Chesterfield on Tap

A look at the history of Chesterfield's breweries and mineral water manufacturers.


Beer is probably the oldest and most widely consumed alcoholic drink in the world. It involves the fermentation of cereals (usually malted barley) using yeast. Until the medieval period, beer - or ale - was generally flavoured with herbs. By the 16th century, hops became the main ingredient to add flavour.

During the 16th century, beer drinking rather than ale spread in popularity through the country. When Thomas Eyre, a gentleman farmer from Dunston near Chesterfield died in 1593, among his possessions were ‘9 barrells and standes for beere.’

Little is known about brewing in Chesterfield in the Tudor and Stuart periods. Celia Fiennes, who wrote a diary of her travels in England in the 1700s, said of Chesterfield that “in this town is the best ale in the kingdom generally esteem’d”.

By the 1800s, there was an increasing demand for beer together with a relaxation in government controls and a reduction in duty. This, with the addition of greater mechanisation, encouraged the growth of brewery companies. By the 1850s, Chesterfield boasted three breweries: Brampton, Chesterfield and Scarsdale.

Until the growth of the commercial breweries in the 19th century, beer was generally brewed at home or on site at alehouses. Revolution House in Old Whittington was originally an alehouse called the ‘Cock and Pynot’.

Revolution House

Cock and Pynot Alehouse

The conversion of barley into malt (allowing it to sprout slightly) was an important trade in Chesterfield in the 1780s until the mid 1800s. There were once numerous malt houses on Sheffield Road.


Malthouse on Sheffield Road

Samuel Pegge (1704-1796) was the Rector of Whittington and wrote of Chesterfield’s beer; “The best ale in the world is in England; the best in England is in Derbyshire; the best in Derbyshire is in Chesterfield; the best in Chesterfield is at Peggy Dowker’s”. Unfortunately we don’t know where Peggy Dowker’s was.

Both in the home and in the ale trade, many medieval brewers were women. Running an alehouse was a way for a widow to earn a living and for a married woman to increase the family income.

Brewery Yard, off Chatsworth Road, was named after the brewery operated by Mary Smith in the 1810s and 1820s on the site around Field House. She was the widow of John Smith, the founder of the iron foundry in Brampton.  The brewery was in operation until the late 1820s, closing perhaps at the time of Mary’s death.

The first Brampton Brewery (1830s to 1955)

Although it is uncertain when a brewery was built on the site between Chatsworth Road and Wheatbridge Road, there is evidence that it was in operation by 1839.  The first owners were Messrs. Parkin and Bennison who traded as Parkin and Co. It was not until 1889 that the name Brampton Brewery was officially adopted under the ownership of Harold Soames.

The trademark of Brampton Brewery can still be seen in the window of The Barrel on Chatsworth Road. ‘Health and; Strength’ was their motto. In the mid-1800s it was widely thought that beer was good for you. The arm is holding a brick hammer, representing one of the local trades.

Brewery Logo Window

Brampton Brewery logo

The 1890s were a time of expansion. The Brewery began bottling beer, added a wine and spirits department, and bought adjoining land to house extra stabling and a cooper’s workshop. The business became a limited company in 1897. In 1902, however, a fire destroyed the brewhouse. As a result land was bought to the side of the premises and a new brewery was built, going into operation in 1905. The old brewery site became dedicated to bottling.

The Brewery was connected to the Brampton Branch line of the Midland Railway. Deliveries were made every morning between 8:30 and 9:30am. This was co-ordinated with the road to stop the morning traffic.

As well as brewing and bottling its own beers, such as Golden Bud and Brampton Pale Ale, Brampton also bottled Worthington’s beers as well as Guinness Stout. The Guinness was collected from the Docks at Liverpool and bottled at Brampton.

Gold Bud label Pale Ale

Brampton Brewery beer labels

The Brewery was perhaps the most successful of the breweries in Chesterfield however in 1955 the shareholders voted for a takeover by Warwick and Richardson's Brewery of Newark. This was initially described as a ‘merger’ but the Brewery was sold.

Warwick and Richardson’s beers were not popular locally and many Brampton pubs experienced a fall in beer sales. As a result, in 1955 Warwick’s tried hard to produce a similar style of beer to Brampton without great success. In 1957 they also produced new brew called ‘Impy’, which was supposed to be close to the old Brampton Mild. Warwick’s were taken over by John Smiths in 1962.

The Brampton Brewery site was put up for sale in 1955. Various businesses occupied the old brewery buildings before their demolition in 1984 for the building of a B and Q store and the widening of Wheatbridge Road to allow a one-way road system.

Scarsdale Brewery (1840s to 1959)

Scarsdale Brewery was one of the smaller breweries in Chesterfield. A family owned business, it occupied a site off Spa Lane on the hillside leading down from St Mary’s Gate to the River Rother. The Brewery was registered as a limited company in 1865 but brewing took place on that site as early as 1845 when the owner, Edward Mugliston, was named as a brewer as well as a wine merchant

On the death of Edward Mugliston, the business was sold to John and Frederick Dunnell. They were not successful and the business was sold as ‘Spa Lane Brewery’ in 1857. The sale included ‘the goodwill of public and family trades in beer wine and spirits sold at the property’. The front of Dunnell’s can still be seen on St Mary’s Gate.

 Dunnell Shop

 Dunnell's shop

The beers brewed were Scarsdale Pale Ale Bitter, XX and XXX Mild and Saxon, a strong bitter. The Pale Ale and the Mild won prizes including the All England Championship Medal in 1908.As well as producing draught beers, the Brewery bottled its own India Pale Ale and Old Brown as well as its own mineral waters and some beers by other companies.

Indian Pale Ale Tonic Water

Pale Ale and Tonic Water labels

In 1878 the company was in debt to the bank and was eventually sold. The brewery changed hands several times before being purchased by the Birkin family who remained the owners until its sale to Whitbread in 1958 after the family considered that there was no-one to take over the business. Whitbread closed the Brewery in 1959.

Part of the site of Scarsdale Brewery is now under the A61 by-pass; the remainder of the site is occupied by a car park.

Site of Brewery

Site of brewery

Chesterfield Brewery (1853 to 1935)

Chesterfield Brewery began as a partnership between several Derbyshire landowners in 1853.  Amongst them were the Dukes of Devonshire and Rutland who saw the advantage of supplying the many pubs on their estates. It remained under the ownership of the families of the founders throughout its history.

The Brewery was located on Brimington Road and Brewery Street. The water for the brewery was pumped there from a well close to Infirmary Road.

The company also operated a wide range of tied pubs and hotels including the Station Hotel and Hollingwood Hotel. The Station Hotel, later Chesterfield Hotel, was built by the Brewery in 1875. In 1911 the Brewery bought T P Woods mineral water factory on Knifesmithgate and the wine and spirits business in the Market Place.

Chesterfield Hotel

Chesterfield Hotel

By the 1930s, the quality of the beers has lost its previous good reputation and with the economic depression of the time, less beer was being consumed and licensees were getting into debt with the Brewery. The business was sold to Mansfield Brewery in 1935 who took over the Chesterfield Brewery pubs.

Chesterfield’s brewing industry

After the Second World War, increased competition in the brewery trade saw the widespread takeover of many small regional breweries by large national companies. These businesses were able to brew more economically on a much larger scale and use nationwide advertising to promote their beers.

However by the 1970s interest in traditionally brewed beers began to increase. The first microbreweries appeared and the Campaign for Real Ale (CAMRA) was formed. The first small independent brewery established in Chesterfield was Townes Brewery in 1994. This was later followed by Spire Brewery in 2006 (later relaunched as Spire Brewing Company in 2014), Brampton Brewery in 2007 and Raw Brewing Company in 2010.

Brampton Brewery

Founded by Chris Radford and four other partners in 2007, Brampton Brewery was inspired by the original Brampton Brewery. Unfortunately the beer recipes of the former brewery have all been lost but some of the beers now produced, such as Brampton Mild and Golden Bud, are named after the original Brampton beers. Brampton Mild has scooped the SIBA (Society of Independent Brewers) Midlands Region Champion Beer Award twice in four years (2012 and 2016).

Based at Chatsworth Business Park, Brampton Brewery is only around 200 metres from the original Brampton Brewery site. The Brewery produces around 5,000 pints per week (2017) which are brewed, conditioned and packaged on site.

Brampton Shop

Brampton Brewery shop

The Brewery owns and runs two local pubs. The Rose and Crown in Brampton opened in November 2009 and the Tramway Tavern on Chatsworth Road opened a year later, in 2010.

Townes Brewery

Townes Brewery was Chesterfield’s first new brewery for nearly 40 years. Brewing began in May 1994 using a 5 barrel brew plant situated in an old bakery in Lockoford Lane, Chesterfield. In October 1998 the brewery relocated to Staveley at the Speedwell Inn. The Brewery is on-site and produces the beers for the pub.

Speedwell Inn

Speedwell Inn

Townes’ main regular beers are Pynot Porter, Speedwell Bitter and Staveley Cross.

Spire Brewery and Spire Brewing Company

Spire Brewery was set up by David McLaren in 2006 in Staveley, using the Crooked Spire as the logo. The brewery produced a wide range of beers and won several awards including a bronze in the stout and porter class for the CAMRA Champion Beer of Britain 2009. When David McLaren retired in 2014, Gareth Jones bought the assets and established Spire Brewing Company later the same year, keeping the Spire name alive. Their ‘Jailbreak’ bitter was nominated for the National Food and Drink Awards in 2016.

Raw Brewing Company

Raw Brewing Company was started by David Hemstock in 2010. The name comes from the fact that the brewery uses only raw, natural ingredients to produce the beer. The first beer made was Grey Ghost IPA, quickly followed by Dark Peak Stout and Blonde pale Ale.

Raw Glass

Raw Brewery Glass

In January 2017 the Brewery expanded from a 5 barrel to a 15 barrel plant. Raw Brewing operate and supply a number of pubs in the region. The White Swan on St Mary’s Gate is a Raw freehouse in Chesterfield town centre. It opened in 2012. Mucky Duck is the pub’s house beer, based on the local nickname for the White Swan.

Mineral water companies

Mineral water and soft drinks producers were located throughout the Chesterfield area between 1850 and the 1980s. Predominantly near the town centre there were also producers in Staveley, Whittington Moor and Brampton areas. In many cases they were ‘back room’ operations, run as family firms, although some grew to be larger companies.

Soft drinks in Chesterfield

From the 1890s until the 1950s, the soft drinks industry in Chesterfield, as in other parts of the country, was operated by a number of family firms. The factories were on a small scale; the largest, J J Clayton, employed 20 people and was based on Foundry Street, Whittington Moor.

Clayton Invoice

J J Clayton's invoice

The range of soft drinks was extensive, with businesses often producing about 20 different types of drink, many of which are no longer made. Drinks included ginger beer and Dandelion and Burdock as well as Hop Bitters (similar to beer but low alcohol) and ‘Composition Cordial’, a drink with aniseed and ginger. The fizz was provided using carbonated water. Later, fruit drinks became more popular.

Composition Label

Composition Cordial label

By the 1950s, the industry was in decline. Breweries began to supply their own pubs, shutting out the independent firms while the shift towards supermarkets saw the need for bulk suppliers rather than small firms. Larger soft drinks firms could also produce drinks cheaper and invest in advertising for brand names. Clayton’s was the last supplier in Chesterfield to close when bought out by John Smith’s in 1968.

Last updated on 01/02/2024