A History of Whitworth, Son & Nephew Ltd

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WHITWORTH, SON & NEPHEW LTD WATH BREWERY MOOR ROAD, WATH ON DEARNE by David Parry


In 1838 Wath on Dearne was described as:- "a small market town, population 1,149, being well built, having several good shops and houses of public entertainment, and in the surrounding neighbourhood a large population employed chiefly in the potteries, ironworks and coal-mines, for which this district has long been famed".

Wath also had its first recorded brewers - Charles Shaw, common brewer and William Kemp & Co., also common brewer. Whether either was a direct predecessor of Whitworths is not known. As well as three beer-houses, the Cross Keys, the Red Lion and the Star, all later owned by Whitworths, were in existence.

By 1861 new public houses had been built - the George & Dragon, which became a John Smith's house in 1896, the Saracen's Head, a Stones' Brewery pub by 1899, and the White Bear. More significantly for our purpose the appearance was noted of Mr. Spedding Whitworth, but at this time as a maltster only, with malting premises in Wath and in nearby Mexborough and Masboro, Rotherham.

Spedding Whitworth was closely acquainted with the brewing business, being a member of the family which owned the Springwell Brewery [3] in Heckmondwike. He was born in 1833 in Liversedge in the West Riding and moved to Wath around 1860. His interests as a maltster no doubt brought him into contact with the then owner of the Wath Brewery, James Utley.

James Utley, a native of Ardsley near Barnsley, was born in 1828. He established the Wath Brewery around 1865-66, and by 1867 he was trading as James Utley & Co., ale and porter brewers. He had taken Winterwell House [4] on Barnsley Road as his residence. His wife, Ann bore him two sons, the elder of whom, Francis he took into the business as brewery clerk. The acquisition of tied houses interested Utley from the earliest years. The following public houses were purchased or leased:-

  • Queen's Head, King St., Hoyland.
  • Star, Wombwell Rd., Platt's Common. Closed c.1936.
  • Five Alls, King St., Hoyland. Closed in 1939.
  • New Inn, Pearson's Field, Wombwell. Closed in 1955.
  • Albion, Cemetery Rd., Hemingfield.
  • Red Lion, Church St., Jump.
  • Ball Inn, Milton Rd., Hoyland.
  • Crown Inn, Hill St., Elsecar. Still Trading. Ward's Brewery.
  • Spotted Leopard, Sheffield Rd., Barnsley. Became a Barnsley Brewery property in 1898. Demolished in 1968.
  • Rock Inn, King St., Hoyland. Closed in 1934.
  • Rock Tavern, Highthorne Rd., Kilhnurst. Sold to Tennants of Sheffield in 1868.

James Utley retired from the Wath Brewery in 1880. Spedding Whitworth, who had made his home at Dunford House on Doncaster Road, Wath, had been preparing the ground, so to speak, by acquiring a few tied houses of his own before assuming control of the company which was to last until 1958. The Prince of Wales, Potter Hill, Greasbrough was his first independent purchase in October 1879. He then began looking towards the more populous districts of what is now South Yorkshire - Rotherham and Doncaster. Between 1880 and 1891, when the business was incorporated as Whitworth, Son & Nephew Ltd. no fewer than 45 licensed premises had been acquired. Among the acquisitions in which brewery historians might be interested were - the White Bear, Wath, which had previously belonged to Carter's Victoria Brewery, [5] Wakefield, and the Ring o' Bells on Church Street, Swinton. One of the twenty or so houses which came on the market following the bankruptcy of William Willmott's Wicker Brewery in Sheffield around the middle of 1884.

The public company, newly constituted in 1891, was headed by Henry Whitworth, son of Spedding. By the turn of the century he had been joined by James Henry Kelley and his brother, Frederick Arthur Kelley, who was the owner of Whitmarsh, Watson's Brewery in Sheffield. Thomas Windle had been a member of the board after the take-over by Whitworths of his Old Exchange Brewery, Doncaster in 1896.

Windle's Brewery was founded by Joseph Erskine Bainbridge around 1875. Thomas Windle acquired it in 1880. Among the handful of tied houses which passed to Whitworths, the Corner Pin is worth mentioning as it is one of only two houses still retaining its Whitworth etched glass window. The parent company continued to brew at the Old Exchange Brewery. Indeed, it was substantially re-built in 1912 only to be closed three years later.

In 1891, at the time of registration Whitworths owned the following public houses:-

  • Prince of Wales, Potter Hill. Greasbrough.
  • Woolpack Hotel, Market Place, Doncaster.
  • Rose & Crown, Beastmarket, Rotherham.
  • Beehive, Factory Lane, Doncaster.
  • Bull's Head, St. Sepulchre Gate, Doncaster.
  • Butcher's Arms, Greasbrough.
  • Pack Horse, Church St., Royston.
  • Cottage of Content, Firth Rd., West Melton.
  • Fisherman's Rest, Park St., Wombwell.
  • Ship Inn, Wath Rd., Elsecar.
  • Cross Keys, Doncaster Rd., Wath.
  • Eagle & Child, Bolton on Dearne.
  • Station Hotel, Aldwarke Rd., Parkgate.
  • Old Thatched House, High St., West Melton.
  • Star Inn, Church St., Wath on Dearne.
  • Gardener's Arms, High St., Hoyland.
  • Junction Inn, Wath Rd., Wombwell.
  • Plant Hotel, Wath Rd., Mexborough.
  • Cresswell Arms, Queen St., Swinton.
  • Rising Sun. New St., Darfield.
  • Red House, West Melton.
  • Angel Inn, Bridgegate, Rotherham.
  • White Bear, Wath on Dearne.
  • Black Horse, Swinton.
  • Ring o' Bells, Church St., Swinton.
  • King's Head, Pottery Lane, Swinton.
  • Queen's Hotel, Winterwell Rd., Wath on Dearne.
  • Coach & Horses, High St., Barnburgh.
  • Ship Inn, Canal Bank, Hemingfield.
  • Garibaldi Inn, near Swinton.
  • Miners Inn, Doncaster Rd., Mexborough.
  • Prospect Tavern, West St., Hoyland.
  • Crown Inn, Newhill, Wath on Dearne.
  • Royal Oak, Harley.
  • Miner's Arms, Firth Rd., West Melton.
  • Don Inn, Bridge St., Swinton.
  • Clothier's Arms, St. Helens St., Elsecar.
  • Rising Deer, Dick Croft, Hoyland.
  • Crown Inn, Hill St., Elsecar.
  • Flying Dutchman, Cemetery Rd., Jump.
  • Red Lion, High St., Wath on Dearne.
  • Ball Inn, Milton Rd., Hoyland.
  • Prince of Wales, Hill St., Elsecar
  • Cross Inn, Summer Lane, Royston.
  • Crown Inn, Moorgate, Rotherham.
  • Barleycorn Inn, Hill St., Elsecar

With such a well-established business behind them, the proprietors of Whitworth, Son & Nephew were looking for further outlets from which to retail their by now sought-after mild and bitter beers, porter and stout. In the next 1 2 years a further 34 public houses and 14 off-licence shops were acquired.

Then in December 1903 Whitworths negotiated their most sizable take-over, which carried their interests into the city of Sheffield, where they had had no representation before. The Burton Weir Brewery of Thomas Marrian had been trading in Sheffield and district from about 1850. Approximately 50 public houses changed hands in the deal, an acquisition which put Whitworths into the forefront among brewers in their part of Yorkshire. However, almost immediately Whitworths relinquished 18 of the Marrian pubs to that most enterprising and rising company, Duncan Gilmour. Whether it was a case of supplementing the purchase of Marrians is not known. Whitworths still had a desirable trading area in Sheffield and Rotherham. The Burton Weir Brewery was disposed of piecemeal in 1904, and today just a fragment of the maltings remain on Attercliffe Road.

In September 1906 Whitworths followed up their take-over of Marrians with another notable acquisition, that of Nicholson Brothers' Holywell Brewery [10] in nearby Conisbrough. The Nicholsons had been brewing in Conisbrough since 1863, although their father, Joseph Nicholson was in business in the mid-1850s. The tied houses associated with Nicholson's Brewery, some 28 of them, were a bit more wide-spread than the bulk of Whitworth's pubs e.g. the George & Dragon at Crowle and three pubs in the Epworth area, all in Lincolnshire. Nicholson's trade was transferred to Windles, Doncaster. Four of the Nicholson houses came as a result of their take-over in 1886 of Bolsover's Brewery in Mexborough. The Mexborough Brewery passed to Whitworths in 1906 and its life was extended well into the post World War 2 period as a pickle factory. Then it was swept away for a new road in the 1960s. The Holywell Brewery was eventually sold off to Braim & Cooper, described as "fat refiners", in 1912.

Also in December 1912 Whitworths carried out another small and not very significant Take-over when they bought Dickinson's Old Brewery which was situated just off the Market Place in Doncaster. In existence since 1802, the Old Brewery fully qualified to be called "Old". It had a succession of owners throughout the 19th Century, beginning with Day & Son in 1802 and ending in the ownership of Dickinson & Sons in 1910, when brewing ceased. When Whitworths bought the premises, which included a brewery tap house, just one other hotel was owned - the Cleveland Arms on the corner of Cleveland Street and Duke Street in Doncaster.

In the inter-War period many of Whitworth's urban houses underwent closure and disposal but significant new acquisitions were made. For example, two public houses which formed part of Earl Fitzwilliam's Wentworth estate - the Plough, High St., West Melton and the Yellow Lion, Church St., Greasbrough, both hostelries still trading.

The Sun Inn in the village of Everton just across the border in the county of Nottinghamshire became a Whitworth's house, and this was because of the purchase for £5,400 of the Farmers' Brewery Company Ltd. in 1926. This rather obscure undertaking had been founded as far back as 1860 and underwent a chequered history, ending in the hands of a farmers' partnership until it passed to Whitworths with just one pub owned, the Sun, but a handful of others in nearby villages of Harworth, Blythe, Tickhill, Newington and Clayworth were supplied.

The Old Brewery in Doncaster was thought to be surplus to requirements sold to George Thomas Tuby, described as "amusement caterer" but always known locally as Tuby's Feast.

The last entirely new hotel to be opened by Whitworths was the Barley Sheaf, Balby, in 1929, although there were a number of rebuilds of existing houses such as the Alma, St.Sepulchre Gate, Doncaster, and the Cecil at Warmsworth. The progress of the company was, therefore, steady if unspectacular after the initial surge experienced by most moderately-sized brewery companies. In the years following World War 2 the celebrated I.P.A. was in gratifying demand. It was widely advertised on public transport and on local cinema screens, eventually gaining First Prize Silver Medal at the Brewers' Exhibition of 1952.

After a serious fire in 1954 considerable re-building was necessary, then in a few years time it seemed that history was repeating itself. Shortly after being re-built Windle's Brewery was closed, and in 1958 Whitworths received a take- Over bid from John Smith's Tadcaster Brewery, which was accepted. Brewing ceased at Wath on Dearne not much later. In 1994 just one building, part of the bottling plant remains in the Moor Road area. The entrance to the inevitable supermarket has been named Whitworth Way.

The remaining houses owned by Whitworths between 1891 and 1940 were as follows:-

  • Lord Nelson, Doncaster Rd., Wath on Dearne.
  • Butcher's Arms, High St., Thurnscoe.
  • Butcher's Arms, Swinton.
  • Reindeer, Frederick St., Rotherham.
  • Cross Keys, Wombwell Lane, Stairfoot.
  • Horse & Jockey, Dale Rd., Rawmarsh.
  • Warren Inn, Park Rd., Barnsley.
  • Horseshoe, Harley.
  • New Station Inn, Station Rd., Wombwell.
  • Horse & Groom, Barnsley Rd., Goldthorpe.
  • Horseshoe, High St., Wombwell.
  • Jolly Bacchus, Frenchgate, Doncaster.
  • Hope & Anchor, Station Rd.. Wombwell.
  • Plant Inn, West Laithe Gate, Doncaster.
  • Plough Inn, High St., Arksey.
  • Druid's Arms, High St., Bentley.
  • Lord Nelson, Printing Office St./Cleveland St., Doncaster.
  • Red Lion, Northgate, Tickhill.
  • Robin Hood & Little John, Station St., Swinton.
  • Robert Burns Tavern, Cemetery Rd., Doncaster.
  • Crown Inn, Swinton Bridge, Swinton.
  • Queens Hotel, Kilnhurst Rd., Rawmarsh. Anne Arms, Sutton.
  • Old George, Market Place, Doncaster.
  • Bay Horse Inn, Cooke St., Bentley.
  • St. Thomas Tavern, St. Thomas St., Doncaster.
  • Horse & Groom, Nutwell Lane, Armthorpe.
  • Halfway House, Barnsley Rd., Wombwell.
  • Plumber's Arms, High St., Barnburgh.
  • Montagu Arms, High St., Mexborough.
  • Ship Inn, Church St., Mexborough.
  • Sportsman Inn, Adwick Rd., Mexborough.
  • Woolpack Hotel, Market Place, Doncaster.
  • Cross Keys, Dodworth Bottom, Dodworth.
  • Sportsman, Pitt St., Low Valley.
  • Rockingham Arms, Bennetthorpe, Doncaster.
  • Market Tavern, Market Place, Doncaster.
  • Manvers Main Inn, Doncaster Rd., Wath on Dearne.
  • Wharnecliffe Arms, St. Helens St., Elsecar.
  • Union Arms, Union St., Doncaster.
  • Darton Hotel, Station Rd., Darton.
  • Cross Daggers Inn, Church St., Bolton on Dearne.
  • Eagle & Child, Main St., Auckley.
  • Star Inn, Moss Rd., Moss.
  • Park Drain Hotel, Westwoodside, Lincolnshire.
  • Plough Inn, High St., West Melton.
  • Yellow Lion, Church St., Greasbrough.
  • Railway Hotel, West Laithe Gate, Doncaster.
  • Granby Hotel, High St., Bawtry.
  • Barley Sheaf, Windmill Rd., Wombwell.
  • Fairway Hotel, Warmsworth Rd., Balby.
  • Cudworth Hotel, Pontefract Rd., Cudworth.
  • Old Exchange, Northgate.

In 1901 the people of Wath on Dearne raised a commemorative drinking fountain to Spedding Whitworth on Church Street. Its sober wording....

Erected To the memory of the late SPEDDING WHITWORTH J.P. C.C. By the inhabitants of Wath Upon Dearne And District As a token of their appreciation Of his generosity, and the many Valuable public services rendered By him, also as a tribute to His character and personal worth

....contrasts with a common little anecdote about the man hauled up in front of the local magistrates, accused of being drunk and incapable. When asked why he was found in such a disreputable state, the man replied - " I was overcome, your honour by three powerful men - Whitworth, Son And Nephew.


Notes on Text

1. White's Directory for the West Riding 1838.

2. Post Office Directory for Yorkshire West Riding 1861.

3. The Springwell Brewery, Market Street, Heckmondwike was owned by Robert Charles and Joseph Whitworth. It was taken over by Hammond's Bradford Brewery in 1929.

4. No connection with Edwin Holmes' Winterwell Brewery, Wath on Dearne - brewed between 1877 and 1880, when in liquidation. Stock in trade estimated at £80, debts owed £50 and plant £50. Not so much modest as minuscule.

5. Carter's Victoria Brewery, Market Street, Wakefield. Merged with Kirk, Matthews' Melbourne Brewery, Leeds to form Leeds & Wakefield Breweries Ltd. in 1889. The Carter family had interests in Wakefield, Knottingley, and at an earlier date, in the Eldon Street Brewery, Sheffield.

6. Wicker Brewery, Savile Street, Sheffield. Founded in 1850 by Charles John Stuart but brought to a modest pre-eminence by Thomas James Parker, in whose time c.27 houses were owned.

7. Whitmarsh, Watson & Co. Ltd. Established in 1852 at William Whitmarsh's Free Trade Hotel & Brewery, The Moor, Sheffield.

8. Windle's Brewery Company took over Fisher's Crown Brewery, Doncaster in 1891.

9. Thomas Marrian, a native of Oxford, was a partner in Hinde, Marrian & Bolsover, Spring Street, Sheffield in the 1830s before he founded his own Royds Brewery on Attercliffe Road, Sheffield.

10. The Holywell Brewery, Conisbrough was converted to brewing after having been a mill for flax spinning, then cotton and finally for manufacturing twine.

11. Bolsover's Brewery, Market Street, Mexborough. Established c.1860. When taken over by Nicholson's four houses were owned - Red Lion, Bank Street, Mexborough; Commercial Hotel, Kilnhurst; Woodman, Warren Vale Road, Swinton, and the Golden Flitch, High Street, Mexborough. Only the last named is not still trading today.