History: Fancy a pint in Brentwood?

PUBLISHED: 12:00 04 October 2018

The Essex Arms on Warley Hill. Picture: Sylvia Kent

The Essex Arms on Warley Hill. Picture: Sylvia Kent

Sylvia Kent

This week, historian and vice-president of the Brentwood Writers’ Circle Sylvia Kent looks back at the beloved pubs that have been and gone in the borough.

Wherever you live in Brentwood, you won’t have to travel far should you fancy a drink.

A century ago, the town boasted dozens of ‘watering holes’.

At one time there were more than 20 inns and public houses scattered just along the High Street.

Many more nestled in back alleys throughout the town and along the road at Warley.

The troops who used to be stationed at the Barracks used to fill.

Some small ale-houses consisting of one tiny tap-room enjoyed great popularity.

It’s odd to think that the population of the time was about one eighth of today’s 75,000 residents.

Pub names often changed but many remember the The Good Intent, the Lion & Lamb, George and Dragon (reputed to be the place where the Peasants’ Revolt began), The Bell, Yorkshire Grey, Sir Charles Napier and so many more, all now just memories.

We still have the former White Hart Inn (now The Sugar Hut) which retains some of its ancient historical character dating back to 1480.

In its day it was the most well-known coaching inn in this part of Essex, catering for travellers long before turn-pike roads. The inns waned somewhat along with regular travelling services when the railways became part of our lives from 1840.

Today, we also retain The Swan (formerly The Gun) which was believed to exist opposite its present site.

It has been rebuilt several times over centuries, and is said have been the last place where the 19-year-old religious martyr William Hunter spent his last night on earth.

He was burned to death at the stake (in Ingrave Road) in 1555.

The Swan is still a favourite with Brentwood folk much as it has in the past.

Warley pubs enjoyed a brisk trade supplying beer for the solders, most of which was brewed locally by Fielders in Kings Road or Hills Brewery in Myrtle Road.

Some of the old pubs still thrive in the Warley Hill area, such as the Essex Arms, The Alexander, he Brave Nelson, Prince Albert, The Cherry Tree and Horse and Groom – among others - although some names have changed.

The Brass Bar was popular and Horse Artillery were demolished, as was the Guardsman in Woodman Road due to the Mann, Paulin & Crossman take-over in 1926 from the Hornchurch Brewery.

The demise of Warley Barracks around 1960, coupled with drink-drive regulations and expanding television viewing, sounded the death knell for dozens of local pubs but many old soldiers once stationed at Warley had fond memories of Brentwood’s numerous taverns.

An interesting aspect of the beer trade was that the town supplied the town with the vital malted barley for brewing.

William Hunneybel was foreman of the Maltings in St James Road.

His son, Philip was interviewed for Brentwood Voices in 2000.

He said: “Dad was a Brentwood man, born in 1905.

“He was an incredibly strong and hardworking maltster.

“At 5am each day, he stoked the two kiln fires with coal and supervised the lorry loads of barley, arriving from Essex farms. “Though only 5ft tall, he carried the enormous pokes of barley weighing 100-kg apiece which were trundled through the Maltings yard.

“After husk removal, the grain was barrowed to holding bins, soaked and steeped before being hoisted up to warming floors which it was spread with hand-ploughs till it was ready to shoot.

“After bagging up it was carted to Watneys and other famous breweries.”

William Hunneybel is still remembered by local Brentwoodians, long after the demise of the Maltings in 1962.

Now, of course, there is no evidence of this important industry in St James Road which was re-developed and is now purely housing.

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