History of Brewing in Staines

The Cock Inn (now offices) in front of the Ashby’s Brewery buildings taken around 1900. A sign on the wall gives directions to Tims Boathouse – Tims Boatyard is co-incidentally the location of where Thames Side Brewery began life (albeit after Tims move not long after this photograph was taken, from Church Island to the current site across the river).

Brewing in Staines.
Thames Side Brewery represents the first time in 80 years that there has been a brewery in Staines upon Thames. Our microbrewery has a capacity of four brewery barrels and every time we brew we can produce 655 litres in each of our three fermenting vessels.

The last operating brewery in Staines was Ashby’s Staines Brewery, which was acquired by H&G Simonds in 1931, and then by Courage. Ashby Breweries was then closed down in 1936.

Thomas Ashby had started brewing here in 1796, after he, along with other brewers and mineral water suppliers, was attracted to the area by the pure water in Staines. His business was apparently conducted in a basic way, and Thomas Ashby brewed beer in his own house — just as I started — and reputedly delivered casks to customers on a wheelbarrow.

As the business grew, and encouraged by his wife, who tired of the constant smell in the kitchen, Thomas moved production to the garden shed — just as I also did with my home brewing equipment whilst developing recipes. The brewing premises subsequently expanded onto surrounding land given to Thomas by his father in 1805.

The brewery tower survives today near Staines Bridge, and is literally a stones throw from where our microbrewery is now located. we hope Thomas Ashby would approve!

Ale Inspiration
I am indebted to Peter G. Ashby for an article he posted online in 2012 entitled Ashby Breweries History. Even though I am in no way related to or descended from anyone involved with Ashby’s Brewery, while looking through this I noticed several things which made me feel very connected to this old company, and to which, I hoped, would help me become a worthy successor to it.

Ashby’s had a branch for a time in Kingston, in which Thomas Ashby’s youngest son Francis had an interest with his brother-in-law Samuel Thorne, who was from Chelmsford. I grew up and spent most of my life in the Royal Borough of Kingston, as well as having family in the Chelmsford area.

Also, there is mention of the Thorneycroft Q, 1919–1926 type delivery lorry they used. My grandfather worked for Thorneycroft in Basingstoke and the Pimlico yards building. He repaired these lorries from 1920–1935, and so would probably have been involved with making or repairing these same Ashby delivery lorries.

Finally, in 1850, Ashby’s opened a store in the railway arches at Waterloo Station to supply London trade. As mentioned above, after 41 years, I have now realised my dream of leaving insurance to open a microbrewery. For most of those 41 years, I have travelled through Waterloo Station twice a day, probably unknowingly passing right by the site of the old store!

Ashby’s Australian Pale Ale and Thames Side Egyptian Goose IPA
While researching its history, I also discovered that from as early as 1829, Ashby’s brewed a beer for export to “the Australian colonies”. This was described in advertisements placed in the Times in 1842 & 1843 as a beer that “resembles East India Pale Ale (IPA) in flavour and colour, but with rather more body”.

Sadly, I have not been able to find any surviving recipes from Ashby’s, but the IPA that I brew, Egyptian Goose IPA, is based upon an old fashioned English IPA rather than the currently popular American style IPAs.

Typically, IPAs only use pale malt as their base — as indeed I have done here. In an attempt to give mine the “rather more body” boasted of in the adverts, I have tweaked the recipe slightly in another way.

So while not labelled as such, this is my effort to complete the brewing circle and bring it back to Staines by producing something possibly similar to that last produced by Ashby’s Staines Brewery Limited in the 1800’s.

We are proud to return the craft of brewing to Staines.

Since starting the brewery and including the above information on our website, I was contacted by Peter Ashby (mentioned above). His son now runs a pub in Bristol and has actually served our beer at his pub. Again, this completes the circle for me – a beer brewed on a recipe based upon an inspiration from Ashby’s Brewery in Staines, brewed by Thames Side Brewery in Staines but poured by a descendant of that same Ashby.

Andrew Hayward, Owner & Head Brewer, Thames Side Brewery