In 1849, John Harris moved into Hook Norton purchasing a farm of 52 acres that included a Malthouse. It is thought that commercial brewing started in 1856. This is supported by the brewing books which keep a record of every brew.
A three-storey tower brewery was built in 1872 and then enlarged in 1898. The Victorian tower brewery, attached to the earlier building, was designed by William Bradford, an architect who specialised in industrial architecture. The design of the building is in a distinctive style employed by Bradford in several industrial buildings but particularly effectively at Hook Norton where the building resembles a Chinese pagoda. The design of a tower brewery is closely linked to each of the brewing processes. These processes continue in the brewery, some still using the historic machinery, such as the grist mill.
The 1880’s were a key period for the brewery. Although this was a time of depression in many rural areas, Hook Norton was thriving. The extension of the Chipping Norton railway line into Hook Norton not only meant a captive audience for the brewery’s beer (in the form of the navvies who were building the line), but also had a longer term benefit in maintaining the prosperity of the village and providing a vital means of transport for raw materials, equipment and casks of beer to and from the brewery.
A Heritage Lottery Fund grant was awarded in 2014 to conserve one of the two Grade II listed chimneys behind the main brewery building. The project included several activities designed to improve information about the heritage of the Brewery, an improved layout for the Museum, and a volunteer film project.
As part of the Heritage Lottery Fund project, a group of volunteers worked with Film Oxford to make a film about the Brewery, featuring the heritage of the site and the chimney. The film was made over the summer of 2014. The volunteers, all local people who applied to take part, learned filming and editing techniques to produce a short film. The resulting film is an atmospheric journey through the present and past of Hook Norton Brewery.