Business Address: Brakspear, The Bull Courtyard, Bell Street, Henley on Thames, Oxon, RG9 2BA.
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Brakspear are passionate about great pubs. The family has been running pubs for over 200 years and, while many things have changed in that time, the pub remains at the heart of British life.
In 1711, William Henry Brakspear decided beer was the future and bought a brewery on Bell Street, Henley on Thames. In 1769, nineteen year old Robert Brakspear, became the pub landlord of the Cross Keys, Witney and it's from here Brakspear Bitter was born and started being brewed. In 1779, so many people were enjoying Brakspear Bitter, they needed to move to a bigger brewery so Robert moved to Henley to join his uncle, Richard Hayward, at the brewery. In 1803 Richard passed away and control passed to Robert. In 1812 Robert passed away and the brewery moved round the corner from Bell Street to New Street in Henley and had 34 pub leases and Robert's second son, William Henry, joined the business. In 1848 Robert's son William Henry became the sole owner and began trading as W.H. Brakspear.
William Brakspear died in 1882, an event mourned by the whole of Henley On Thames. Three years later W.H. Brakspear became a public company and purchased Greys Brewery in Henley and its 54 pubs. Further breweries with pubs were purchased over the next 45 years in Wokingham, Wallingford and Goring.
A few years earlier in 1875, John Thomas Davies moved to London, from Llanarthly , Wales, and borrowed money to build The Mansfield pub, which is now known as the Gospel Oak. In 1913 John died, after building another 11 pubs. These 12 pubs passed to his son Alfred, who formed the limited company J.T. Davies & Sons ltd. Alfred increased the number of pubs to 64 managed pubs in London and the South East, with most of them leased from breweries. Alfred was elected MP for Lincoln in 1918 - 1924 and was knighted too.
Sir Alfred died at a young age following a stroke and his younger son Tony took over. Tony predicted correctly that breweries would start managing their own pubs, and so he established a chain of off-licenses and wine merchants called Davisons. By the early 1990s there are 85 stores.
In 1992 Tony Davies died, having passed the business to his son Michael seven years earlier, who joined the business in 1973. The company acquired 18 freehold pubs from Bass, the start of the tenanted pub business.
In 1994, J. T. Davies acquired Mayor Sworder wine merchants then two years later the off-licenses were sold to Unwins. The company now owns 50 tenanted pubs.
In 2000 J.T. Davies bought its first stake in W.H. Brakspear, adding to it in 2002 to secure a 30% share. In 2002, Brakspear moved away from direct brewing and Marstons took the reins at their Wychwood Brewery in Witney, Oxfordshire, right around the corner from where Brakspear bitter began at the Cross Keys.
In 2007 J.T. Davies acquired W.H. Brakspear in its entirety and turns it back into a private company, with 150 tenanted pubs. Michael's son Tom joined the business as Commercial Director and the fifth generation of the Davies family to enter the business. In 2009, J.T. Davies sold Mayor Sworder to Davy & Co of London. A year later Tom became Chief Executive of Brakspear with Michael becoming Chairman for W.H. Brakspear, and that's where we're up to at the moment. The pub company side of Brakspear's head office still remains in Henley On Thames, on Bell Street, the same street where the Brakspear brewery orignally was.
Another historical fact about Brakspear relates to our logo. The Brakspear name is often accompanied with a bee. This all stems from Nicholas Breakspear, a distant relative of the Brakspear family. Nicholas was the only Englishman to ever be elected as pope and was also known as Pope Adrian IV. Elected pope on the 3rd December 1154, his papal seal contained the image of a bee, so that's where our bee logo comes from.