The setting for The Brewery Tap is Gamul House, a Jacobean great hall originally home to the Gamul family.
The Gamuls were a very wealthy merchant family with a powerful private army.
During the civil war from 1642-1646 Sir Francis Gamul was a prominent loyalist and lent his army to the defence of Chester. King Charles 1st stayed at Gamul House from 23rd-26th September 1645 at which time the Battle of Rowton Moor took place close to the city, a decisive battle in the civil war.
A Brief History of Gamul House, now known as The Brewery Tap
There is strong evidence that there used to be a large Scandinavian community living here in Saxon times around the 8th century onwards. The small church opposite is dedicated to St. Olaf, a Norwegian who was martyred in 1030, and it is the oldest surviving building on this street with parts of the building dating from the twelfth century. There has probably being a building at this location from the Saxon period onwards. Parts of the present building date from around the early 16th century, with the oldest visible parts being the wall and fireplace behind the present bar. Most buildings were constructed in wood in those days with the infill between the wooden supports consisting of wooden branches bonded together using a mud and manure mix. Following the Great Fire of London in 1666 and a Town Assembly ruling on building in 1671, the medieval frontage of Gamul House was replaced by a brick façade, but the hall was retained. Sections of the famous Chester rows used to extend down both sides of this street before the English civil war hence the raised walkway in front of the building. A lot of damage was done in this area during the war, which ended in 1646, but none of the old rows in this street were incorporated into the post civil war rebuilding programme.
The building used to be known as Gamul House after the wealthy Gamul family, who lived here in the 16th and 17th century. They also owned a number of properties and land in and around Chester. Thomas Gamul was the city’s recorder and was the son of Edward Gamul, who was the mayor of Chester on four occasions. Thomas Gamul’s son Sir Frances Gamul was a staunch Royalist and lived here during the English civil war, fought between the forces of Charles 1st and Parliament from 1642 to 1646. Sir Frances was also the city’s mayor for a short time in the 1630’s. During the civil war he was the commander responsible for the city’s defences. Charles 1st stayed here for the last time with Sir Frances on 24th September 1645, the night before the battle of Rowton Moor, which is about 3 miles away. The Royalists lost the battle and Charles 1st had to flee the city via the old Dee Bridge heading south through Wales to his final defeat, imprisonment and execution in January 1649. Before he fled Chester, he told his commander, Lord Byron, to surrender in 10 days if no relief army had arrived. No relief army arrived but Chester decided to hold out for a further 20 weeks and finally surrendered due to starvation on 3rd February 1646. A terrible amount of damage had been done to the city and to add to the city’s problems a huge outbreak of the dreaded plague occurred in the same year killing nearly two thousand people, about a fifth of the population.
After the civil war Sir Frances, who survived the plague, had most of his land and property confiscated by Parliament. The Gamul family church was St. Mary’s On The Hill not far from here, but it is no longer a church and is now known as St. Mary’s Centre. There is a family tomb in St. Catherine’s chapel where Thomas Gamul is buried alongside his wife.
Long after the civil war, the present building became a rundown tenement, but was substantially renovated during the 20th century into the building you see today. On Thursday 20th November 2008 it was opened as The Brewery Tap selling locally brewed ale from the brewery known as Spitting Feathers, located at Waverton on the outskirts of Chester beside Rowton Moor.