Samuel Whitbread 1st



Samuel Whitbread, was born at Cardington near Bedford on 20th August, 1720. At the age of fourteen he was sent to London to be an apprentice at a brewery owned by John Whitman.

In 1742 Whitbread went into partnership with Thomas Shewell. Whitbread invested £2,600 in the two small breweries owned by the Shewell family. The Goat Brewhousemade porter and at Brick Lane they produced pale and amber beers.

The porter the company produced was particularly popular. This strong, black beer, was made from coarse barley and scorched malt. The attraction of porter to Samuel Whitbread was that unlike lighter beers, it could be made in very large containers. Whitbread found it difficult to keep up with demand and in 1750 he built a new brewery at Chiswell Street.

In 1751 a report was published suggesting that cheap gin was causing the deaths of large numbers of people. It was estimated that in London alone, every year gin was killing 9,000 children under the age of five. As a result of this information, Parliament passed legislation to control the sale of cheap gin. Over the next few years consumption of gin fell by three-quarters as customers switched to beer.

Brewers like Whitbread took advantage of this situation by promoting beer as a healthy, wholesome drink. By 1758 Whitbread was selling 65,000 barrels of porter a year. When Whitbread bought out Thomas Sewell for £30,000 in 1765, the company was one of the largest brewers of porter in England.

Samuel Whitbread married Harriet Hayton. In 1758 a son, Samuel Whitbread, was born. Harriet died in 1764 and five years later Whitbread married Mary Cornwallis. Tragically, the following year, Mary died in childbirth. The Whitbread Brewery continued to expand and in 1769 sales had reached 90,000 barrels a year. During that decade he made an average yearly profit of £18,000.

In 1786 Whitbread purchased a Boulton & Watt steam engine to grind malt and to pump water up to the boilers. This enabled the brewery to increase production to 143,000 barrels a year. This established Whitbread as the largest brewer in Britain.

Whitbread was now a very wealthy man and in 1791 purchase Lord Torrington's Southill Estate in Bedfordshire. When Samuel Whitbread died on 11th June 1796, the Gentleman's Magazine claimed that he was "worth over a million pounds".