1820 – 1916
Maidenhead’s shopping centre is named after a Victorian brewer called William Nicholson.
William’s father, Robert, came to Maidenhead to work at Stuchbery’s grocers’ shop in the High Street, and later bought his own shop to trade independently. He brewed beer behind his shop and sold it around the town from a handcart.
In 1840 William established the Pineapple Steam Brewery on the site of the White Hart Inn in the centre of town. It is believed to have been called the Pineapple because the first pineapple grown in England was at nearby Dorney Court, home of the Palmer family.
William trained as a chemist at Radley College and put this knowledge into brewing his unique blend of beer. The brewery was built over a deep artesian well, from where the water was drawn for the brewing, and this contributed to the distinct flavour of the brew. It was William’s custom to walk, at 5.30 every morning, from his home in Castle Hill to the brewery, to sample and approve the first brew of the day.
Like most of the successful Victorian businessmen in Maidenhead, William was a generous benefactor to the town. In 1904, when the philanthropist Andrew Carnegie donated money to build the public library, William donated the site in St Ives Road. He was on the board of local charities and distress committees, and the very poor were sustained by hot soup from the soup kitchen at his brewery.
He was also active in local politics, being a councillor in 1858 and an alderman in 1876. This followed on from his father, who was mayor in 1831, and preceded his son Robert, who was mayor in 1896 and 1897.
William was also an accomplished cricketer and led Maidenhead to a victory against an All England team.
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