Joseph Hey & Co Ltd

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The Operations of Joseph Hey & Co. Ltd, Northbrook Brewery, Wilson Square, Lumb Lane, Bradford. 1953-1966. by Malcolm Toft

The following information comes from recollections by Mr Graham Coates, a member of the brewing staff at Hey's during the above years, apart from a two year break at Thwaites of Blackburn ending in 1959. He was one of the founders of the Trough Brewery, Idle, Bradford, in 1981 and retired a few years ago. His father William Ray Coates, was a brewer for the company 1909 to 1959. At this time he became a director until his death in 1965. During his time as Head Brewer the company won the Brewers Championship Gold Cup for best beer in a bottle, at the Brewer's Exhibition in 1920 and again in 1930.

A typical brewing day saw mashing commence at 4:30 am. Two mash tuns of 15 quarters and 12 quarters were employed. The liquor came from the city main, "Burtonised" and infused with a malt only grist, which had passed through a Porteus mill, a new model being installed c.1963. The company had two maltings in Brighouse which they operated until 1965. Wort passed from the mash tun to the underlet at 5:15 am, and an hour later to the copper stage, which was in the form of two 105 barrel vessels. English hops were added and also a small quantity of German Saaz variety. Invert sugar made up approximately five per cent of the total ingredients. It was used in the form of caramel to darken the stout, mild ale and adjust colour variations in the other brews. Boiling was achieved about 8:30 am, the wort entering the hop backs by 10:30 am, and started into the cooling equipment by 11:00am.

In a room above the fermenting vessels wort passed through an open cooler in the form of a large shallow trough and then flowed down over a radiator, a system of pipes filled with cooling water. From its base wort was collected then transferred by pipe to the fermenting vessels. This operation was completed by 1:00 pm. The second mash commenced 8:00 am and was completed by 3:00 pm. During the 1920s ten, ninety five barrel, circular aluminium fermenting vessels were purchased. They were eventually replaced by replicas c. 1960. The vessels worked on the "Yorkshire" system, with each divided into an upper and lower chamber (see Brewery History Number 54, November 1988). After Hey's takeover by Samuel Webster Ltd of Halifax in December 1966, they were sold to Adnams of Southwold and adapted for normal use. They still serve today.

The old fermentation room, which was rarely used post-war, contained squares of slate, and some made of concrete, lined with copper. There were six of these vessels in the room. Two each of forty, fifty and sixty barrel capacity.

Fermentation was complete in three days after pitching the yeast, with the gravity down to 1010 for bitter and 1008 for mild. The yeast was then skimmed, and after a further four days, the finished beer was racked. In later years beer was pumped to settling backs on the sixth day.

The firm employed a cooper and an apprentice in later years, to make and repair casks. Nine gallon kegs were used for the company's keg bitter and a few aluminium casks for draught ales.

Around six hundred barrels were produced a week, out of this roughly one hundred and sixty went for bottling. From 1960, keg bitter sold thirty to forty barrels a week and draught beer sold at a ratio of three of bitter, to two of mild with about two thirds of the mild brewed being dark.

After sterilization processing, beer for bottling was taken by tanker to the former West Riding Bottling Company's premises a short distance away at Elmsall Street. Bottling ceased at the brewery pre-war and bottle conditioned ale production was thought to have ended around 1925. The company's bottled Guinness, Bass and Worthington, were produced by their branch, Hey & Humphries Ltd., The Calls, Leeds. These were exchanged with the Hey's brands from Bradford, to distribute around the off-licenses, etc, in the Leeds district.

Heys had an agreement with Guinness to use a red seal label on the bottle necks of the stout and make the following statements in their advertisements:- There is only one quality of Guinness' Stout exported to England. The difference you find is in the bottling. Bottled at the correct time. Naturally matured in the bottle under the expert supervision at the "House of Heys". The process involved keeping the beer in holding tanks so all batches reached the same stage of maturation before bottling. Websters carried on using the Hey & Humphries name on their Guinness until recently.

Just prior to takeover, Heys were opening new public houses, when the brewery closed in January 1967, they owned around 75 houses. Many of their former pubs retain their "House of Heys" windows, some advertising Gold Cup or Victory Ale etched on the glass and originally painted. Most of their houses were in Bradford, but more distant outlets were at Hellifield and Boston Spa. They also supplied a large number of off-licenses and clubs. The Hey's trophy, a local snooker competition, is still played for today.

Joseph Hey and his batchelor uncle, William, went into business under the title W & J Hey, merchants of aler and porter, and bottlers, in 1874, the bottled trade was to provide the company with a strong foundation dfor future sucess. Both gave their birthplaces as Keighley, though later Joseph was described as being a native of Oakworth. A purpose built warehouse was constructed for them in Segwick Street, Bradforsd, in 1877. The year after William's retirement to Caton, Lancashire, in 1891, Joseph commenced brewing with Sam Mitchell, he was said to have had a long experience in the brewing trade, do any members know anything more?

Hey's first brewery, previously known as the Springwell Brewery, then called the Northbropok Brewery, Bolton Road, Bradford, came into being as a brewhouse for the Draymen's Hotel. William Mugatroyd, a town carrier, established the business in 1864, an earlier date of 1788 seems highly unlikely. In 1876, he gained permission to build larger premises. It appears that Murgatroyd left for a couple of years from about 1882 and the property was occupied by Richard Walmersley, the listing in the local directory for 1883 confusingly called the brewery sPinkwell, a spot further along Bolton Road. Murgatroyd has described in police licensing records as a speculator, buying and selling a handful of pubs. He died in 1887, the year when a William Murgatroyd had appeared in a directory entry at the Shipley Brewery.

Henry Harper bought the concern in 1887, he was the licensee of the nearby Fox and Goose, (still standing but closed and for sale), on North brook Street, which had a three quarter brewing plant, the Draymen's was sold separately. Henry had run a number of public houses in Bradford over a period of about twenty years. The publication, Industries of Yorkshire, in 1888 gave the following description of Henry Harper's brewery:-

"The premises consist of buildings two and five stories high (the tower), measuring 250 feet long and 50 broad, and equipped with all the most approved appliances, forming what is known as an eight quarter plant. Town and spring water was available, machinery included a steam engine, fired by a Cornish boiler. In the paved yard, beneath which cellars extended, were stables and a cask wash house."

Henry died in November 1889, aged 45. His son Fred was listed in the 1891 census as a brewery manager, so he may have carried on the trade until Hey's arrival on the same.

When Hey later moved on, the buildings were converted into an iron warehouse, club rooms and a wool warehouse. Only the offices now stand, used by an upholstery warehouse company, and the Draymen's, after a number of name changes is closed and seeking a new owner.