A Short History of Brewing in Abingdon-on-Thames | Barbury Hill

A Short History of Brewing in Abingdon-on-Thames

To celebrate Barbury Hill’s recent move to Abingdon-on-Thames, Oxfordshire, known locally as Abingdon, we thought we’d pour a craft beer and take a moment to consider Abingdon’s long brewing history, from the historic Abbey to present day tipples. Why not pour yourself one (if you need inspiration, check out our Craft Beer & Cider category) and settle down to find out more about how this relatively small town came to have such a strong brewing heritage.

Travel Back in Time

The history of brewing in the town goes all the way back to Abingdon Abbey. This historic Abbey is located in the centre of the old town on the banks of the River Thames and as you stroll through the Abbey grounds, past the Almshouses and historic outbuildings, you can picture a thriving community where official accounts make reference to the storage of grain for the making of bread and beer.

After the dissolution of the monasteries in 1538, brewing continued domestically in wealthy households and commercially in the surviving Abbey buildings under the ownership of the Blacknall family. As it moved through various ownership and generations, two independent breweries emerged; Abbey Brewery and Eagle Brewery. Both were later acquired by Morland Brewery which was first established in West Ilsley to brew ale and porter for pubs in-and-around London.

Morland continued this strategy of taking over smaller breweries and pubs and, with substantial growth, it changed its name to United Breweries in 1885. A new brewery was built in Ock Street, centralising brewing operations, in 1912. United continued on a path of acquiring more breweries and pubs – now owning four breweries in the town – and enjoyed great success. They changed their name back to Morland in 1944 and in 1979 brewed ‘Old Speckled Hen’ to celebrate the Jubilee of the opening of the MG factory in Abingdon, taking its name from the factory’s old run-around, an MG Featherlight Saloon fondly referred to as the “Owld Speckl’d Un” due to its paint-splattered appearance. This was a huge marketing success and Morland continued to thrive.

Morland’s success did not go unnoticed and in 1992 Green King made its first take-over bid for the brewery. This was unsuccessful but they did succeed in taking over the whole business six years later and brewing was moved to Bury St Edmunds. Though the Morland’s brands survived, large-scale commercial brewing was no longer taking place in Abingdon and the Ock Street brewery was converted to residential flats by developer Berkeley Homes.

Brewing in Abingdon Today

Loose Cannon first came on the scene in 2000 with a plan to create excellent craft beers and bring brewing back to Abingdon. They did just that and their open evenings – where you can enjoy talks and tastings - are as popular as their range of craft beers which are coming to Barbury Hill very soon.

We hope you’ve enjoyed this short history of brewing in Abingdon. In the coming weeks, you’ll find many of our Barbury Box selections available with the option to add-in craft beer from our growing range of ales, beers, porters and more – many from Oxfordshire producers.

Do you have a favourite craft beer? Get in touch and let us know - we’re always on the search for more ‘Best of British’ to add to our range of handpicked food and drink from independent producers!


Dan, Founder of Barbury Hill

by Dan, Barbury Hill Founder. 

Dan founded Barbury Hill and he is the man behind our mission to shine a light on the best of British food and drink. He loves English wine, cider and small batch cheese. And every producer on Barbury Hill.

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