Local History Society

 Families - Simonds family

History of
Simonds Bank



John Simonds,

Ellen Anne Simonds, 1896

John Hayes Simonds, 1946

Ralph Pomeroy Simonds, 1916



The Simonds family surname disappeared from local directories in the late 20th Century, breaking a tradition that stretched back to Saxon times. A John Siemonds was recorded at about the time of the Domesday Book, and the family has been associated with 'Newlands' until the 1950's.  John Siemonds was a Saxon squire who lived on the south side of Arborfield. He was arraigned for ecclesiastical misdemeanours by the Prior of Sonning on behalf of the Bishop of Ramsbury.

Newlands in the early 1950'sIt is not yet known why the Liberty of Newland was so-called, but there had been a country house on the Newlands estate for many centuries. The parish of Hurst originally covered a very large area, and there existed at least two 'Liberties' within its boundaries, Newland being one and Winnersh being another.  There are several Simonds family graves at St. Nicholas in Hurst, and also at the old and new parish churches at Arborfield.

William Blackall Simonds (1761 – 1834) may not have been connected directly with Arborfield, but his father lived there. W. B. Simonds was connected both with the Brewery and with the Simonds Bank. He was already in the brewing business by 1781 when the Bank was formed, and inherited the malting and brewing business from his father in 1782. The Hop-Leaf Brewery was established in Broad Street in 1785, but eventually moved to the banks of the Kennet where it remained until 1980 when it was replaced by the Courage Brewery by Junction 11 of the M4.

The Bank had been intended to help the brewing business to grow, and W.B. Simonds' partners in the Bank in Market-Place were Robert Micklem (a draper), John Stephens (another brewer) and Robert Harris (mealman). However, in 1814 he dissolved the partnership and started another Bank at King Street. His new partners were all related. His younger son Henry (1795-1874) had a thriving wine and spirit business, and his two cousins John Simonds (1765-1845) of Arborfield and Charles Simonds (1768-1859) of Sindlesham were connected with farming and milling.

The story gets a little complicated, because by the 1841 Census, Charles Simonds had moved to Newlands along with his wife Sarah, 10 years his younger. At this stage, he was described simply as a ‘Banker’. Among his small staff were Caleb Jeacock (then aged 28) and Caleb’s mother Ann (55). Caleb and his daughter Avice were responsible for the Census in the Liberty of Newland right up until 1901. Charles and Sarah Simonds were still at Newlands in the 1851 Census.

The brewing branch of the family continued through W.B. Simonds’ son Blackall Simonds, who later took into partnership his two younger brothers, Henry and George in about 1834. When W.B. Simonds retired in 1845 the brewery became H. & G. Simonds. By the 1870’s, the Simonds brewery was well-placed to gain the contract to supply the beer to the Army when it moved to Aldershot. A younger George Blackall Simonds was a well-known sculptor who was commissioned to provide the red lion memorial in Forbury Park in addition to other statues in Reading and elsewhere. A particularly famous one is in Central Park, New York. The brewery was eventually known as 'Courage, Simonds and Barclay' (In the 1990's it was still possible to drink Simonds' 'Hop-leaf' ale brewed under licence in Malta, thanks to the old Army connection).  Click on the link to see a history of the brewery from Reading Museum (in Acrobat format).

John Simonds 'the first' (there were many others of that name in Hurst parish, but he was the first banker) married Mary Smith (born 1776) on 1st September 1803 in Bray. She died in Hurst on 3rd April 1829, and John then married Catherine Terry (born 1793). She died on 1st October 1831 in Hurst and he died on 7th March 1845 in Hurst.

John Simonds the second (1807-1876) also joined the banking business, which by 1855 was able to expand a twice-weekly branch operation in Wokingham into a full-scale branch. He noted this occasion in his diary as follows: 4th September 1855 – I rode "Blackbeard" to Wokingham. Withers brought the money by railway and we commenced business in the new shop – it is not quite complete but is very comfortable and approved of much by our customers. In 1859, John Simonds III and his brother William had joined their father as partners in the Bank along with their cousin James.

By the 1861 Census, 54-year-old John Simonds was living back at Newlands as a ‘Banker & Farmer employing 15 Men and 3 Boys’. His wife Emma was 14 years his junior, and was from Swallowfield. Four of their children, Mary (16), John (15), Emma (11) and Catharine (9) were all born in Sonning. Emma Terry was born in 1820 in Swallowfield, and they married there on 5th October 1842. She died in 1908.

Ten years later, John and Emma only had their youngest child in residence, but John Simonds the third (1846 – 1929) was back in the village by 1881, his father having died on 10th February 1876 in Newland.

By 1881, we find the younger John (35) and his wife Ellen (34) at Newlands, but their children’s birthplaces show where they had been living earlier in their marriage. Ellen, Beatrice and Selina (11, 8 and 6) had been born in St. Marylebone in London, whereas Constance and Alice (5 and 3) were born in Arborfield, not Newland. The youngest, John Hayes Simonds, aged 1, was born at ‘Newlands’. Were his parents living at the Rectory for a few years? By the way, mother Ellen was the daughter of Sir John Hayes, Baronet, who was the Rector of Arborfield from 1839 for forty years.

There was another church connection. On 11th January 1866, the Curate of Arborfield, Rev. Wyndham C. H. Hughes D'Aeth, married John Simonds' eldest sister Mary at Arborfield Church, the service being conducted by the Rector Sir John Hayes. Wyndham was the youngest son of Admiral Hughes D'Aeth, of Knowlton Court in Kent, which is between Canterbury and Deal. The curacy at Arborfield extended until at least 1871, when Wyndham and Mary can be found in Newland along with their three children Harriet (4), Wyndham (2) and Cloudsley (2 months). The children weren't baptised at Arborfield; perhaps they returned to the family seat for baptism. It seems that the D'Aeth family did retain a strong link with Kent, because they spent a few years at Satringbury where another son and daughter were born. By 1881, the family were at the Rectory of Buckhorn Weston in Dorset along with 6 servants. We learn from this Census that Rev. Wyndham D'Aeth, then aged 45, had been born in France. 

The 1891 Census shows that Sir John Hayes, then aged 91, had moved in to Newlands with his daughter Ellen Anne Simonds and son-in-law John Simonds. By this time, he had another grandchild, Maurice, aged 8, who had been born in London.

John Simonds the third, widowed on 9th December 1896, exerted his benevolent authority over the village for many years, as described in his Obituary and in many other web pages on this site.

Newlands from the 1947 Sale DocumentHis son John Hayes Simonds then took on the role until his own death in 1946, after which the Estate was put up for sale. He was connected by marriage to the Sturges family of Barkham Square, who were themselves connected with local government via Wokingham Rural District Council. There is more information on the Simonds family in the Women's Institute's history from 1922, written by Beatrice Simonds with much reference to historic documents connected with the family. 

We can trace the Simonds family before their involvement in brewing. We learn from David Nash Ford’s family history that the May and Simonds families were closely linked. Jane May was born in 1733 at Long Sutton in Hants, and married Thomas Simonds of Arborfield, who was born there in 1731. She died in 1802 in Hurst (Newland?) , while Thomas died at Arborfield Cross in 1808 and was buried at Hurst. A Will left by Mary May, a spinster who lived in Pangbourne until her death in 1820, lists her sister Jane Breedon, widow of the late Revd. John Symonds Breedon of Bere Court, plus nieces Mary and Elizabeth Simonds, daughters of William Blackall Simonds Esq.  This family needs a web-site to itself - and David Nash Ford has now provided one on his excellent 'Berkshire History' site.

As mentioned earlier, a branch of the family owned Sindlesham Mill, which was still active in the 1960's but has since become an hotel and pub. The St. Bartholomew's Parish Magazine carried the following advert in March 1963:


Back to Families Page


Any Feedback or comments on this website?  Please e-mail the webmaster