Brakspear first began life in Henley on Thames back in 1711, when William Henry Brakspear began brewing in the garden of 65 Bell Street. In 1769, nineteen year old Robert Brakspear, became the pub landlord of the Cross Keys, Witney and it’s from here Brakspear Bitter was born and started being brewed. In 1779, so many people were enjoying Brakspear Bitter, they needed to move to a bigger brewery so Robert moved to Henley to join his uncle, Richard Hayward, at his brewery.
The brewery on Bell Street closed in 1812 and moved to New Street where it can still be seen today, though it was converted into residential flats and a hotel in October 2002. This was when Brakspear’s brewing moved to Marston’s Wychwood Brewery in Witney, Oxfordshire, which is just around the corner from the Cross Keys.
The Bull on Bell Street now has its own micro-brewery called The Bell Street Brewery, which is only 3 doors up from where William’s original brewery was, and is actually just over 100 feet away as the crow flies. The Bull has been a pub since 1564, and was leased by Brakspear in 1774, then bought in 1881. It was a coaching inn from 1744 to 1850 for those travelling between London and Wallingford. Over the years 57-59 Bell Street has been known as The Bull Brasserie and Ko-Kos too, but we’re hoping it keeps its current name for the foreseeable now. The Brakspear head office still remains in Henley and is in fact neighbours with the Bull on Bell Street sharing the Bull courtyard. Brakspear moved the head office here after the New Street brewery closed.
In January 2013 Brakspear gave 57-59 Bell Street a major makeover and on Good Friday, 29th March 2013, The Bull on Bell Street was revealed. The building itself is one of Henley’s oldest, dating back some 700 years, and we like to think we’ve given it a modern look whilst making the most of its character. Come in, take a good look around, and let us know what you think.
Top photo shows The Bull in 1972.