John asks:

“I was born in Greenwich, Ashburnham Grove, some 57yrs ago. I am now an Ex Pat living in Budapest, Hungary, I long to come back and see it before it ALL changes.

I can remember as a kid going to school (James Wolfe infants) and walking past a brewery called ‘Lovibonds’, do you know if it is still there? Is the school still there?

I intend to do a sojourn next year and see all that is. It’s funny – the older you get the more one craves for the past, personal past.”

The Phantom replies

The second part of your question is quicker to answer than your first, John. James Wolfe School goes from strength to strength. When you come on your sojourn, make sure you get yourself a copy of the school cookery book, which is called, if memory serves, The Hungry Wolfe (I think it contains children’s favourite recipes rather than classics from the school canteen – spotted dick, pink custard or solid gravy…) Last time I saw it for sale was in Buenos Aires Cafe up Royal Hill.

But onto Lovibonds. The building, or at least a good part of it, still exists, and you can get a pretty good view of it, both inside (the pub bit at least) and out.

In fact the name still exists, too, though I don’t think it has much of a connection with the original company – the present brewery, in Henley, was only begun in 2005 – though the original Lovibonds did buy a place out in Henley in 1916. As a non-beer drinker, I have no idea what it tastes like, but I’m willing to bet our very own Rod has ‘tested’ it out (in a professional capacity, of course…)

Lovibonds started out in the West Country in 1834 and moved to Greenwich in 1847. The building that’s still there today was built on surplus railway land in 1865.

The big claim to fame is by Joseph Williams Lovibond who invented the Tintometer in 1885 – a way of judging the clarity and purity of liquids by a analysing colour comparisons with a series of glass slides. Joseph invented it to test beer, of course, but today it measures everything from swimming pool water to oceanic pollution.

The company flourished in Greenwich – we were only talking yesterday about the number of pubs that dock towns encourage and Lovibonds was right there on the spot. (I’m happy to say that the trend seems to be resurfacing, with several new breweries springing up and expanding…) and they bought various other breweries, depots and stores outside the area. By 1936 they had 71 shops.

It all went pear-shaped in the War, when Greenwich was bombed to buggery, but it wasn’t doodlebugs that finally did for Lovibonds. They rebuilt and continued brewing until the giant conglomerates shoved the smaller companies out of business in the late 50s/early 60s. Lovibonds brewed its last ale in 1959, and started selling beer instead. It all went downhill from there. They were bought out in the 60s and died completely in 1969.

Davy’s wine vaults currently own much of the remaining buildings, and being over 100 years old themselves, they’ve been pretty sensitive about keeping the feel of the place.

The rest of the buildings, you can get a pretty good view of from the DLR platforms and entrance at Greenwich Station. As far as I can tell, they’re warehouses these days.

3 Comments to “Lovibonds”

  1. David Ramzan says:

    Just been having a scroll through the Greenwich Phantom website and came across an article on Lovibonds. I produced a book last year ‘Royal Greenwich Through Time’ which featured a picture of Lovibonds after bomb damage. I obtained the photograph from Andrew Lovibond, whose family owned the brewery. He now lives down in south Kent, at Sandgate, not too far away, from where I am currently residing. I had the pleasure of spending an afternoon with him after the book was published, and found him an extremely interesting, entertainingand very nice man. At the time, he was building a scale model steam powered brewery lorry, about five feet long. He still journeys up to Greenwich on occasion, and also visits the Lovibond Brewery near Kew, to stock up on beer. Of course the brewery has only taken on the name Lovibonds and one of the original storehouses in West London. I left him that afternoon with a copy of my book in exchange for a four pack of Lovibonds bottled beer, a very good swap. David Ramzan

  2. [...] money would go on the Lovibond brewery which stood next to what is now the DLR and Davy’s Wine Vaults. I suspect this was a [...]

  3. kim says:

    Yes, Andrew is, indeed, a very nice man and my good friend. We bumped into him today up on The Leas where we were admiring the vintage cars. He came back for a coffee and we were talking about the brewery and a beautiful tiled advertising plaque on the side wall which still seems to be there.

    The beer which is produced in Henley is excellent. Andrew supplies a firkin each year for the Sandgate Sea and Food Festival which took place this weekend. I went for a beer tasting with him in Henley a couple of years ago and liked them all.