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The Bravon Brewery -Harding’s and Ruddle’s

Bradford on Avon, Wiltshire

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Harding's shop

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W.R. Harding & Co.
William Robert Harding had become landlord of the King’s Arms public house in Bradford on Avon by 1897 when he advertised as brewer, wine & spirit merchant, brewing home-brewed beer, ales and stout as well as selling Bass’s Ales and Oakhill Invalid Double Stout in casks and bottle. Like many pubs, the King’s Arms would have been brewing its own beer, but Harding expanded it into a common brewer that could supply other pubs, becoming a limited company. In the course of his work he demolished a range of old jettied timber-framed buildings next to the pub and built the brewery shop that still has his name on.
He sold the business to Simeon Ruddle & Sons around 1900. A Liverpool-born William Harding, brewer was in Lancashire at the time of the 1901 census -did he get home-sick and go back?

Ruddle’s brewery

Simeon Ruddle was born at Bishop’s Cannings in Wiltshire in 1832, of a long-established local family.  49 years later, at the time of the 1881 census, he was the farmer at Knowl Hill Farm in Woodlands in Dorset. This was a large farm of 1216 acres on the edge of Cranborne Chase and he employed 18 labourers and 11 boys. In 1881 he and his wife Anna had three sons: George (born in 1876), Simeon (born in 1877) and Edward (born in 1880). He died in 1919 in Netheravon, Wiltshire.

Probably the farm was largely engaged in cereal production, possibly barley for malting. This may explain why two of the sons went into the brewing industry.

Edward (Ted) Ruddle became the manager of the Ruddle Brewery in Bradford, which was listed in directories as S. Ruddle & Sons, brewers & wine & spirit merchants in 1907 and in 1920.

Meanwhile, in 1896 George Ruddle had been engaged as manager at the Langham Brewery of H.H. Parry, formerly Boys & Style in Rutland, which he purchased in 1911 for £19,500 after Parry’s death. He changed its name to Ruddle’s and the brewery went on to become nationally famous. In 1924 he was succeeded by his son Kenneth (later Sir Kenneth), then aged 21 years. Kenneth had been still at school when his father died and the brewery was guided by his uncle Ted Ruddle and Sidney Fordham, a relation of his mother, through the transition.  At this point the Bradford brewery was sold by auction at the Swan Hotel, after which it closed and the red brick shops became separate businesses. Ted Ruddle had returned to Bradford by 1929 and lived in Woolley Street.

Ruddle’s Langham Brewery became a limited company in 1947 and grew to be a national business, with Ruddle’s County as a well-known and well-appreciated beer and sold by Sainsbury’s under their own name. It was taken over by, in turn, Everard’s in the 1970s, Grand Metropolitan (Watney’s) in 1986, passing to Courage, Grolsch in 1992, then Morlands 1997, who closed the Langham brewery in 1999 and made what came to be known as “Ruddle’s Counterfeit” at Abingdon. Greene King took over Morlands and now makes beer under the label of Ruddle’s County in Bury St Edmunds, Suffolk.

Ironically, the King’s Arms pub in Bradford, where Ruddle’s began, was purchased by Greene King in 1993-4 and was selling beers under Ruddle’s name in bottles in the family’s first pub and today, having sold off the King’s Arms, Greene King supplies beer to The Swan.