THE mystery of what happened to the stately gates outside a former brewery in central Oxford appears to have been solved.

The wrought gates outside the Lion Brewery on St Thomas Street bore the name of the former beer making facility, now renovated for use as flats.

At the end of May, journalist Peter Hitchens wrote to The Oxford Times, asking if anyone knew why the gates had suddenly disappeared without explanation.

His short letter read: “Does anyone know what has happened to the gates of the old Morrell’s Lion Brewery in St Thomas Street?”

Replies to the Letters Editor were requested.

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Now, Susanna Pressel, the Labour city councillor for Osney and St Thomas, has said she has found out why the gates were removed.

In written correspondence with the paper, she said: "As the city councillor for that area, I have also been trying to find out why the gates have disappeared. Eventually a planning officer told me this: 'As I understand it, an Oxford City Council bin lorry drove in to the gates and they were damaged. I have been told that they have been removed to be fixed'."

Ms Pressel, who also sits as an Oxfordshire County Councillor, added: "I’m now trying to find out how much longer it will take to get them fixed and replaced."

It is understood the gates disappeared in October last year, and Ms Pressel said a specialist metalworker had been commissioned to repair them by the managers of the Lion Brewery flats after involvement by insurers.

She added the gates had not yet been repaired because of a backlog of work with the specialist.

It is estimated the wrought iron gates could be returned to the brewery site during the summer if work is completed as planned.

Lion Brewery in St Thomas Street.

Lion Brewery in St Thomas Street.

What became Morrell's Brewing Company had its origins in 1743 as the Lion Brewery, before a business partnership with the Morrell family in 1782 led to the name change.

Alongside the brewery, the wealthy Morrell family were landowners, building Headington Hill House to live in and owning South Parks as part of their estate.

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The house is the School of Law building for Oxford Brookes University today.

The St Thomas Street brewery site was added to over the course of the 19th century as demand for the Morrell Brewing Company's beer grew.

Operations at the factory stopped in 1998, and Morrell's was sold off.

The Lion Brewery was then developed into 79 luxury apartments in 2002, with many of the original building facades kept as part of the site.

Historic features include a tan brick brewery chimney and a waterwheel were kept as a reminder of its use as a brewery in the past.

Peter Hitchens, who asked Oxford Times readers whether they knew why the brewery gates had been removed, is a national newspaper journalist and columnist who lives in Oxford.

A spokesman for ODS, the council-owned company which takes out the bins in Oxford, said: "Following this incident, which occurred in October 2020 when an ODS vehicle clipped the gates while reversing, our highways team immediately made the location safe.

"We informed the property’s management agents of our insurance details. They are currently dealing with the repairs."