Centuries-old heritage kept alive as old brewery premises transformed

Many of the existing historic brewery buildings have been refurbished as part of the new eight-acre Ram Quarter development in south west London. [Photo provided to China Daily]

A Chinese property developer has ensured the beer will continue to flow at England’s oldest continuous brewing site through a major development project in South West London.

From next spring, Greenland Holdings’ retail and residential development of the former Youngs Brewery site at Ram Quarter in Wandsworth will be the new home of the Sambrook’s brewery, meaning the 8-acre (3.23 hectares) site will continue its uninterrupted record of producing beer since at least 1533.

“Greenland has always recognized the importance of Ram’s brewing legacy and safeguarding its heritage has been crucial to our development plans, from our approach to the design of the new homes through to our commercial ambitions for the site,” said Chris Daly, senior commercial manager of Greenland UK.

Brewery founder Duncan Sambrook said he was thrilled to help keep the site’s historic connection alive.

“Wandsworth has had a rich brewing heritage and we’re excited to be able to continue this and secure the future of Sambrook’s brewery,” he said. “It’s a fantastic location for us to expand our retail offering and is just meters from the River Wandle after which our most famous beer takes its name.”

The new partnership will be launched with a beer festival and family fun day at the site this Saturday, when locals will have a chance to see the work Greenland has put into reviving the site, which housed the Youngs Brewery from 1831 to 2006.

“It’s a family themed day, with music, food, entertainment, a chance to look around the old brewery buildings and the Youngs delivery horses will be there as well. It’ll be a big celebration of all we’ve done with Ram Quarter, and all we hope to continue to do for the whole Wandsworth area,” Daly said.

Ram Quarter takes its name from the Youngs logo, a ram, and was described by Daly as “an amazing opportunity.

“For years, the brewery was at the heart of Wandsworth, but behind a closed wall. We’ve opened it up, creating public realm spaces and a whole new community in the heart of the area.”

The site has planning permission for 713 residential units and more than 30,000 square meters of commercial space. Phase 1 has seen 338 residential units and more than 21,000 square meters of commercial space completed, both in new constructions and redeveloped existing buildings.

“The history of the site is very much part of what we want to do here,” said Daly.

“John Hatch, a former master brewer for Youngs, has kept brewing alive on the site. We’ve already restored a building called Coopers’ Lofts, where the beer barrels were stored, which we call the jewel in the crown, and in stage 2 of the development we’ll be converting the stables.

“Youngs was famous for delivering its beer to local pubs in a horse-drawn cart, something it continued to do up until it left the site, so that’s a real part of local history. We want to keep that memory alive and have been working with the heritage architects who are currently restoring Big Ben to make sure the stables are as good as they can be and retain the original spirit.”

Even before Youngs, the site’s brewing history can be traced back to the reign of King Henry the Eighth, which is what makes it such a prestigious opportunity for Greenland, and an attractive location for residents and retailers. And amid the other facilities, the site will have its own cinema – with a difference.

“We have a couple of old television studios on the site, and one of them is going to be converted into the first permanent home for a local company called Backyard Cinema, who create themed, immersive events around film screenings,” said Daly.

“These days people want something more than just to see a film, and with Backyard it’s almost more like going to the theater, so Greenland really looks forward to having them on site and acting as a magnet to attract people to come to Wandsworth and give the whole local economy a lift.”