This is an anniversary post! Its not any special one but rather its thirty years since I had a tour around the famous Ram Brewery at Wandsworth. I thought I’d make a wee dram out of it! Young’s (or Ram) Brewery was one of those great London places with loads of history brewing… much like Whitbread’s in Chiswell Street, Barbican. Both were famous for the continuation of beer deliveries locally by horse and cart – something sadly missing since these places were gentrified and their true historical significance was lost forever.
The original site in 2008 just after it had closed. Source: Google Streets
Ram’s Brewery closed in 2006 and the site put up for sale. It was in due course leased out for other uses but eventually the developers moved in and regenerated the site along with the retention of a number of the original buildings. It was the more modern buildings more or less in the centre of the site that were removed. The new residential development is quite centrally placed with the original Ram’s brewery buildings at either end of the site forming the historical element.
The above aerial shows the site before demolition of the main part of it began. Source: Sutton & Croydon Guardian
As one can see from the above image, the centrally placed modern buildings were those removed to make way for the new development. The clock tower and stables at the bottom and the original part of the works at the top left hand corner were largely retained. The River Wandle runs through the western part of the site. Its not navigable however the section of river below Armoury Way (out of sight at the bottom of the picture) is known as Bell Creek and navigable at high tide as far as what is Bell Weir. It has that unusual name because the weir structure has a bell on it!
Work on the site suffered a setback when the contractors Kier’s, pulled out in 2016. A micro brewery, known as Sam’s has been established on site thus there’s a continuation of sorts in terms of the area’s former industry. I would have liked to have gone to Wandsworth to do some up to date pictures to compare before and after scenes however the current lockdown precludes me from travelling.
The redeveloped site. Source: Google Streets
Elsewhere I have discussed the site in terms of its relation to both the Surrey Iron Railway and the Wandsworth (or McMurray’s) canal. The top end of the brewery site was in fact the terminus of the canal and for many years deliveries were both received and sent by barge. I’ll look at the old canal route a little more as a second part to this feature.
First a look at the site thirty years ago this month. We had a full tour of the brewery complex on the 14 May 1990. One of the puzzles for me is having looked at my pictures, the clock tower had no clocks at all thus I was uncertain whether it actually had clocks beforehand. An intensive search located a picture from the 1930s which showed there were indeed clocks on the tower. That means at the time of my visit these were elsewhere for repairs/restoration.
I have shown this picture several times before especially on this blog. Its a view of the company’s lorries and offices, but what many do not know is the buildings on the left once served the canal. Sadly these historic structures have been knocked down. More of that later. From author’s collection.
Despite being almost in central London, Young’s brewery certainly had a county air to it! There were chickens, ducks and horses about, and the usual warnings – please do not feed the animals. From author’s collection.
One of the dray horses brought out for us to look at. These were used to pull the company’s delivery carts which made their round locally. From author’s collection.
The yard where the drays were kept. At least four can be seen here – three enclosed and one fully open. This is just behind the clock tower buildings. From author’s collection.
The clock tower buildings actually contained the stables for the horses as well as the parking area for the brewery’s historic vehicles.
At the bottom end of the complex (the north side with its boundary onto Armoury Way) there were more animals. A pond was provided for the ducks and geese. The clock tower can be seen and as I mentioned earlier it, none of the four faces of the tower had any clocks at all! From author’s collection.
The duck pond! Behind the fence is Armoury Way. From author’s collection.
In the old days (at least before 1937) the area just to the north of the duck pond would have in fact been one of the wharves that served the canal. Old pictures do show a building sited about here and then to the side of that was McMurray’s canal. The building of Armoury Way obliterated all remaining trace of this including the site of a lift bridge which guarded the top end of the canal into the brewery site itself.
Dray horses at rest in the stables. From author’s collection.
The stores where the barrels were kept. From author’s collection.
The workshop where new beer barrels were either made or the old ones repaired. From author’s collection.
The automated bottling plant. This was sited in one of the brewery’s modern buildings. From author’s collection.
One of the best surprises was the huge Wentworth beam engines. From author’s collection.
The beam engines are lovely although they are not as big as say, as those at Kew. What was impressive was these beam engines had worked continuously since their installation in the 1830s. They were still at work right up to the time of the site’s closure in 2006. They have been retained as part of the small museum/brewery that is on the new site.
Here’s a picture shown below of the information board which describes the beam engines. I didn’t take this particular picture, its from the Ram Brewery’s own blog.
The detailed history of the Wentworth beam engines. Source: Ram Brewery Development Blog
During the research I undertook for this post, I discovered some additional photographs which will form part of the second instalment in regards to the canal and Surrey Iron Railway. Its an update to complement material that I have written upon previously – and its of interest because very little has been done elsewhere on this subject.
Next: The brewery in relation to McMurrays canal and the Surrey Iron Railway.