The Wychwood Brewery is tucked away behind the main street of the market town of Witney, in the heart of the Oxfordshire Cotswolds. Witney is historically famous for its 3 Bs; its bread, its blankets and its beer. Brewing has taken place in Witney for centuries.
The first sizeable brewery in Witney was founded by John Williams Clinch, the son of a banking family, who established the brewery, close to the present site of Wychwood Brewery, in 1841. Clinch’s Brewery remained a local landmark and successful family enterprise in Witney for over 120 years. At one time Clinch’s also owned seventy-one pubs, including 14 individual pubs in Witney town itself. The Clinch’s Brewery won numerous awards in the 1920s and 1930s. In 1961, the board decided to sell out to Courage. The Clinch’s Brewery was closed shortly afterwards, marking the end of an era.
In 1983, the original Clinch’s Brewery site was purchased by Paddy Glenny, an English brewer who had trained in Germany. Paddy christened it The Eagle Brewery – later changing this to Glenny Brewery. The Eagle Brewery was started in the cellar of the existing “Eagle Maltings” building which now houses the Wychwood Brewery offices. Chris Moss joined Paddy in 1985, thus doubling the workforce. A small, entrepreneurial concern, Eagle Brewery started off brewing about 800 barrels a year. In 1990, the Eagle was re-named the Wychwood Brewery after the Ancient medieval Wychwood Forest which borders Witney. Paddy Glenny sold his shareholding in 1990 to Ian Rogers, a Regional Manager of Halls of Oxford, the brewery’s biggest customer. Aged only 27, Ian sold his house to become a partner with Chris and set about creating a chain of 40 real ale pubs intrinsically tied to the newly renamed Wychwood Brewery with all its myths and legends imagery.
In 1988 the brewery was asked to brew a special celebratory wedding beer for a local landlord for his daughter’s wedding. Chris Moss created the ale of his life. The deliciously dark, rich brew became The Legendary Hobgoblin. In January 1996 the first Hobgoblin beer in bottles was produced as the first bottled beer in the UK to have a pictorial front label as opposed to just the name in words. The highly distinctive and quirky labels appealed immediately to a new, younger market for traditional English ales. Hobgoblin is now the flagship beer of Wychwood Brewery and the 3rd best selling bottled ale in the UK.
By 1997, Wychwood Brewery was producing nearly 30,000 barrels a year, including a full calendar of limited edition seasonal cask ales, under imaginative names and pump clip artworks. The brewery also owned 40 Hobgoblinns Pubs. Following the success of Hobgoblin in bottle, Wychwood continued to bottle some of the other most popular cask ales, Christmas and seasonal beers. Many of the beer labels took their inspiration and artwork from myths and legends associated with the ancient medieval Wych Wood Forest. The brewery gained a growing fan base, as keen on the beers as they were on the artwork and imagery of the brewery labels. The Hobgoblinns pubs were sold off in 2002, although some continue to use the Hobgoblin branding under their new owners.
Following the closure of the Brakspear Brewery in Henley on Thames, in October 2002, Wychwood was committed to bringing the brewing of Brakspear back to Oxfordshire. Following a £1 Million redevelopment of the Wychwod Brewery site, the Brewery now incorporates a separate Brakspear brewhouse and Brakspear fermenting room, using much of the original Brakspear equipment from Henley, including the famous ‘Double Drop fermenting system, used to brew Brakspear beers since 1774. For more information on Brakspear beers, please visit www.brakspear-beers.co.uk
Now home to both Wychwood & Brakspear beers, the Wychwood brewery is now established as one of the UKs leading producers of traditionally hand crafted ale and also exports to markets all over the world including USA, Canada, Australia, Japan, Sweden, Russia and many more European countries.
An Old Oak in a field near The Farmer Inn, called Capp’s Lodge has the initials H.D and T.D carved into its bark and the date 1728.
This bears witness to the story of the brothers Tom, Harry and Dick Dunsdon, famous 18th century Highwaymen. Dick, the story goes, bled to death when Tom and Harry hacked off one of his arms to free him after his hand had been caught by waiting constables, while he was reaching through a door shutter to slide back the bolt. Tom and Harry were captured in their turn and hanged. Later their bodies were brought back to Shipton and gibbeted to the oak. The tree is said to be stunted due to the gruesome burden it once bore.
A traditional ritual, once forbidden by the Church in AD 963, still continues to this day in Finstock, Oxfordshire. Every year on Palm Sunday, local children make a concoction of liquorice and water from The Lady’s Well, in the heart of the Wych Wood forest, and drink it, perceiving it a cure for all winter ills.
In olden days a grand springtime festival was held to mark the end of the winter or the “dark season”.
Folklore recommended villagers to leave offerings of fruit and milk in fields and woods, to seek the good graces of the “little people” or forest dwellers. It was believed that in turn, the forest folk would reward such thoughtfulness by providing humans with rich and abundant harvests and delightful gardens fragrant with a wealth of colourful flowers.
Witches in waiting
In Legend, the thorny plum tree, the oak and the elder are said to be not really trees at all but witches in disguise, hence why they bleed when you cut a notch in the bark.
A sacred pagan plant and traditional Christmas symbol, Mistletoe was once revered by our ancestors. It was so sacred that it had to be cut with a golden sickle.
Home of the woodland spirits
Holly and other evergreens were also respected, in days gone by, in the belief that they provided refuge for woodland spirits in the dark season of winter until other trees gained their leaves.
Hobgoblins in legends are known to be large version of their cousins the goblins. Versions of the legend can be found in Britain, Spain and in France. By tradition, the best times for seeing Hobgoblins and other fairy creatures and forest dwellers are twilight and midnight when the moon is full, and some of the best days are Halloween (October 31st), May Day (May 1st), Midsummer Day (June 24th), Lady Day (March 25th) and Christmas Day (December 25th).
The Morris Dance is recorded as early as the 15th century and one thought is that it is named after a Spanish dance Morisca, meaning a Moorish play or dance.
However, it probably derives from a much older traditional English ceremony, likely reminiscent of the sacrificial spring dances that took place throughout pre-Christian Europe. There are two predominant forms of Morris; Cotswold & North-West. The Cotswold Morris, with handkerchief, stick and hand-clapping movements for six men, and jigs for a single man, or pair, can be seen during many festivals & fairs in many villages around Oxfordshire.
The Bampton Morris MenThe Bampton Morris men, in a tradition dating back 500 years, perform by dancing through the town on Spring Bank Holiday. They are accompanied by The Fiddler, a Fool with the bladder on a Stick, and The Swordbearer. Traditionally, the swordbearer has a large plum cake impaled on his sword, and he distributes pieces for luck.
Brownies and other Hobgoblins are sometimes known as “guardian” fairies. They are usually depicted in legend and folklore along the lines of a small, solitary, shaggy-haired domestic spirits. They are said to do housework and odd jobs about the home. They will become attached to particular families or places. Though naturally helpful, these Hobgoblins are thought to become malicious if they are offended.
In Folklore there are also references to Hogboons, a guardian spirit…
There is a widespread belief in England
in a highly dangerous fairy or Hobgoblin known by many names including
Jack O’Lantern, Will O’ The Wisp, Joan O’
The Wild and Ignis Fatuus, meaning
This legend is said to come from the sight of small flames flickering over marshy ground, caused by self-igniting gases from decaying plants.