Penn Brewery
by Bev Parker

One of Penn Common's most distinctive landmarks, which nearly everyone will know, is the old Penn Brewery. Although the brewery remained in use for around forty years, comparatively little is known about it. As far as I am aware, only one image of the original brewery survives, and this on an old postcard.

The only known image of the brewery, which can be seen in the background with its pitched roof and tall chimney.

The old brewery, now a residential property.

The Brewery was built in 1860 by John Millard who lived about a mile and a quarter away at Netherby House, on Gospel End Road. It stood where Caswell Road is today, and is commemorated by the adjacent Netherby Road.

John Millard is listed in the 1881 census as a farmer and maltster with 75 acres of land. He employed three men and a maltster, and lived with his wife Mary, his daughter Ellen, his niece Esther, a live-in housemaid, and a kitchen maid.

On the opposite side of Gospel End Road was his malthouse. A lot of barley was grown in the area, so it is possible that John Millard grew the barley for use in his malthouse where it would have been germinated on the floor, then roasted to prevent further growth. The malted barley was then sold to local breweries.

It seems likely that he wanted to expand his malting business by brewing beer himself. The site chosen for the brewery stands above an area of old red sandstone which allows water to percolate through it, and is porous enough to store large quantities below the surface.

The brewery is in a hollow with a hill on either side, so due to gravity, trapped water will appear at the surface in springs. The water is of a high quality, and can easily be obtained in large quantities from a suitable well.

The brewery had a chequered history, always struggling to compete with the larger, more mechanised breweries. From 1872 it was run by Thomas Fox Allin, and in October 1887 became a limited company; Penn Brewery Company Limited in order to acquire the business of Williams and Empson.

In 1888 it became Hall & Haden's Penn Brewery with V. E. Heathcote as manager, and in 1897 took over William Harper's brewery in Dudley.

Looking up the hill, past the brewery, towards Penn.

Looking at the brewery from the west.

Later that year it became a take-over victim itself when the Burton Brewery Company acquired the business.

In August 1899 it was sold to Wolverhampton District Brewery Limited, then acquired by Ansell's, and within a short while it closed.

Although the hollow in which the brewery sat provided an excellent water supply, the steep hill on either side was difficult for the heavily laden drays to negotiate.

After closure the brewery building was acquired by James Lakin and turned into a private residence. The original pitched roof was removed, castellations and decorative features were added, and the brewery's tall chimney demolished. In 1903 the Lloyd Roberts buildings were added to the south eastern side of the original tower, where the single storey brewery building once stood. The building is named after William Lloyd Roberts, one of the supporters of the original golf course and tenant of the Barley Mow from 1891 until 1896.

A final view of the brewery with the Lloyd Roberts buildings on the left.

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