30 August 2016
English brewer Samuel Whitbread was born on 30 August 1720
On this day in history, 1720: Samuel Whitbread, an English brewer and Member of Parliament, is born.
Samuel Whitbread was born at Cardington in Bedfordshire, the seventh of eight children. He left for London aged 14 and became an apprentice to a London brewer, John Witman.
Whitbread went into partnership with Thomas Shewell in 1742, investing £2,600 in two of Shewell's small breweries, the Goat Brewhouse (where porter was produced) and a brewery in Brick Lane (used to produce pale and amber beers).
Demand for the strong, black porter meant the business had to move to larger premises in Chiswell Street in 1750. By 1760, it had become the second largest brewery in London (producing almost 64,000 barrels annually). Five years later Whitbread bought out Shewell for £30,000.
By the end of the century, Whitbread's business was London's biggest producer of beer, producing 202,000 barrels in 1796. When Whitbread died on 11 June 1796, the Gentleman's Magazine claimed that he was ‘worth over a million pounds’.
The firm struggled after the death of Samuel Whitbread Sr, and saw ownership transfer to his son, also called Samuel Whitbread. The company adopted the name Whitbread & Co Ltd in 1799.
In 2001 Whitbread Group Plc sold all its breweries and brewing interests, but that was by no means the end of the story.
Whitbread's principal operations today are some of the biggest hotel and restaurant names: Premier Inn, Costa Coffee, Table Table, Beefeater, Brewers Fayre, Whitbread Inns and Taybarns. Whitbread's former operations include: Britvic, Marriott hotels and clubs, TGI Friday's, Pizza Hut UK and Threshers.
Not just a brewer, Whitbread was elected Member of Parliament for Bedford in 1768, and held the seat until 1790, and then represented Steyning from 1792 to 1796. He was an early supporter for the abolition of slavery, took part in some of the anti-slavery debates of 1788 in the House of Commons and introduced a minimum wage bill to the House in 1795, which was rejected by then Prime Minister William Pitt.
Pictured: Samuel Whitbread (1720-1796) by Sir Joshua Reynolds.