 18th century names which appeared from time to time include Joseph Life, 1708, and John Shove, 1716 who had maltings on the north side of West Street. Thomas Snelling had maltings and a brew house in Slipshoe Street in 1730. Henry Crunden had an Inn called the Bunch of Grapes in Bell Street which later became Messrs.Knights and Drapers and he brewed from a small brew house at the rear of the property until his death in1807.
Owing to the scarcity of pre 16th century local records it is impossible to determine the size and extent of Reigate’s brewing industry. Some of Reigate’s inns have indeed a long history and may well date back to medieval times. The Swan which stood on the corner of the High Street and Bell Street has records as far back as 1452. The Red Cross and the Bulls Head Inn are both purported to be of some antiquity.
And the story continues with resurgence in brewing at the end of the 20th and the start of the 21st Century. Pilgrim Brewery on West Street was established in 1982 in Woldingham by David Roberts. The name derives from the Pilgrim Way which runs close to the village of Woldingham. Three years later he made the decision to come to Reigate to expand the brewery and today Pilgrim Brewery enjoys ever growing success.
Another local brewing success story is Crumbs Brewing. What makes Crumbs special is that their beer is brewed from the left over artisan bread from The Chalk Hills Bakery in Bell Street. Each beer is made with a different type of loaf, simultaneously fighting food waste and making great beer.
Going back to the mural: If you look at the border you will see Pilgrim Brewery and Crumbs Brewing beer labels poking out from the collection of much older Mellersh and Neale labels. One such label, The Khaki Ale was brewed during the First World War.
The central design is a combination of two elements. The outer lettering is taken from a Mellersh and Neale barrel label dated 1935. The inner design is the Reigate and Banstead Coat of Arms showing the distinctive blue and yellow chequers from the arms of the De Warrenne family. Beside this pattern are the Castle gate and an oak tree.
The top of the shield has a black background as in the original Reigate arms but on which is a gold woolpack between two sprigs of oak. The woolpack or woolsack refers to the former importance of sheep rearing and wool production in Banstead. The oak sprigs represent the two parishes of Horley and Salfords and Sidlow.
Above the shield is a helmet with a wreath and draped cloth, also in the blue and gold of the de Warennes. On top of the helmet is a pilgrim referring to the ancient route along the escarpment of the North Downs by Banstead and Reigate, the Pilgrims Way.
On either side of the shield there is a white lion and a white horse. The lion comes from the arms of the de Mowbray family who were briefly Lords of the Manor of Banstead in the 12th century. The horse refers to the tradition of horse racing on Banstead Downs in the 17th century which is immortalised in the Oaks race of Epsom Derby Friday. On the necks of the animals are wreaths again in the blue and yellow. On the shoulders are roundels of blue and white waves indicating the River Mole in Horley and Sidlow.
The roundel on the lion has a tanner’s (or flaying) knife, the emblem of St Bartholomew, the patron of Horley, who is said to have been flayed or skinned before he was crucified. The roundel on the shoulder of the horse has a sallow leaf, a reference to Salfords, which is derived from Sallow Ford. The Sallow tree is commonly known as Pussy Willow.
The motto "Never Wonne ne never shall" is taken from an ancient couplet and refers to the defeat of the Danes by King Alfred in a battle in the Vale of Holmesdale in the 9th century, now remembered in the name Battlebridge. Reigate Castle has also been known as Holmesdale Castle. A translation is "Never conquered nor never shall".
The main image is taken from a Mellersh and Neale advertisement dating from around 1930. You can see how Brewery Yard would have looked then, certainly very different from now.
An aeroplane made from beer bottles flies in the sky, its smoke spelling the words Reigate Ales and swans fly gracefully below representing the Swan Hote