The son of William Simonds (1733-1782) and Mary Blackall (1730-1797) he was first really energetic family businessman & brewer about whom there are some [sometimes conflicting] records. Aged just 22 in 1783, he was married [like me] at The Church of St James the Less, Pangbourne, Berkshire to Elizabeth May (1764-1842),


Elizabeth was the daughter of Daniel May (1734-1780) & Elizabeth [née Green] (1764-1842) from a wealthy family of millers in Basingstoke. She brought with her a dowry of £2,000. William’s wedding was just 2 months after he had inherited his father’s brewing business with 4 pubs and he wasted no time in developing it, opening a new brewery at 85 Broad Street in 1785. By 1790 William owned a ½ share with his sister in law Mary May (1760-1844) of the Millhouse & Water Mill in Pangbourne.

Five years later at the age of just 27 he commissioned a huge new brewery with a capacity of ‘25 quarters’ or 6,000 barrels a year and a spacious new Georgian home. All designed by a leading young architect friend [later Sir] John Soane. This cost some £6,400 a huge sum, with a projected value today of over £9m, which left him deeply in debt. It may just have been a happy coincidence that in the same year he also became Receiver-General of Taxes for West Berkshire, and a co-founder of Messrs. Micklem, Stephens, Simonds & Harris’ Bank in the Market Place, each partner contributing £1,000 capital. Reading’s new Brewery had an output of 6,000 barrels per annum.

In 1799 William bought the Old Rectory in Caversham from John Loveday jointly with his uncle James Simonds. When James died in 1819 William exercised his option to buy in the other 1/2, and paid just £8,000.

In July 1820, on account his position as Official Receiver of Taxes for Western Berkshire, an Act of Parliament ensured that his home, the Old Rectory in Caversham, [later Caversham Court and now the site of a public park, see ‘Properties’ below] could not become part of his public liabilities in that role.

Simonds WB 1820 Act

If you have the rest of this act to share with me – please do get in touch.

He was Reading Town Treasurer for many years and Mayor in 1816/17.

In 1828 he was elected Chairman of the Country Brewers’ Society. Other family positions in this great institution are listed on page 96 of the Hop Leaf Gazette of March 1950:

William retired in 1816, aged only 55, handing the business over to his son Blackall (1784-1875). He and Elizabeth moved to 40 York Place, Baker Street in London. In common with many family – they were both buried in Hurst Churchyard.

David Ford’s Berkshire History site has his biography that I could not improve on, click HERE.

Wiki link click HERE.

Brewing was already in William’s blood, because his father William Simonds (1732-1782) is credited wit starting the Simonds brewing dynasty with a small brewery and 3 or 4 pubs, that he passed on to his son. His uncle James Simonds (1737-1819) also seems to have had a small brewery on London Street in the centre of Reading, which might have become Byles or Justins Brewery later.

In 1819 William’s daughter Jane [1796-1874] married George Hartwell Marsack [1791-1856] in Caversham.

This naive style portrait from 1822 shows William & his wife Elizabeth with with their daughter Jane Marsack holding her eldest child Charlotte [1820-1900]. The location is surely either William’s family home Caversham Rectory.or the Marsack’s nearby in Caversham Park!

In 1862 Charlotte went on to marry her 1st cousin, The Rev John Simonds Muller, in Ryde, Isle of Wight.