The End of the Brewery

From the Kentish Times 27 July 1956

FOR some weeks there has been speculation concerning the future of Reffells Brewery, Bexley, among residents of “the village,” but the “Kentish Times” has been assured that the brewery will operate as hitherto—at least for some time. All staff are being retained, and Reffells beers will still be produced and bottled.
Older inhabitants are finding it difficult to believe that the Waistell family will no longer be connected with Reffells. Mr. John K. Waistell’s departure on Saturday will mean the severance of his family’s close ties with the company lasting more than 50 years.
Reffells was purchased by Courage and Barclay, Ltd. in June and Mr. Waistell, who was managing director, agreed to stay on to facilitate the handing over until Saturday.
Reffells Brewery has been famous in the industry for 75 years and secured numerous awards for the quality of its products. But in statement at the annual meeting on June 8, the chairman, Mr. John E. H. Wartnaby, said: ” The difficulties envisaged in future trading by a small concern such as Reffells Bexley Brewery. Ltd., were largely responsible for the opening of negotiations with a well-known brewery group.”
One of a diminishing number of independent breweries the firm was founded in 1874 by the brothers Arthur Henry Reffell and William Robert Reffell and carried on by them until 1898, when it was incorporated as Reffells Bexley Brewery. Ltd. The brothers who were members of the original board of directors, retired in December. 1900, and the family connection with the business ended.

In common with most breweries at that period, the company met with difficulties and from October, 1903 to August, 1904, was actually under the direction of a receiver appointed by the debenture holders. Early in 1904, when the affairs of the company were in a critical state, Mr. Percy H. Waistell was appointed head brewer and became managing director later that year. The business began to prosper under his management and eventually in 1934 the first dividend was paid on the ordinary shares. From August, 1904, to his death in April. 1944, Mr. Waistell held continuous office as a director, being managing director except for the period from October, 1911 to December, 1917 He succeeded to the chairmanship of the company on the death of Mr. Alfred Akers in January. 1925.
Mr. John K. Waistell, his son, joined the firm as a pupil in 1927, but from 1932-5 served as an under-brewer with another brewery company, to gain additional experience.
Reffells employs about 70 people, the record for length of service being held by Mr. Harold Dimond, who started as an office boy and had served 50 years when he retired.
In the board room there are photographs of the brewery as it was in days gone by. Many new buildings were erected after World War II, In 1931 the company took over the business of the Hampstead Brewery, which consisted entirely of free trade. The main trade has been with clubs, but the company owns 11 public-houses and 10 off-licences.
A case containing awards won at brewers’ exhibitions occupies a proud place behind the chairman’s seat.. The earliest awards were the gold and two silver medals, London. 1890. Other awards were: Gold medal, Ghent, 1896; silver and bronze medals, London, 1904; bronze medal, London. 1909; gold and two bronze medals, London, 1919; silver medal, London, 1920; and bronze medals, London, in the years 1927, 1928 and 1938.
Bexley’s oldest industrial establishment has now passed to new management. What its ultimate future will be is still a matter for speculation, but it is good to know that brewing will still be continued at least for the time being.”