North Watford History Group

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The history of Wells Brewery site from 1902

124–132a St Albans Road map

A pen and ink illustration of the site that appeared in The Brewer's Journal, published on the 15 April 1902, showed the two acre site surrounded by fields and fronted by what is now 124–134 St Albans Road. It was then known as the "Lion Brewery", all be it the pub standing on what is now 124&126 St Albans Road carried the full title "Wells & Co. Lion Brewery". Also shown in the illustration is a single track railway line leading from the L&NW Railway line [the St Albans Abbey branch line] from Watford Junction.

Wells continued to occupy the site until the early 1950s. They constructed along the frontage a row of workmans' cottages and Postal Services built the 'Pub Style' post office, which was closed and sold to Domestic Spares, in 1993.

S. Hille & Co. Ltd., furniture manufacturers, purchased the site, including the vacated cottages, from Wells Watford Brewery Ltd. (Benskins) in October 1952. I have no knowledge of any changes made to the site during the previous years.

Hille constructed four buildings and continued to manage the site as follows:

  • In 1952, or thereabout, built a single story concrete frame factory on waste land, which is still in use, along the north boundary behind the terraced houses in Brixton road.
  • In 1959, demolished the cottages along the St Albans Road and constructed a concrete frame building with White Uxbridge brick infills. The building was designed by Ernö Goldfinger and is referred to in a book by Robert Elwall (published by Academy Editions, 1996). There are two features of note:
    • Photobolic windows — as I understand it, the construction reflects the light from an external sill above the window further into the office area. I believe that this technique was first used in the construction of hospital wards during the Crimean War.
    • The cantilever feature on the front elevation is made up of several precast concrete block windows fitted with brightly coloured glass. The detail is repeated on the entrance side of the building at two levels (not cantilevered).
  • In 1962, constructed a two storey factory at the rear of the site, on waste land, with car parking below the first floor, at ground level. The building, also designed by Ernö Goldfinger, is similar to the front office but very brutal, and needed modifications to fulfil current needs.
    • New pitched roof.
    • Cladding on the front elevation.
    • Entrance constructed for better access to the first and second floors.
    This was possibly one of the last elevated factory buildings constructed in the UK.
  • In 1981, the main part of the Brewer's centre block was accidentally set alight by vandals. The damage sustained resulted in part of the building being demolished and the remainder being restored. This unfortunately destroyed the quality of the early 20th century influence. Further refurbishment was carried out between 1983 and 2000.
  • 1988 saw light industrial construction on the south side of the site, adjacent to TK Maxx, designed by Austin-Smith: Lord. This was made possible by the demolition of a rabbit warren of disused buildings, loading bays and an industrial chimney built over many years by the brewery.

Hille disposed of its manufacturing interests in October 1983, and the company who acquired the business slowly contracted their presence and moved from the area. The Hille Business Centre is now occupied by a number of companies with mixed requirements.

Map


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Map showing locations of:
Hille House marker Hille House
Old Post Office marker The Old Post Office
Wells Brewery marker Wells Lion Brewery building
Hille factory marker Hille factory building

Credits

Author: Ian Scheer

[Added by Glen: 11:20pm 13 Apr 2009]

This page was last updated on 18 May 2009.