Lifestory told by Paul Beecroft
James Dymore Brown was born in Reading on 9th October 1832. He was baptised on 5th December 1832 at St. Mary’s Church in Reading.
His father, also named James Dymore Brown (1803-1875), following the 1830 Beer Act acquired a brewery which was located in Castle Street, Reading next to the Almshouses and opposite Reading Police Station. His beer output quickly grew. The brewery had two retail outlets – The Tap House and The Royal Albert Tavern in Queens Road, Reading. He also acquired two plots of land on the corner of East Street and Queens Road. The brewery’s reputation grew and by 1854 it held the contract to supply beer to the Royal Berkshire Hospital and they used it as a tonic to counteract anaemia. The brewery grew and in 1860 more land was acquired in Queen’s Road adjoining the plots already owned and The Royal Albert Brewery was built.
James Dymore Brown the younger did an apprenticeship at Well’s Brewery in Wallingford and the census for 1851 shows him as residing in Walingford St. Mary-the-More. Following this, he emigrated to Australia and went gold digging in Ballarat but then settled down becoming an agriculturist and fruit grower winning many prizes at the shows of the Victoria Agricultural Society. He enjoyed cricket and was one of the first members of the Melbourne Cricket Club. Whilst he was in Australia he met and married Jane (Janette) Patterson. Janet was born in 1837 in Melrose, Roxburghshire, Scotland. She emigrated with her family to Australia arriving at Port Philip Bay, Victoria on 22nd October 1841. Whilst enroute her father passed away on 19th July 1841 whilst at sea.
The marriage took place in the family home on 13th November 1856. Their first child, another James Dymore Brown was born there. He was in Australia for 10 years and then returned to Reading, joining his father in the business. His brother Edney, a partner in the firm, was suffering from ill-health and did pass away.
James had many interests, one of which was obviously cricket. He played for the Reading Tradesmen’s Cricket Club and as a batsman he was very difficult to dislodge. He was also a hunting man and member of the South Berks Hunt. He enjoyed boxing and was described as being very capable. Agriculture claimed his chief attention and he grew fruit in the large garden at the rear of the brewery. He was a good friend to the Royal Counties Agricultural Society for many years and his services were so valued by his colleagues that he was unanimously adopted Chairman of the Council. He knew about cart horses and often officiated as a judge at shows of agricultural societies.
In 1871 James Dymore Brown handed the management of the business to his son James. “However, whilst James was responsible for the production, the legal owner was Janet Dymore-Brown, his mother” (BIAG). Dymore, Brown and Son Ltd became a limited company in 1902.
In 1881 he joined the Reading Corporation but lost his seat in 1884 which was most likely due to the fact that he was against canvassing. However, in 1886 he was again elected for Church Ward and would remain as a member of the Town Council until his death. In 1892 he was honoured by his colleagues by being appointed to fill an aldermanic vacancy. As an Alderman he was on several occasions pressed to allow his name to be submitted as the Mayor of the Borough of Reading but he always declined the honour. He was a staunch and generous supporter of the cause of Methodism. In his capacity as Alderman he was brought into close contact with Royalty and in 1898 he received the Prince of Wales at a Windsor meeting. He was a member of the Queen’s Road Chapel and treasurer for over sixteen years looking after the chapels funds and was known for his many acts of generosity both to the chapel and other chapels. He was Chairman of the Farm Committee for many years, a trustee of the Municipal General Charities, a manager of the Savings Bank and a trustee of the Reading School.
For thirty-seven years James lived with his wife and family at the house in Queen’s Road that adjoined the Brewery but around 1895 he built a house in Shiplake, “Kinglsey”, where he resided until his death together with his wife. During their marriage they had eight children but sadly only their son James still survived.
The following information is from Gold’s 1999 ‘a Biographical Dictionary of Architects in Reading’, page 21: James based ‘Swiss Villa’, a house he owned, on a rough plan obtained from a friend Mr Willimot who had a house at Clapham Rise. He never lived there and Harry Sowden was the tenant (1838 until his death in 1863). James first resided in London Street, then at ‘Southerlands’ off at Christchurch Road before moving to ‘Somerleaze’ in 1867 designed for him by Waterhouse. James also had some houses built in Abbot’s Walk, Reading about 1840, possibly by Henry and Nathaniel Briant.
In his later years James was involved in two accidents. In 1892 he had what was described as a serious accident when he was thrown out of a trap landing on his head. Two years prior to his death, while driving in Caversham Road, he collided with a farmer’s cart and was thrown out violently onto the back of his head. Following this, his friends noticed that his health had been failing and especially so some two months prior to his death.
On the evening of 29th December 1899 he went out for a meal with a friend and on returning home whilst speaking to his wife, he suddenly collapsed. A doctor was called but nothing could be done and he passed away in the early hours of 30th December.
His funeral too place on Thursday 4th January 1900. There was a very large attendance. The cortege left Shiplake and went to the Chapel in Queen’s Road. As they passed through Caversham residents and shopkeepers drew their blinds as a mark of respect. Following the service at the Chapel the cortege wended its way to the cemetery where a large number of the general public had assembled to pay a last mark of respect. A service was then held at the grave.
Hi son James Dymore Brown 3rd died 8th January 1906 and Janet passed away on 13th November 1913. Janet is buried with James in Reading Old in the family vault.
The Berkshire Industrial Archaeology Group (BIAG) also has information about Dymore Brown’s Royal Albert Brewery.
Buried in Section 25, Row C, Plot 11