The Well Park Brewery in Willey’s Avenue Exeter
The Well-Park Brewery (as it was originally called) in which Thomas Pearman Stevens was a partner, built its state-of-the-art premises in Willey’s Avenue, St Thomas, in 1870, a street that connects the brewery to the Willey Foundry and the Willey family, who we know have close links with Charles James Vlieland and his children – Frances Maud Vlieland’s wedding dress in 1906 was the gift of Mrs Henry Willey. Some of their beer bottles were sold at Mallams’ salesrooms in a country house auction in Cheltenham in December 2011 and one, a very rare half-pint double stout bottle, was sold on eBay in 2012. The stout made by Ross and Pidsley’s (as the company was known after Thomas Pearman Stevens sold his interest in 1887), a dark, strong beer made with roasted malt or barley, and also its double stout, was ‘recommended for the use of invalids’ in building up their strength after illness, and the pure water from deep well under the site was said to contribute to the quality of their product (it is interesting that Pearman Stevens was later particularly concerned about the quality of the water at the Pickwick brewery in Corsham).
There was a brewery on the St Thomas’ site in the 1800s and it undoubtedly served the Alphington cattle and horse fair in June and September, when some 23 ‘bush’ (what we would now call ‘pop-up’) ale houses were set up, with a hawthorn bush hanging by the door to signify that the beer or cider was ready to drink. There is a painted sign, ‘The Noted Well Park Brewery Ales’, on the side of what was the Criterion Inn/Michael’s Restaurant in Exmouth, but there was also a Glasgow Well Park Brewery (now Tennents) and it is not absolutely clear that it is the Exeter brewery that is referred to here. The New Inn in Dawlish was one of Ross & Pidsley’s tied pubs (selling only their beer).
The Well Park brewery became part of Devenish’s after 1925 and the handsome brick complex – what Stuart Callon calls a ‘tremendous building’ – is now 14 modern flats. Websites such as the Dorset Antique Bottle Collectors’ Club (www.dorsetantiquebottleclub.com), Devon Bottles (www.devonbottles.co.uk/blog/?p=1640), Mallams (www.the saleroom.com/en-gb/auction-catalogues/mallams-ltd-cheltenham/catalogue-id-2849461/lot-12839689), and the Yacht Beverage Co. Exeter have examples of the brewery’s bottles.
Thanks go to the above websites, to Stuart Callon and to David Cornforth of Exeter Memories for some of the information in this post and Barbara.