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Historian Martyn Taylor toasts the Bury St Edmunds Golden Lion Brewery which lost its roar





Prior to the formation of Greene King in 1887 with the amalgamation of Fred King’s St Edmund’s Brewery and Edward Greene’s Westgate Brewery, there were several independent breweries in Bury St Edmunds.

The Southgate Brewery, The Risbygate Brewery and Saracens Head Brewery were prominent others.

The Golden Lion Brewery, at the bottom of St Andrew's Street South, was started in 1868 by publican Thomas Simmonds, who had taken over a beer-house at 57 Guildhall Street which received its full licence in 1857.

The Golden Lion Brewery, Bury St Edmunds
The Golden Lion Brewery, Bury St Edmunds

Thomas continued brewing until his death in 1884 when his widow, Susan, took over running the enterprise.

A relative, a James Simmonds, must have purchased the brewery at the sale of it with other lots in March 1886 (see advert) because, in 1889, now in competition with Greene King, the Golden Lion advertised its products, recommending ‘Strong Seasoned Ales and Double Stout' and the fact that it was ‘Contractor to the Suffolk General Hospital’.

Unfortunately, it was unable to compete in the open market and ceased trading in 1896. Now called the Golden Lion Tap, 57 Guildhall Street was purchased by Bishop & Co, owner of the Saracens Head Brewery (now the Hunter Club) in 1901, finally calling time in 1907.

When the Golden Lion brewery site was sold
When the Golden Lion brewery site was sold

Subsequently, the buildings on the site evolved into a forge for wheelbarrows, run by the renowned local builders the Warren family, the Marsham Tyre Co (later National Tyres) and Barkers fish and chip shop, later to be called The Carlo when owned by the Emblem family. The Malthouse had an upholstery business there, G. B. Upholstery, until this building was demolished in 2003 to make way for a new development, St Edmundsbury Mews. The clapper-boarded building fronting St Andrew's Street South was retained.

A strange postscript to the Golden Lion story is that the whole site is on a slope known by locals in the past as The Bungee. This was part of the medieval western defences of the town, known as Le Dycheway, a ditch and rampart, which stretched the whole length of St Andrew's Street South and North. Why this name is a mystery.

Martyn Taylor. Picture: Mecha Morton
Martyn Taylor. Picture: Mecha Morton

Martyn Taylor is a local historian, author and Bury Tour Guide. His latest book, Going Underground: Bury St Edmunds, is widely available