Ask people in Stroud to name something from the town’s history and the chances are they’ll talk about the wool trade, the mills and the invention of the lawn mower.
But few would probably know that there are businesses here which have been trading for over 100 years, or that beer brewing began in Stroud way back in 1760. May is National Community History Month, so, as part of its ‘Cheers to Stroud’ campaign, Stroud Brewery is celebrating the town’s business history with an exhibition featuring some of the shops and companies which have been the cornerstone of economic life for generations.
Stroud as a settlement was recorded over 800 years ago, but the town centre as an economic hub began to develop in the 1600s. By the beginning of the 17th century, Stroud had a market and a fair and, although the mills and cloth trade was the dominant industry, the town became the commercial and social centre for the wider area of the valleys.
Beer brewing was started by a farmer in Middle Lypiatt, Peter Leversage, when he opened a brewery in 1760. He was soon joined by Mr Grazebrook and Mr Burgh and in the early days the brewery was known as ‘Leversage, Grazebrook and Burgh’. The brewery passed through many hands and became Stroud Brewery in 1888. It was always a successful company and, in its heyday, owned over 600 pubs, some of which were in Gloucester. Eventually, West Country Breweries took it over and this, in turn, was bought by Whitbread in 1963 who closed the old Stroud Brewery buildings in 1967. Stroud’s brewing tradition was resurrected in 2006 when Greg Pilley opened Stroud Brewery which has since become a hub of Stroud life.
Whilst no local business has been going since the 17th century, Batemans’ Sports, the stationers James & Owen, and Baileys’ Paints are examples of some of the local traders that have been part of Stroud’s community for a 100 years or more.
To celebrate this history, Stroud Brewery will be putting on a special exhibition between 27th May to 4th June of old photos of Stroud businesses, the town centre, the Brewery and local pubs from years gone by. They certainly looked different from what they do today! The photographs have been loaned by Stroud Museum, Geoff Sandals who’s author of the book ‘Pubs of Gloucestershire’, and the businesses themselves. It’ll be on show, free of charge, at Stroud Brewery’s taproom between 10am and 10pm every day, apart from Monday, during half term.
This exhibition is part of Stroud Brewery’s ‘Cheers to Stroud’ campaign – a summer-long celebration of the people, places and history that make the town such a special place. Stroud Brewery owes its existence to the support of Stroud people and the ‘Cheers to Stroud’ campaign is its way of saying thank you to them for making it a part of local community life.