Castle Eden Brewery

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Castle Eden Brewery (J Nimmo & Son Ltd) was a brewery that operated in the village of Castle Eden in County Durham. It was best known for Castle Eden Ale, which continues to be produced at Camerons Brewery in nearby Hartlepool.


The Castle Eden Inn, Castle Eden

The business dates back to 1826, when John Nimmo (c.1801 - 1867) began to brew at the Castle Eden Inn in Castle Eden, which had its own brewhouse.[1] After the death of John Nimmo, the brewery was managed by his son, William John Nimmo (1828 - 1901).[1]

Between 1871 and 1888, the value of the fixtures at the brewery rose from £138 to £1765.[1] Nimmo was innovative, building the second pneumatic maltings in England in 1878-9, and his was among the first breweries to adopt powered drays in 1892.[2][3] In 1892, J. Nimmo & Son Ltd was registered as a limited liability company with 41 public houses.[4][1]

Alterations completed in 1910 made Castle Eden one of the most up-to-date breweries in the country and output doubled between 1906 and 1914.[5] In 1912 the company acquired the brewing business of Thomas Chilton in Seaham, including 12 public houses.[1] Between 1912 and 1920, production reached a record output of more than 42,000 barrels.[5]

By 1942, nearly a third of the output was in bottles and an automatic bottling plant came into operation in 1950.[5] In 1951, Nimmo's red star logo was first installed as a neon sign at one of their houses.[5] The company went public in 1952.[4] In 1957 the company claimed to have opened the most modern malting plant in the North of England.[6] In 1958, the company expanded into Tyneside with the acquisition of Davison & Wood, including 20 public houses.[6]

The Dun Cow Inn, Old Elvet, Durham, was a Castle Eden public house

In September 1963, the national brewer Whitbread acquired the company for £2.1 million, along with 125 public houses.[4][7] Nimmo had not had sufficient capitalisation to expand and modernise its tied estate as an independent concern.[8] At the time, Nimmo had been chaired by E. D. Trechman, the only female brewery chief in Britain.[7] In 1966, Whitbread rationalised the product portfolio, discontinuing all cask production in order to concentrate on keg beers such as Trophy Special.[9][10] The company was renamed as Whitbread East Pennines. In 1977 a £650,000 investment was announced, to enable all of the Whitbread group's beers to be racked and processed at the brewery.[5]

Cask beer returned in 1991, after the appointment of a new head brewer, Jim Kerr.[10] By 1992 the brewery had a capacity of 220,000 barrels.[11] From 1992, Whitbread used the brewery to produce limited edition specialist ales.[12] In 1993 Castle Eden began to brew Mackeson Stout, and Higsons Bitter and Mild after Whitbread closed down the Exchange Brewery in Sheffield.[13][14] In 1995 the brewery employed 150 people.[15]

In 1998, Whitbread announced plans to close down the brewery, but it was saved by an estimated £4 million management buyout by David Soley and David Beecroft.[16] Production at the time was 60,000 barrels.[17] Major negotiations took place over the ownership of the Trophy Special brand, which with production of 28,000 barrels, was essential if the new company was to survive on its own.[10] Whitbread maintained ownership of the Castle Eden Ale and Best Scotch brands, which the new company could brew under licence for 7 years.[10]

The brewery was closed down in 2002, and production was moved to Cameron's Brewery. Castle Eden continued to be produced until 2009, when InBev, which had inherited the Whitbread brand portfolio, refused renewal of the licence.[18] Camerons announced the return of Castle Eden Ale production in 2013.[19]


  1. ^ a b c d e
  2. ^ Clark, Christine (1998). The British Malting Industry Since 1830. Continuum. p. 81. ISBN 978-1-85285-170-5. 
  3. ^ Pearson, Lynn (1999). British Breweries. Continuum. p. 97. ISBN 978-0-8264-3460-9. 
  4. ^ a b c Lesley Richmond; Alison Turton (1990). The Brewing Industry: A Guide to Historical Records. Manchester University Press. p. 251. ISBN 978-0-7190-3032-1. 
  5. ^ a b c d e The Northern Echo 25 April 2001 RAISE A GLASS TO AN OLD FRIEND BYLINE: Hayley Gyllenspetz
  6. ^ a b "Big Brewery Deal." Times [London, England] 19 September 1958: 18. The Times Digital Archive. Web. 4 December 2013.
  7. ^ a b £2.1 millions take-over bid by brewery The Guardian (1959-2003) [London (UK)] 7 September 1963: 12.
  8. ^ Development costs of Whitbread The Guardian (1959-2003) [London (UK)] 24 June 1964: 11.
  9. ^ THE JOURNAL (Newcastle, UK) 7 January 1999, Thursday Edition 1 Big Jack's World Cup runneth over once more with Nimmo's XXXX BYLINE: By Ken Smith
  10. ^ a b c d The Guardian (London) 21 November 1998 Food&drink: The cream of Durham BYLINE: Roger Protz
  11. ^ The Guardian (London) 21 November 1992 FOOD AND DRINK: JOYS FROM THE BLACK STUFF; Roger Protz savours the born-again porter that could carry an endangered old brewery into the 21st century BYLINE: ROGER PROTZ
  12. ^ The Northern Echo 24 October 1998 CENTRE STEEPED IN REAL ALE TRADITION
  14. ^ EVENING CHRONICLE (Newcastle, UK) 8 April 1998, Wednesday Edition 1 A bitter end for garden of Eden - It's been a bad week for the region's breweries with Whitbread and Scottish Courage announcing closures and cutbacks and, as ALASTAIR LEITHEAD reports, real ale enthusiasts will be sad to see Castle Eden go
  16. ^ The Times (London) 2 August 1999, Monday Castle Eden on target for 100 pubs BYLINE: Dominic Walsh
  17. ^ The Northern Echo 26 October 1999 REAL ALE KINGS OF THE CASTLE EDEN BYLINE: Gareth Dant
  18. ^
  19. ^


  • The Brewer's Tale: Memoirs of a Master Brewer, Frank Priestley (2010)
  • Nick Redman, The History of the Castle Eden Brewery, County Durham (Whitbread plc, London, 1993).