MAKING beer for more than 200 years, the old Stroud Brewery was one of Stroud's best known landmarks.

Historian Marion Hearfield has written a book documenting how the business came to have such a big impact on the Stroud district in one of the first histories dedicated to the brewery.

The book, titled The Old Stroud Brewery, is being launched at Stroud Local History Society's summer exhibition at the Museum in the Park on Saturday, July 16, running until July 24.

Mrs Hearfield, who has dedicated the book to her husband John who passed away earlier this year, has spoken to former employees of the brewery and several others who have memories of the landmark building.

One of those is George Rowles, 88, who worked at the brewery from 1950 until around 1970.

"Working at the brewery was one of the happiest times of my life," said Mr Rowles.

"I remember all of the staff used to drink free beer.

"Some had as many as ten to 20 pints a day - maybe that is exaggerating a bit - but I don't remember ever seeing one person drunk."

Mr Rowles remembers that staff would drink beer throughout much of the day, but not at lunch when they would have tea and sandwiches.

He also remembers when many employees were served one month's notice in 1958 when the brewery merged with breweries in Cheltenham and Hereford to form West Country Breweries.

"It was a big blow for the district," added Mr Rowles.

The history of the beer making business is traced back to 1760 when Peter Leversage established a brewery at his home in Middle Lypiatt.

The business was moved to a site in Rowcroft, Stroud, in 1793, after the opening of the Thames and Severn Canal.

Joseph Watts, who joined the company in 1800, became sole owner of the business in 1818 and ran the brewery until 1846 before leaving it to his grandson, Joseph Watts Hallewell.

In 1888 the firm became a limited company, and their offices were built the following year at the junction of Merrywalks and Cainscross Road.

Over the next 20 years the business bought out other breweries at Tetbury, Minchinhampton, Malmesbury, Nailsworth, Mitcheldean and West Kennett to become one of the region's biggest employers.

The brewery built up a rivalry with Godsell's Brewery at Salmon Springs, vying to have the most pubs in the district.

But in 1928 the remaining Godsell shareholders sold their brewery to the Stroud Brewery Company.

After a merger with breweries in Cheltenham and Hereford, the firm was taken over by Whitbreads by 1963.

They ceased production at Stroud Brewery in 1967.

Bottling continued at Salmon Springs, but brewing was moved to a new brewery at Cheltenham and the site at Rowcroft was run down, though it continued to be used as a distribution hub.

It closed finally in 1967 and was not used again until the Stroud and Swindon Building Society opened its national HQ on the same site in 1989.

The S&S building's architects used the old maltings vents as a key part of their design.

The Old Stroud Brewery, published by Stroud Local History Society, will be available from Stroud Local History Society, R&R Books, the Subscription Rooms, the Canal Trust Visitor Centre, and Stroud Town Council office from July 25, priced at £7.50.

Money raised goes towards the Stroud Local History Society.