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The brewery was founded in 1840 by William Nicholson (1820–1916), son of successful businessman Robert Nicholson. The brewery was based in the centre of town with an extensive frontage on the High Street.
At their peak in the 1900s, Nicholson's possessed 150 tied pubs.
Nicholson's was bought out first by Simonds Brewery and then by the Reading-based Courage brewery, and closed in 1960. The Nicholson's Centre shopping complex now stands on the site, covering the 400 ft deep artesian well that provided the brewery with its water.