The reasons for the closure, whilst unclear, must have related to the property value that such a large and prestigious site in the centre of Wandsworth would command. Young’s management, at the time, spun the story that the closure of the Ram Brewery had been precipitated by Wandsworth Council, as they felt an industrial site, in the heart of the borough, didn’t really fit in with their plans.
With hindsight, this story appears to be something of a smokescreen, but whatever the real reason, the Young’s site was the oldest operating brewery in the capital, and the proud producer of cask ales of real character, that were highly regarded, not just in London, but up and down the country. Young’s were also the company that stood alone, against the keg-tide that engulfed the capital at the start of the 1970’s.
That’s enough about the past, apart from saying we’ve got form as a country of turning our backs on some of our greatest assets, and even destroying them, not so much in the name of progress, but more so in the pursuit of a quick buck.
Real Ale, or cask as I prefer to call it, had really taken off, especially in the county’s free houses, so it wasn’t unusual to see Young’s beers, either Ordinary or Special and sometimes both, on sale at the bar and being enjoyed by local drinkers. This situation continued for a number of years, but slowly, and ever so slowly at first, Young’s beers became less prevalent.
No Sunday lunchtime visit to the in-laws was complete without a stroll down to the Leather Bottle, a few pints of Young’s (two ordinary, plus one Special), before returning to the house and sitting down for a large roast dinner. If we stayed over, Wandsworth itself wasn’t that far away, and during the course of the relationship, we must have visited every Young’s pub within a couple of miles radius of the brewery.
I had been for a lengthy (for me) ramble, completing the penultimate section of the North Down’s Way. My walk had taken me from Gomshall station to the west of Dorking, all the way to Guildford, and after catching the 15.55 train back along the North Downs Line, had arrived at Redhill with almost three-quarters of an hour to spare. I had already decided to call in at the nearby Home Cottage, an imposing Young’s tied house, less than five minutes’ walk from the station. I asked the staff member at the ticket barrier, if I could break my journey, as I fancied a pint.
“Of course,” came the reply, along with the recommendation of the aforementioned Home Cottage. “Much better than the Sun,” said the ticket collector, “and nearer, too!” I nodded in appreciation, as not only had I already decided on the Young’s pub, but I also really didn’t fancy the local Wetherspoons, or any Spoons for that matter. Five minutes later I was walking up the steps and through the doors of the Home Cottage, for what must have been the first time since the Ram Brewery closed, 16 years ago.
When I first moved to Tonbridge and helped the local CAMRA branch get back on its feet, the Home Cottage was a favourite pub for a night out on the Young's, in a different location. Situated just 30 minutes away, by rail, with a last train home sufficiently late to allow for a good session, a visit to the Home Cottage was also a good place to meet up with members from the local Reigate & Redhill Branch of CAMRA. It was therefore with a sense of anticipation, tinged with a slight trepidation, that I entered the pub.