The Family & Brewery down the ages

This timeline shows key family events and some of our archive of documents, images and plans of the Brewery site, tracking its development milestones down the ages.

We are fortunate to have a considerable archive of material that gives us a detailed picture of the Brewery as it looked and operated, particularly in the closing years of the 19th Century.

  • 1765-1782 William Simonds

    William Simonds (1733-1782) started life as a maltster and then opened a small brewery in the centre of Reading in about 1774, followed by 2 pubs in Reading and 2 elsewhere. When he died, the business passed to his son William Blackall Simonds.

  • 1785 William Blackall Simonds

    William Blackall Simonds opened a new brewery at 85 Broad Street in Reading. Click for more information on William Blackall Simonds and other members of his extensive family.

  • 1789 Brewery Design

    William bought a large site beside the River Kennet on what was then ‘Seven Bridges’ and now Bridge Street. John Soane and William Blackall Simonds were probably school friends as John Soane was from nearby Goring-on-Thames. Soane’s designs for a new Brewery and private residence on Bridge Street were drawn up in December 1789 when […]

  • 1791 Simonds Bank

    Many brewers of the era turned to banking, in part to employ surplus wealth but also because brewing generated so much cash with many publicans depositing their funds with their landlord. In 1791 William Blackall Simonds (1762-1834) co-founded a bank with three other partners, Messrs Micklem, Stephens and Harris, in Reading Market Place. In the […]

  • 1799 2hp steam engine!

    In the late 18th century John Rennie was an engineer in London, who often acted as an agent for Boulton & Watt, but became an important engineer in his own right. Here is part of his letter and transcript of July 7th 1799 to Messrs Boulton & Watt, confirming the order of a 2hp bell […]

  • 1802 Coates Map of Reading

    Coates produced the map of record of Reading in the early 19th Century. This map shows the limited spread of the town at that time Here, the then Brewery site on the East side of Seven Bridges Street is outlined in green It is unclear if at this date they owned or occupied the the […]

  • 1814 Supply to Sandhurst letter

    On the 15th June 1814, William Blackall Simonds secured his first agreement to supply the British Army. In this case the Officer’s canteen at Sandhurst Military Academy. It was to prove a turning point in his fortunes as H&G Simonds went on to supply the British Army with beer for the next 100 years and […]

  • 1815 17 pubs!

    Simonds had ten public houses in Reading, one in Pangbourne and six in the Aborfield, Hurst, Wokingham area.

  • 1834 Holy Brook location

    An original plan drawing of the brewery site. This is mounted on a wooden board and was in a framed display in Bridge Street for very many years. This is a map of the old Blandy & Hawkins’ Castle Street Brewer, which was Simonds’ biggest rival in Reading. It was bought by Hawkins & Parfitt’s […]

  • 1837 Title Deeds on vellum

    A plan drawing of the brewery site, on original vellum. From the original title and mortgage deeds.   This 1837 map shows the property of George Simonds [Son of William Blackall Simonds] in Gas Lane, next to and later swallowed up by the Simonds Brewery. Giles Ayres’ coal merchant’s wharf is out the back of […]

  • 1861 Coloured etching

    Slide by Tony Corley of a drawing from David Simonds’ private collection. Marked on the back: “The old fashioned print of Seven Bridges Brewery: Date: 1861”.<br /> “ex Mr C. H. Smith 5/2/35”

  • 1868 Wines & Spirits

    The wine and spirit trade, which since the beginning of the century had been carried on by Mr. Henry Simonds, was acquired by the firm.

  • 1869 – 1871 H&G Simonds Beers


  • 1872 Army trade

    Messrs. Simonds first supplied the troops of the flying columns on manoeuvre on Salisbury Plain and took the contract to supply the Aldershot Army base. From this date, supply of British troops all over the world became a major business focus.

  • 1872 Louis de Luze Simonds

    Louis arrives from New York to live in the UK and spend the rest of his life working at the Reading Brewery. You can read his biography HERE As well as see the poignant letter he wrote from his home in New York – finally agreeing to move to the UK.  

  • 1873 Concrete warehouse

    Blackall Simonds designed and supervised the construction of a four storey beer and wine store of unreinforced concrete. The walls and floors of the store were of concrete and iron columns supported vaulted floors. Believed to be the first use of this style of construction.

  • 1880 Valletta Malta

    Initially a branch office was opened in Valletta Malta to serve the armed forces. The Malta branch office imported bulk beer from the Reading brewery, bottled it on the island, and then sold it to the various military canteens & local public. Certain beers that travelled better, like Milk Stout, were imported already bottled. The […]

  • 1881 Gibraltar

    Opened a branch in Gibraltar. The building remains, at the corner of Main Street with Market Lane. followed in the early 20th century by branches in Belgium & in Libya & Egypt.

  • 1884 117 Pubs

    Simonds now have 117 pubs and the pace of growth then accelerated. Besides pubs, the brewery was expanding into London, as demonstarted by the British phone book records of 1880-1884, which records H&G Simonds Ltd with 4 locations: Brewers, 181 Haydon’s Road Brewers & Bottlers, 32 York Road, Lambeth [2 lines] Caterers, Surrey County Cricket […]

  • 1885 Becomes ‘Ltd’

    The business converts from a partnership to a Private Limited Company, H&G Simonds Ltd. However the family held all the shares up until 1928. The business raised funds extensively to fund the ambitious expansion program by issuing debentures. Debenture issue Times 12-5-1950 There was another issue of Debentures in 1947 – here is a sample:

  • 1890 Barnard’s History

    Noted Breweries of Great Britain and Ireland, by Alfred Barnard. Barnard spent 2 years on a grand tour around the breweries of England, Ireland and Scotland. His apparent aim was to educate the reader in 4 volumes on the manufacture of beer and also to tell the historical story of the then leading brewers. The […]

  • 1895 211 Pubs

    By November, the firm had 211 pubs, a growth of 80% in 10 years.

  • 1895 Brewery Photos

    These 5 images of old Reading date from soon after 1890 and were possibly taken by Reading Photographers Dann & Lewis who took the famous water tower panorama images about the same time. The originals mounted on board are currently in my possession and are so faded that they are almost orange. So these are […]

  • 1895 Engraving

    This is an engraving of the Brewery as it appeared about the time of Barnard’s work. [responsive-flipbook id=”1895_brewery_print_story_rs_wm”] This fabulous artwork dates from early 1890’s and was used later as the basis for one of the iconic Brewery Mirrors Designed by Soane, the family home in the middle of the brewery yard was demolished to […]

  • 1895 Goad Map

    The Goad map of the area dated 1895 shows clearly the extent of the brewery site of the time, extending both sides of the river. But there is still open ground between the new Maltings and Bridge Street

  • 1899 Old Reading Panorama

    1898, Bridge Street upstream on the Kennet. The Brewery of H&G Simonds top left, the weir, County Lock, then Lock Island with the Corporation scarlet fever and smallpox hospitals and mortuary, with the water tower behind. St Giles mill stream and bridge off to the right. The next 11 stunning images were taken by Reading […]

  • 1900 Offices

    This is the front of the company offices of the period

  • 1912 Paris Gold Medal

    In March, the firm was awarded the Grand Prix and Gold Medal for Ale and Stout at the Paris International Foods Exhibition.

  • 1912 Reading Standard

    In their 14th December issue, the ‘Reading Standard’ published a special supplement on one of Reading’s biggest employers of the time, H&G Simonds Ltd then employed some 500 people. In our archives there survives only a badly damaged copy, so I would very much like to hear from anybody who can improve on this please. […]

  • 1917 Trade Price List

  • 1925 Offices

    Brewery from across the river, about 1925 These images of the office building are from; about 1925 and shortly before demolition, in the 1970’s

  • 1926 General Strike

    The brewery business was severely disrupted by the General Strike in May. Despite the lack of transport to shift raw materials or finished product and the consequential lack of sales, the Directors took the decision not to lay off any staff, recognising the hardship that this would cause in an age before the welfare state. […]

  • 1926 Prince of Wales

    This was the only recorded Royal visit and an historical image of that visit was used to illustrate the Brewery Information Board. Charles Stocker, Head Brewer. F.A Simonds, Chairman. Prince of Wales. George Blackall Simonds There is a Pathe News report on this visit – Click HERE. The Prince’s visit was of course written up […]

  • 1929 Malta

    Simonds Farsons Ltd was launched in Malta The full story is HERE:     Beer label & Beer mat from late 1930’s   The Rose & Crown pub with rooms in Floriana, 1932  

  • 1929 Royal Warrant

    Was proudly displayed over the front door of the Bridge Street offices. In 1929 H&G Simonds was granted the Royal Warrant as Brewers to His Majesty, King George the Fifth. It was again granted by King George 6th in 1940 and by Queen Elizabeth 2nd in 1955. The warrant continued to be held until the […]

  • 1930 Hop Leaf

    The Hop Leaf trade mark is adopted as a pub sign, to be displayed outside all pubs. This was a very early example of branding in the pub trade.

  • 1930’s Ordnance Survey

    A 1931 clip from an Ordnance Survey map shows the brewery now expanded along both sides of Fobney Street and further down Gas Lane.

  • 1936 Cone Top Cans

    The iconic ’Cone Topped Can’ was invented in 1935 and Simonds were early adopters in 1936. You can download the recollections of Duncan Simonds HERE. The Hop Leaf Gazette of November 1936 reported that a display at the Arthur Cooper off licence in Reading of SB in cone top cans, attracted a great deal of […]

  • 1936 H&G Simonds Accounts

    1936 H&G Simonds Accounts.pdf

  • 1937 H&G Simonds Accounts

    1937 H&G Simonds Accounts.pdf

  • 1942 Employee Handbook

    1942 Employee Handbook.pdf

  • 1944 Squaddies enjoy a pint!

    In 1944, beer was still in severely short supply owing to restrictions on raw materials and manpower. This cleverly colourised and clearly staged image dates from about 1944 and seems to be in an army barracks.

  • 1944 Wartime Deception

    Photos of American GI’s supposedly taken in Devon were published in 1944 to make the Germans think that troops were massing in the East of England. This image was shot at the Dove Inn, Burton Bradstock. It shows a large image of our brewery in Reading, as well as a calendar, open at April 1944.. […]

  • 1947 May’s Brewery, Basingstoke

    The Basingstoke Brewery in Brook Street, which became known as May’s Brewery, was founded by William May (1729-1797) the Miller of Burghfield, and his brother Thomas May (1737-1800) the Miller of Brimpton. Almost certainly with the help of their father, James May (1700-1774) a yeoman farmer from Sheep Sutton Farm at Long Sutton in Hampshire, […]

  • 1949 H&G Simonds Accounts

    A rare surviving copy of the company accounts, gives an insight into the business of that era.

  • 1950 Kenya

    Acquired 50% interest in East African Breweries based in Nairobi, Mombasa and Dar es Salaam.

  • 1950’s Advertising

    The advertising of the time looks a little dated now:

  • 1950’s Cellar Management

    Bottling & Cellar Management. Beer in bulk was still being shipped out from Reading Brewery for bottling in regional centres, but even then quality control was seen as key. This is the company ‘Bottling Manual’ from the mid-50’s. Today’s publicans who serve ‘Real Ale’ may still recognise parts of this period cellar manual:

  • 1951 & 1957 Simonds Hotels

    In 1951 and 1957 the Hotels estate was nearing its peak, so these booklets are especially useful in understanding their geographical spread and ‘country’ style from the period.

  • 1951 Bottling Instructions

    Simonds operated a series of depots, where beer was supplied in ‘Hogsheads’, which is a large barrel containing 54 gallons of beer, whilst the ‘standard’ barrel contained a more manageable 36 gallons. Beer was then bottled locally, to reduce the heavy costs of transporting bottles. As transport infrastructure improved, these depots were wound down into […]

  • 1952 F A Simonds Jubilee


  • 1953 Nine reigns!

    This image shows Viscount Gavin Simonds (in wig) standing behind the Queen’s right shoulder at her Coronation. The House of Simonds through nine reigns: This delightful history was published in-house and again in the House Magazine, The Hop Leaf Gazette, as part of the Brewery celebrations for the accession of Queen Elizabeth II: By this […]

  • 1953 Price List Retail Wines & Spirits

    1953 Price List Retail Wines & Spirits.pdf

  • 1955 Wholesale beers price list

    1955-02 Beers price list.pdf

  • 1957 Brewers Exhibition

    The attention to detail and quality paid off – Simonds beers won a range of awards:

  • 1958 Definitive list of pubs!

    Finally, a definitive list of Simonds pubs – and from a time when H&G Simopnds was at the height of the brand extent. The only one we have ever seen. 1958 Licenced Premises list©.pdf  

  • 1958 Nairobi

    The new brewery opened in Nairobi, Kenya, a joint venture with East African Breweries.

  • 1959 Staff Handbook

    Here is a fascinating insight to the life and times of brewery employees, during the last years that this was an independent company. The Staff Handbook The Pensions Handbook.

  • 1960 Aerial View

    Look carefully at these aerial views of the site, this from the 1960’s The next webpage shows 1970’s – about 8 years apart and spot the changes! Early 1960’s view   This image is undated – any suggestions?

  • 1960 Merger

    H&G Simonds Ltd merged with Courage Barclay Ltd to become Courage Barclay & Simonds Ltd.

  • 1970 Aerial View

  • 1979 Final Brewery images

    I was very fortunate to find this amazing photo album in the hands of Alan Stevens, an avid collector for 50 years of Reading Memorabilia. These precious images were taken during the final weeks of operation, that Alan told me a friend had found in a skip and given to him! They were clearly intended […]

  • 1980 Plaque & last brew

    The last brew at the old Seven Bridges Brewery buildings on Bridge Street was on June 25th 1980. Here is the sad report of the occasion in the Courage Central staff newsletter of the following month: A special commemorative ale was brewed and issued in a small case to every employee and many other followers. […]

  • 2009 Information Board

    A memorial Information Board is unveiled on the bank of the River Kennet, facing the site of the Bridge Street Brewery.