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The history of Whitbread founded by Samuel Whitbread and Thomas Shewell

Whitbread was established in 1742 and in 2001 sold breweries leaving the pub and bar business reinventing themselves as UK’s leading hospitality company.

Whitbreads beginning was with the acquisition of a small brewery at the junction of Old Street and Upper Whitecross Street, London. EC1 whereby Samuel Whitbread and Godfrey and Thomas Shewell formed a partnership also acquiring a Brick Lane, Spitalfields brewhouse for pale and amber beers. In 1750 Whitbread and Shewell purchased the derelict Chiswell Street, King’s Head brewery with Godfrey withdrawing from the partnership at this time.  This new brewery became known as the Hind Brewery, taking its name from the coat of arms for the Whitbread family, which incorporated hinds and was for the production of dark style of beer called porter. In 1761, Whitbread, who was the prominent financial partner, purchased Shewell’s share of the business taking the trade forward solely.


Whitbread – the largest brewery in the world

By the 1780s Whitbread had become the largest brewery in the world.  Whitbread became an immense producer of beer in England with 202,000 barrels of porter being produced in 1796.

Samuel Whitbread died in 1796 at the age of 76, not only noted for his brewery but for being Member of Parliament for Bedford. His son also named Samuel Whitbread then took on the brewery business.

Whitbread's brewery in 1799 became known as Whitbread & Co Ltd.

In 1948 Whitbread became listed on the London Stock Exchange becoming Whitbread Plc.

Bill Whitbread in 1948 “If we don’t integrate we will disintegrate”

Local breweries Whitbread bought up along the way

Breweries Whitbread took over Boddingtons, Manchester, Greens of Luton, Flowers Brewers Luton 1962, Mackestons Brewery in Hythe, West Country Brewery Holdings 1963, Duttons Blackburn Brewery 1964, E Lacon and Co of Great Yarmouth 1965, Fremlins, Maidstone 1967 (Hop farms in Kent – popular for Londoners to make a holiday with hop picking, hop farm Beltring near Paddock Wood, Kent), John Young and Co 1968, Strong and Co of Romsey, Brickwoods Portsmouth 1971, Threlfalls of Liverpool, Hope and Keen of Edinburgh, Whitbreads warehouse facility at Hedge End Hampshire, Faversham Brewery, Hickstons Brewery Liverpool, Langton, Isle of Wight brewers amongst many others.

Between 1961 and 1971 Whitbreads had closed 15 breweries, 24 bottling plants and 54 distribution depo’s although equally they had enlarged the breweries that they had kept.

In 1896 Whitbread still had 300 horses at Chiswell Street, fleet of electric vehicles made by Ransomes, Sims and Jefferys Limited of Ipswich as well as hiring steam wagons.  Electric vehicles had a maximum speed of 10 miles per hour.

1971 six main UK brewers

Allied Breweries




Scottish and Newcastle



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Mergers and Monopolies Commission

The Mergers and Monopolies Commission investigated the six big breweries that controlled 70% of the UK market which came into action in May 1990 and ultimately lead to the establishing of a leasehold pub market.

Many say this lead to many closures of local pubs and the facts seem to represent this.


Whitbread sale to Interbrew

In 2001 Interbrew (known later as InBev) purchased all of the Whitbread breweries and brewing interests and in 2002 Whitbread sold its pub portfolio to Enterprise Inns.


Reinvention of Whitbread as a leading hospitality company

Focusing on the hospitality sector Whitbread own over 700 Premier Inn hotels, Costa Coffee, Table Table (some converted Brewers Fayre restaurants), Beefeater restaurants (renamed Beefeater Grill) Brewers Fayre traditional pubs, Whitbread Inns and Amercian style restaurants Taybarns.


In the past Whitbread’s operations included:-

Marriot hotels, franchise rights to TGI Fridays, Pizza Hut UK, Threshers, David Lloyd Leisure, Hogshead pubs and Britvic soft drinks manufacturer.


Whitbread move from London to Bedfordshire

In 2005 in an effort to reduce costs Whitbread moved its central London core operations to Luton and then a year later to larger premises in Dunstable.

Beer slogans


Mackeson’s  – It looks good it tastes good by golly it is good

Heineken – Refreshes the parts other beers cannot reach – ran for 20 years from 1974 – one of the longest advertising campaigns

Whitbread draught beer in 1969 slogan – There is a terrific draught blowing your way

Whitbread Trophy bitter – Big enough to satisfy your beer buds Big Head

Flowers bitter – Pick with care


Whitbreads Sponsorship of events –

Whitbread Round the World Yacht Race (later known as the Volvo Ocean Race with Whitbread’s sponsorship ending in 2001).

Whitbread Gold Cup at Sandown

Stella Artois Tennis Tournament

Heineken Ice Hockey

Whitbread Book prize – now Costa Coffee

Brewing Laws

1892 Introduction of the Intoxicating Liquor Traffic Bill – meant that home owners had the right to veto the sale of drink in the local area

Finally ends up with the Mergers and Monopolies Commission


Brewers Endowment Bill 1904 – meant that compensation had to be paid should a licence be lost in relation to the previous act.


1921 Licensing Act – set the hours during which beer could be sold which was 9 hours a day in London and 8 hours a day across the rest of the county – why the hour difference?    5 hours on Sundays, Christmas Day and Good Friday except for Wales and Monmouthshire.


Interesting pub fact

Ratio of pubs to the population was 1 to 300 in 1890 (this equated to 103,000 public houses just in England and Wales, 1 to 1000 in 1990

Pubs termed as on license – about 40% less than 100 years before


Tied trade

By 1900s 95% of public houses were tied to brewery – literally them owning the property or loan or discount or credit system


Whitbread Bottle History

Labels were first used on bottles in 1940s prior to this embossed with the names and hides head logo


Brewery related institutions

National Federation of Licensed Victuallers

British Institute of Innkeepers

Brewers Society