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Chris Hunt 2024

The lease of the All Saints’ Steam Brewery on All Saints’ Street in Stamford was acquired by Herbert Wells Melbourn in October 1869, it was previously held by Elmer Brown. Herbert was the son of a prosperous Ingham farmer (Newell Wells Melbourn) and was only twenty one years old when he obtained the business.

The brewery was built in 1825 by William Brown Edwards, a former partner in the brewing firm of Harper, Hunt and Edwards, in whose family it remained until 1857 when the lease was acquired by Frederick George Phillips, who held it in until October 1859 when it passed into the control of Elmer Brown.

Between 1869 and 1872 the brewery was managed by Herbert under the title of H.W.Melbourn & Co. and it was not until April 1872 that Melbourn Brothers was formed by Herbert and his brother George Toynee. George and a third brother, Newell, carried on the family tradition of farming in the Lincoln area. The firm remained under this title until it was acquired by the Earls of Liverpool and Gainsborough in 1971.

In 1876 the brewery was completely re-equipped and production was increased, previously annual production was around 3,500 barrels per year. By 1900 this had increased to 9,000 barrels, so by the turn of the century, production was around 300,000 gallons close to 2.5. Million pints per year. This was possible through investments in depots at Lincoln, Grantham, Leicester and Holbeach, the acquisition of tied houses and of course increases in the free trade.

It must be remembered that there was a great deal of competition in Stamford, with Hunt Brothers on Water Street, Joseph Phillips also on Water Street, and Lowe’s which of course became Lowe, Son & Cobbolds on Broad Street/North Street. And of course there were a number of home brew pubs, or as we would call them today, micro-breweries.

In 1872 the brewery had only fifteen tied houses, of which seven were in Stamford; the Hit or Miss. The Old Chequers, the Parting Pot which on being rebuilt in 1887 became the Victoria, Rolt’s Arms, Royal Oak, Star and Garter and the White Swan. There were four inns close to the brewery in the surrounding village of Collyweston – the Slater’s Arms, Easton on the Hill – the Carpenters Arms, Nassington – another Carpenters Arms and the Foundry Arms at Ryhall, plus Inns at Brigstock, Lincoln, Sleaford, and Weldon.

The Hit or Miss on Foundry Road had been tied to the All Saints’ Brewery since 1860 when Elmer Brown held the lease. However Melbourn’s’ didn’t acquire the pub till March 1870. Another Elmer Brown pub was the Rolt’s Arms, part of Corporation Buildings on Scotgate. This pub was named after the unsuccessful anti-Burghley parliamentary candidate in the 1847 election and was leased from Stamford Borough Council and ceased trading in 1908. The Old Chequers had been a William Brown Edwards tied house since 1839 and remained so through the time of Elmer Brown, the lease was allowed to lapse in 1887. The exact financial arrangements between Elmer Brown and Herbert Wells Melbourn are not known. Obviously the Brewery lease was transferred in 1869, but the exact arrangements around the public houses are uncertain.

By 1884 the number had grown to thirty one, with inns in Lincoln, Grantham and Sleaford, and in their surrounding villages and hamlets. During this period two leases had been allowed to lapse, the Royal Oak and the White Swan in Stamford, and of the additional eighteen houses, thirteen were acquired on lease and the remaining five were purchased.

In 1880, W.C.Crowson, Brewer of Oakham retired and from the subsequent sale the Wheatsheaf at Oakham and the New Inn at Preston in Rutland were purchased. The freeholds of the Crown at Dyke, the Corner Inn at Collyweston, and the Royal Oak at Heckington were also acquired.

With the agricultural depressions of the 1880’s and 1890’s and the improvements in farming technology there was a movement of rural labour from the villages to the ever industrialising market towns and as a result village tied houses were less profitable in comparison with those in cities such as Lincoln or market towns like Stamford. It was not uncommon for the licensee to carry on another trade from their property to make ends meet, this applied more so in villages, but also applied in some of the smaller town pubs.

As a result although there was no marked increase or decrease in the number of tied houses, new ones were acquired in towns, whilst some of the more rural inns were sold or their leases allowed to lapse.

When properties with an alcohol license became available for either purchase or lease there was often a degree of competition by brewery companies to acquire them as tied houses. Melbourn’s failed in 1880 to purchase the White Swan in Stamford when it came up at auction, having previously held the pub on lease. However the Pineapple on High Street, Stamford was acquired in 1890.

So, every opportunity was followed to acquire inns on lease and it should not be a surprise that some belonged to the Burghley Estate and these were often attached to the overriding lease that the company held for the Brewery. For instance, in 1897 they acquitted what had formerly been known as Wheatley’s Vaults on Ironmonger Street which they renamed Melbourn’s Vaults, then in April 1899 the Bull & Swan Inn in St Martins became tied to the brewery followed in 1911 by the Boat & Railway Inn at the bottom of St Mary’s Hill, formerly a Hunt Brothers’ pub, which remained with the brewery until its closure in 1962. Not all of these could be even mildly be called economically viable businesses. One of these was the Exeter’s Arms on Water Street, sited where Saxon Court now stands. It was only a Melbourn’s tied house from 1923 to 1932. It had been a home-brew pub with one mash tun and one fermenting vessel with a capacity of eight barrels from at least 1880 until it ceased brewing in late 1920/early 1921. In 1931 the town’s magistrates were actively reducing the number of licensed houses in the town. The Exeter’s Arms was one of them and compensation of £600 was finally agreed, the Burghley Estate received £165, Melbourn’s £375, and the tenant £60.

It was not until after Herbert’s death in January 1927 that any noticeable changes were made in the firm’s policy towards tied houses. By this date the four depots had closed and deliveries were made by motor lorry and less use was made of the railway network. The firm was now in the hands of trustees who initiated a cautious expansion of the business through the acquisition of freehold properties. The Boot and Shoe at South Luffenham in 1927 and the Plough at Great Casterton in 1931 had previously been leasehold properties were bought. Other freehold acquisitions were the Brewery Inn in Stamford in 1929, the Crown Inn at Great Casterton in 1931, and the Five Bells at Morton and the Six Bells at the Witham on the Hill in the same year.

On purchasing the Brewery Inn the trustees considered retaining the wooden Brewhouse on site for emergencies, which although not used since 1923 was still equipped with a mash tun and a fermenting vessel(s). Sense prevailed and the Brewhouse was demolished in 1930.

The Royal Oak at Heckington was completely rebuilt during this period, its location on the A17 with its large car park made an ideal stopping point for travellers on the way to and from the coast.

During the Second World War the Stamford Hotel was requisitioned by the Air Ministry and the Stamford Hotel Tap was leased to Melbourn’s from 1942 to 1948. It then reverted to a Free House.

In 1947, Herbert’s widow, Fanny Elizabeth Melbourn, died and the firm passed into the hands of Herbert’s great-nephew and great-nieces. Under this new management further tied houses were obtained. The Plough at Sleaford (1947). The Black Horse at Grimsthorpe (1954), the Five Bells at Edenham (1955), and the Red Lion at Haconby (1958). All bar the Black Horse were acquired as freehold properties.

The 1960’s brought rationalisation and consolidation, a number of uneconomic inns were sold or the leases allowed to lapse. Two pubs were sold to developers, the Plough at Sleaford in 1958 and the Pineapple at Stamford in 1961. The Pineapple had been held from 1890 on lease from the Newcomb Estate and subsequently bought in 1920 for £1,000. The finance from such sales were used to purchase new outlets, to improve existing properties, and to acquire adjoining sites to some inns with a view to future developments and in at least one case to enlarge the inn’s car park. The sale of the Pineapple had raised £10,000.

In the late 1950’s and early 1960’s the Stamford Brewster magistrates were again demanding a reduction in the number of licensed houses in the town. Two of the Melbourn houses affected was the Sun and Railway in 1958 and the Star and Garter in 1966. Both of these inns were small, uneconomic and needed extensive repairs. It was suggested by some that the Star and Garter would collapse if either of the adjoining buildings were demolished. With the growth in Stamford with its new housing estates, council housing in the east and the Jelson estates in the west an attempt was made by the brewery to exchange licenses in the centre of town to have a pub on the town’s outskirts. An attempt was made to get the franchise to build what became the Danish Invader, this was unsuccessful. Probably the most surprising survival was the Hit or Miss on Foundry Road, which remained a beer house till 1961 when it finally acquired a full licence.

During the 1960’s not only were the much larger national brewery companies buying up small breweries, they were also entering into contracts with firms like Melbourn’s to sell their lagers and bottled beers. Melbourn’s had for many years bottled Guinness along with their own brands of pale ales. But brewing lager was clearly beyond the capabilities of the All Saint’s Street site. The firm therefore entered into a number of trading agreements. Through this process the Strugglers at Lincoln was acquired on lease in 1963 from Bass Charrington’s, terms were also made with Whitbread which added the Wheatsheaf at Greetham also in 1963 and the White Swan at Woodnewton in 1968.

When in 1971 the business was acquired by the Earl of Liverpool and the Earl of Gainsborough, the firm of Melbourn Brothers had thirty two tied public houses. These covered an area from Ingham in the north to Woodnewton in the south, and ranged from the small village inn to large coaching inns – both in the ancient and modern meaning of the word. Some had been recently modernised whilst others were badly in need of repair and required extensive alterations to bring them up to modern standards. The Brewhouse was also in need of investment with its equipment being almost entirely Victorian, so it was no surprise that brewing ceased in 1974.

This short paper is based on research carried out in the late 1970’s when surviving records were still held on the brewery site.

A print version can be downloaded HERE

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