Along the North Brink, on a bend in the-River Nene, stands a fine Georgian brewery, probably the first such brewery to be built outside London. It is on the site of some previous industrial enterprises, notably a Tannery, which flourished in the late seventeenth century. This is no coincidence, as both tanneries and breweries need a great deal of water to function and this site has it in abundance. These facts also reflect a change in the nature of the Fens during the eighteenth century. From medieval times we had been a sheep-rearing region (our fine churches were built on wool). The fleeces went to Yorkshire to be turned into cloth and the skins to North Brink to be made into leather. Now that the Fens had been adequately drained, arable farming took precedence and barley for malting was abundant.
1795 is a known date for a transfer of the brewery as an ongoing concern, and it changed hands once again only six years later. The new owners were William Watson, well known for his 'History of Wisbech', and Abraham Usill, whose grave you may see in the floor of St Peter's Church. So the North Brink Brewery has now had a continuous existence for more than two hundred years.
It was Watson and Usill who started the policy of acquiring public houses that would sell the produce of the brewery instead of brewing their own, as had long been the local practice. They raised the number of tied houses to forty. In 1836 Phillips, Tibbitts and Phillips took over, but the partnership failed and the Phillips family continued alone until 1877. It was then that John Elgood sold his maltings in Godmanchester and, in partnership with George Harrison, purchased the much more desirable Wisbech Brewery for £38,965, a very large sum of money.
Things were not easy. Harrison was declared bankrupt only nine years later and John Elgood just managed to hang on, by the skin of his teeth. He was a family man with seven children to bring up. However, after his death in 1890, the now grown-up children became an asset. Horace, the third son, took charge and three of his brothers were also involved; together they formed a limited company. Nigel Elgood's father, Stewart, took over from his Uncle Horace in 1933. Nigel succeeded his father as managing director in 1968, and his daughter Belinda took over in 2001.
In the present century much, but not all of the plant, has been modernised. The public houses have also been brought up to date and there are now forty-eight of them. Nowadays Elgoods export their beers to Finland and America as well as supplying Real Ale to all parts of the British Isles.
Elgood's Brewery also has a magnificent garden, which is open to the public May to Septemberin the summer, and offers Brewery Tours during this period.