Brunt, Bucknall & Co - A History

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Courtesy Steve Gardner

Brunt, Bucknall & Co, Hartshorne Brewery, High Street.

In 1794 W Bucknall was a victualler in Leicester, but no definite links have been found, although in the 1830 poll book William Brunt was listed as a victualler at Hartshorne. The Hartshorne brewery was founded in 1832 and from 1846 to 1855, Brunt & Bucknall were listed as brewers in Woodville. Thomas Brunt was at the Nelson and also an earthenware manufacturer. A Thomas Brunt, a draper of Ashby, was also connected with property owned by Robert William Beard of the nearby Castle Gresley Brewery.

In addition in 1863, Samuel Bucknall was shown as a brewer and maltster at Broughton. In 1870, he was living at Small Thorne House.

The 1872 employment contract for Benjamin Staley the younger, of Swadlincote, lists the partners as Charles Brunt, Samuel Bucknall and Samuel Ratcliffe, brewers of Hartshorne in Derbyshire. However, Woodville itself was listed under Leicestershire at this time and the contract carries a Leicester seal. Staley’s contract was for 4 years, starting at 16s per week rising to 18s. He would also receive a bonus of £5 at the end of the third year and £10 at the end of the fourth, However, he would have to pay £25 if he wished to leave their employ during the time of the contract. Clause 2 of his contract states that he “will keep the secrets of the said partners”, suggesting that he was employed in a reasonably technical capacity.

In 1876, the business was trading as Brunt, Bucknall, Ratcliffe & Betterton. The following year, both Samuel Bucknall and Henry Inman Betterton, living at Blackfordy, were identified as brewers at Woodville. The business was then trading as Brunt & Company, Hartshorne, operated by the partners Bucknall, Ratcliff & Betterton. It was shown as the Hartshorne Brewery, Woodville in 1887 (F859). One of the partners was Samuel Ratcliff the grandson of one of the founders of Bass Ratcliff & Gretton. He died on 28th June 1889, at Ashby-de-la-Zouch, leaving an estate of £47,628, including the brewery which was to be run by his sons Samuel and Charles Robert. On 25 October 1890 Brunt Bucknall & Company was registered as a limited company with 49 freehold properties, 46 leasehold and 6 one yearly tenancies. It had capital of £60,000 in £10 shares, of which 5,000 were held by the vendors, together with a 5% debenture of £94,300. William Weare an ale and porter merchant in Leicester was advertising his stock of Brunt & Bucknall’s celebrated Wooden Box Ales.

In 1894, Henry Inman Betterton, brewer, was still living at Blackfordby.

In March 1895, the Earl of Caernarvon, acting on behalf of his tenants, took Brunt Bucknall to court for polluting the Hartshorne brook with refuse and waste. The case also involved the other local brewery, Messrs Betteridge, but the case against them was dropped after an out-of-court agreement. The brook on the border of the county was described as foul and black, with a strong smell which was peculiar to breweries.

Brunt Bucknall & Co argued that they had historic rights, dating back to 1832, to use the water. Their case rested on the growth of housing in the vicinity and the effects of two slaughterhouses. The village was described as having some 73 houses and around 600 people. They admitted that the brewery had been extended by about a third in 1873 and that after a fire in 1875, the brewery had been rebuilt. The latter rebuild had been completed in 1877, including means for dealing with effluence, but had not increased capacity. Henry H Betterton (another slight variation on names shown in the journals), the manager, who had been with the business since 1867, said that for the last 20 years annual output had been from 20,000 to 28,000 barrels. His evidence was supported by his son Arthur, who was also employed at the brewery and Charles George Markham, the Company Secretary, since October 1873. The arguments regarding previous usage by the brewery, their investment in new cleaning methods and the recent development in the village, won the case. The case may have been not unconnected with the extensive additional cellars, bottling department and stores for which Thomas Lowe and Sons builders of Burton had been given the contract in 1895. Unfortunately, on 11th December, Henry Inman Betterton, the Managing Director, died at his home in Woodville.

In June 1896, their annual worker’s trip to Portsmouth involved some 300 people giving an indication of the size of the concern. The following year’s trip was to Liverpool. In 1896 they had offices and stores at Rutland Street, Leicester, run by Mr WE Chadwick, but by 1898 they also appear to have had premises in the High Street. In November 1896, they paid £3,000 to LB&M for the following properties:- Saracen’s Head, Long Lawford Woolpack, Union Street, Rugby on a long lease

  • George, Kilby
  • Old Crown, Newbold

Around this time they also seem to have taken the Crown at Bulkington which was previously leased by LB&M. In 1899 they owned 81 licensed properties. S Ratcliff was Chairman, whilst SR Ratcliff was a director (this may be a mistake for CR). The Company Secretary GG Markham was also a director, together with HB Betterton and AH Betterton.

In 1900, the depot was shown at 1 Rutland Street, Leicester, whilst in 1904 WE Chadwick the district manager was shown at 7 Rutland Street, Midland Railway Stores and William Street. They were also expanding their Leicester estate, including the following:-

  • Brickmakers, St George Street 1901
  • Black Horse, Granby Street 1905
  • Black Boy, 35 Albion Street 1912, leased

In 1913 they were still operating a depot at 61 Charles Street Leicester. However, in 1919 the brewery, and its 100+ pubs, was taken over by Salt & Company of nearby Burton on Trent. The deal was financed by mortgage debentures to be paid off from future profits. At the turn of the century, Salts themselves were financed by £170,000 share capital and a debenture mortgage of £600,000. In 1920, Brunt Bucknall bought the Jolly Sailor in Macclesfield.

The Brunt Bucknall & Company depot then moved to 7 Marlborough Street, Leicester, where Harry Knight was the district manager. They also operated from the LM&S stores in William Street. By 1922, they had moved the agency back to 61 Charles Street.

The Burton brewers generally were still in difficult financial times, partly related to the major purchases of tied houses at the end of the nineteenth century. The depression after the First World War added to the problems, and in 1927 Salts were themselves bought by Bass for £2½m and closed. The latter promptly sold the Woodville site for £5,000. The brewery was opposite the Nelson, which is still trading as a Bass Pub. The brewery building was described in a local history book as being the most important building on the High Street. The brewery was closed soon after the take-over and many of the buildings demolished.

The bottling store was used from 1933 to 1972 by the Woodville Brotherhood Institute. It is still standing as Victoria House, 33 High Street, with “BB & Company 1896” high on the end wall. The offices were used as a coach depot for Viking Motors; hence the site is now called the Viking Estate. The off-licence recently closed, is now for sale. The bar window at the Hare and Hounds in Ashby was etched with the brewery name until the mid 1970s.