The history of the Chequers, and how it came to be part of the Brakspear family is connected to Brakspear’s brewing roots. Brakspear first began life in Henley on Thames back in 1711, when William Henry Brakspear began brewing in the garden of 65 Bell Street. In 1769, nineteen year old Robert Brakspear, became the pub landlord of the Cross Keys, Witney and it’s from here Brakspear Bitter was born and started being brewed. In 1779, so many people were enjoying Brakspear Bitter, they needed to move to a bigger brewery so Robert moved to Henley to join his uncle, Richard Hayward, at his brewery.
The brewery on Bell Street closed in 1812 and moved to New Street where it can still be seen today, though it was converted into residential flats and a hotel In October 2002. This was when Brakspear’s brewing moved to Marston’s Wychwood Brewery in Witney, Oxfordshire, which is just around the corner from the Cross Keys.
In 1893, Brakspear completed the acquisition of the Grey’s brewery, Henley and this led to the original purchase of the Chequers leasehold and further purchase of the freehold in October 1897 for the princely sum of £1900. The building itself dates back to the 16th century and seems to have been a pub for all of that time. At one point, there were rooms for weary travellers to rest for the night too. We like to think the current decor gives it a modern look while honouring its history highlighted by the presence of the original beams of ship timbering.