The Robinsons Story


Unicorn Brewery rests over the foundations of the Unicorn public house, marking the beginning of a family business which continues to thrive over 175 years later.

After twelve successful years as the landlord of Unicorn, Lower Hillgate, Stockport, William Robinson purchased the inn from Samuel Hole on 29th September 1838. By 1849 William had remarried after the early death of his wife Juliet and moved to Heaton Norris, leaving George, his oldest son to run the inn with his wife and sister-in–law. At this time George started to brew the first Robinsons ale.

William’s younger son Frederic took the helm from George in 1859 and, so brewing capacity could be expanded, bought a warehouse to the rear of the Unicorn inn. As a result, during the 1860’s Robinsons ale was available at many pubs in and around Stockport. To control the quality of conditions in which the ales were sold by independent publicans, Frederic decided to buy a number of public houses and between 1878 and his death in 1890 established 12 exclusive outlets for Robinsons ale- beginning what was to eventually become an estate of more than 330 pubs across the north west and wales.

Family Heritage

Frederic and Emma Robinson with their son WIlliam and daughter Mary. William, pictured here with his mother, went on to marry Priscilla Needham in 1899 and became Chairman of Frederic Robinson Limited in 1920.

Fast forward to the early decades of the 20th century and Frederic’s grandchildren, sons of William, joined the family business.  After Frederic’s passing, his widow Emma owned the business in entirety and it was shortly prior to her death that she instigated the formation of Frederic Robinson Limited. 4th generation Robinsons, Frederic, John and Cecil joined the board and continued to build the company alongside their father William.

With bottling commencing from a new building in 1908, new offices in 1913 and a new brewhouse in 1929, by William’s death in 1933, despite the countries difficult economic climate, Robinsons was strongly positioned for further growth. Over the following years, the estate grew by acquisition, new buildings and extending the geographical area. The first Welsh house – The Black Lion was bought in 1943. William Robinson, would have been proud to hear John, his great grandchild, was honoured with a knighthood in 1958 for political and public services in Cheshire- 120 years after William purchased the Unicorn Inn. The early 1950’s saw 5th generation Robinsons, Peter, Dennis and David, starting to join the business.

Over the past 6 decades Robinsons has continued to grow. 15th October 1975 saw the first bottling at a newly built packaging centre in Bredbury- ongoing development at UPC (Unicorn Packaging Centre) means all our beers are now transferred from Unicorn Brewery to Bredbury for packaging and distribution once fermentation is complete. Robinsons’ bottled ales such as Old Tom and Unicorn are distributed worldwide. The sixth generation strive to build further upon the family legacy. Neil, Veronica, Paul, Oliver and William were elected to the board in September 2003, followed three years later by Sara, who is now Company Secretary and John in May 2009.

Our eyes are firmly on the future as we develop brewery, brands and pubs at pace. With over £5 million investment in a new Brew House (including the World’s largest hopnik, which strains hops to maximise aroma and flavour), Training Centre for excellence and Visitors Centre, there is much to look forward to.