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The origin of pubs goes back to Roman times. Then in the middle ages monasteries created guest houses where bread and ale were often offered for free. Ale was originally based on fermented barley malt. This was often preferred to the local drinking water which could be dirty and unsafe.
The naming of pubs became common by the 12th century and by 1393 all pubs had to have a sign, often a simplistic religious symbol such as The Sun, The Star or The Bell. Before the 19th century and the establishment of Chesham’s commercial brewers there were scores of pubs and beer shops in the town where landlords brewed their own distinctive beer, or sold beer, stout and porter much of it made here in Chesham.
The largest brewery in Chesham was started by Thomas and James Nash in the 1840’s. Their business developed into a full scale operation at the foot of White Hill. A deep well supplied the spring water which gave a distinctive taste to the beer. In 1872 the brewery owned 11 pubs in Chesham. It was incorporated as The Chesham Brewery Ltd in 1895 and in 1899 took over How’s Brewery which had been established at 80-82 Church St in the early 19th century.
For long periods in the 18th and 19th century Chesham was able to boast a pub for every 100 persons. However, many of them were comparatively small and served no more than two barrels and two dozen bottles of beer per week. Often the landlord did not rely entirely on his pub for income and carried out another occupation alongside. Today, large commercial breweries have taken over the remaining pubs. Those that have survived generally have a long history, in many cases as long as church establishments, and often they play an equally important role as a focal point of the local community.