The Black Horse and the Gomshall Brewery (1817-1926)

The First Reffell Brewery

The White Horse 1907The original buildings at Gomshall were described as a malt house and appear to date from about 1690, although they were not on a rent roll of 1683. In 1692 the landlord was William Amey who held the tenement by rent of a grain of pepper. The place was kept in the family until grandson Thomas passed it to William Sherlock and his heirs in 1758. In 1768 possession passed to Ann Naish, and in 1797 to Thomas Cooper of Leatherhead who died in 1800. The property was then held in trust.

In 1817 trustee Edward Bray conveyed the premises to John Reffell (born 1781 in Shere). John had two children from his first 1806 marriage to Mary Ann Luxford; Robert (1807) and John (1807). Upon her death, he married Elizabeth Smith in 1814 at West Horsley. John and Elizabeth had eight children; Elizabeth (1814), Mary Ann (1816), Henry (1817), Caroline (1819), William Joseph (1823) Eliza (1824), Harriett (1829). There was also an illegitimate daughter Sarah (1825). In a rent roll of 1823 the property appears for the first time called the Black Horse, previously having been called simply a malt house. About 1830 John bought a nearby house called Chestnuts, later Weybrook, for his family between the Black Horse and a chapel. When John senior died in 1838, eldest son John is believed to have taken over for a short while before his mother Elizabeth became landlord in 1844. The inn was thriving at this time, for the navvies or 'navigators' building the 46-mile railway between Reading and Redhill during 1846-9 proved thirsty customers!

Elizabeth Reffell died in 1865 and left behind two conflicting wills that were to be contested by the two brothers, Henry and William Joseph. Henry wanted to prove that the later will out-dated an earlier one, whereas William Joseph wanted to prove the opposite, on the grounds that Elizabeth was then 71 years old and made a mistake in dating the will ten years earlier. In effect, the will that was proven included William Joseph, whereas the rejected will did not. After the issue of the will was settled, Henry moved away to the Somers Arms in Redhill and then subsequently to found the Bexley Brewery in Kent.

The White Horse 1928William Joseph ran the Black Horse public house and hotel together with the Gomshall Brewery until he died in 1884. His sons Alfred John & William Joseph then became joint landlords, enlarging the brewery. It was well equipped with an early beam engine, three wells and ample stabling. The hotel brougham met the London trains at the nearby railway station and the brewery had one of the first lorries in the area, a chain driven 2 ton Hallford with solid tyres and oil lamps to cart beer to their other public houses.

In 1926, the brewery and three tied houses were offered for auction. At that time the brewery produced three brews; Bitter, Mild and Farmers' Brew, in order of strength. The public houses were the Black Horse at Gomshall, the Prince of Wales at Shere and the Half Moon at Ripley. The first two were bought by Young & Company of Wandsworth, and the Half Moon became a free house. The Brewery itself was pulled down by the new owners during 1929 to enlarge the Black Horse car park, and the photograph above is just after that date.

The Black Horse, like most public houses, has needed to change over the years and has been in the recent past a seafood restaurant called Mulligans and a Thai restaurant called the Beau Thai. Unfortunately the property is now all boarded up and looking forlorn and very sad. It is understood that a local person has now purchased the property and hopes are high that this special building can be saved.

Landlords of the Black Horse

  • 1861 William H Wren
  • 1871 Jane Wackett
  • 1881 William Jerret Moore
  • 1891 William Jerret Moore
  • 1901 Ernest W Atree
  • 1911 Robert Roger Rawlins