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A Rich Heritage: the Morland Brewery

Brewing has been carried out commercially in Abingdon for centuries, including at the Abbey prior to its dissolution in 1538. In 1711 a farmer, John Morland, set up a brewery in West Ilsley, Oxfordshire, brewing fine ale and porter for pubs in and around London. In the 1860s, Morland’s acquired local competitors Abbey Brewery and Eagle Brewery and moved its operation to Westgate Street in Abingdon. Reflecting its growth, Morland’s changed its name to United Breweries in 1885. A new brewhouse was built in Ock Street in 1912, and the firm continued to buy up other breweries and pubs in the following decades.

The Hen’s 50-year Heritage

By 1928, the company owned four breweries in the town: the Abbey Brewery in Thames Street; the Eagle Brewery and the Tower Steam Brewery in Ock Street; and the Stert Street brewery. Over the following couple of decades United Breweries enjoyed substantial success and reverted to the Morland name in 1944. This success culminated in 1979 with the creation of our beloved “Old Speckled Hen”, the No. 1 premium ale to date.

In 1979 the MG Car Company celebrated the 50th Anniversary of its move from Edmund Road, Cowley, Oxford to Abingdon. They asked Morland & Co. to brew a special commemorative beer for the occasion, for which they would suggest the name. The name chosen was ‘Old Speckled Hen’, which took its name not from a bird, but a car: a paint-spattered MG Featherlight Saloon. Back in the day, this was the MG factory run-around, fondly referred to as the “Owld Speckl’d Un” due to its mottled appearance after several years parked under the paint shop.

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