The end of last year (December 2023) marked five years since the completion of the construction and redevelopment of Ram Quarter, cementing the site’s transformation from a derelict former industrial brewery into a thriving community hub and retail and leisure destination. Following this important milestone, we at Greenland share our reflections on five cornerstones that have shaped the regeneration project’s success.
1) Protecting a living piece of history
Ram Quarter has a unique place in the UK’s industrial past as the country’s oldest continuously operating brewery. However, in spite of maintaining its beer-making tradition for what is now probably more than 500 years (records can be traced back to at least 1533, but the brewing history is almost certainly older), including through two world wars, by 2006 this legacy was in jeopardy as Young’s brewery prepared to leave its former home. From the very start, Greenland knew how important it was to protect this tradition and Ram Quarter’s special identity.
It was not always easy to keep brewing going, and we worked closely with former Young's brewer John Hatch - who remained as site manager throughout the construction period - to keep a nanobrewery running on site during this time. There was the pandemic to contend with too, which hit hospitality businesses across London hard. But by the beginning of 2021 Greenland had welcomed a new commercial brewery to the site - Sambrook’s - securing the future of beer-making at Ram Quarter and the site's unbroken record.
2) Placemaking around the river Wandle
Weaving its way through Wandsworth the river Wandle has played a role in countless lives over the centuries, powering the many mills and breweries that used to operate in the area. As times changed, however, this vital artery became overgrown and underappreciated.
For most people in contemporary Wandsworth the river had become inaccessible, hidden behind the high walls of the brewery. We saw the opportunity to change this, putting the river front and centre of our new plans for Ram Quarter. By clearing and rewilding the Wandle, and building a new pedestrian bridge across it, we opened it to the community again, creating a beautiful waterside space where people can eat, drink and relax. And wildlife has flocked here too: the river is now home to fish, herons, ducks, coots, moorhens, and even nesting swans.
3) Putting the site back at the heart of Wandsworth
Over the years the former brewery had lost its connection to Wandsworth Town. We took down the old brewery walls and created new access points, thoroughfares and public spaces, to make sure that the community link was re-established.
Ram Quarter has since played host to some fantastic local events, from Wimbledon tennis screenings to farmers' markets and a Coronation celebration. Our tours as part of London's annual Open House festival of architecture have always been filled to capacity, attracting visitors from all over London and elsewhere in the country. And of course, we host the famous annual Beer by the River festival, which more than 1,000 people attend at the end of each summer. We have also hosted Wandsworth Town's Christmas Festival, with a Christmas market, children's rides, and carol singers. Ram Quarter is once again the beating heart of Wandsworth Town.
4) Preserving the past, looking to the future
The wonderful new community spaces would not have been possible without the careful restoration work and designs created by Ram Quarter’s architect EPR. The main brewery complex is Grade II* listed, and we saw the potential to celebrate these unique historic structures while adding modern buildings too. The result has been award-winning design, architecture and renovation which create a unique aesthetic. The development also has its own Heritage Centre, where visitors can explore the history of the site and learn about brewing.
5) Championing independent businesses
We had the right ingredients with design, location and history, but it is also essential to work with carefully selected partners to bring this all to life. We focused on bringing together a diverse mix of independent businesses, often local to south London, to create a leisure and retail offer which could not be matched elsewhere. From southwest London’s first bowling operator, Strike, to family-run businesses such as Story Coffee and Mai Thai Deli, Ram Quarter has quickly become a go-to destination for people across the city who value the passion, creativity and amazing experiences that brands such as these have to offer.
It has been a remarkable five years and we're excited to see how Ram Quarter will continue to evolve and develop by its tenth birthday. Taking on a local landmark is a responsibility, but Ram Quarter shows the power of positive, sustainable, sensitive change.