Midland Brewery Co - A History

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Midland Brewery Co. Ltd, 20/21 (later 12) Derby Road.

The 1791 directory listed Messrs Harleys as brewers, one of only 3 such businesses in the whole of the county. This would seem to have been the business operated by two brothers, William (1755-1817) and Francis (1756-1821) of the Harley family, which originally came from Osgathorpe. In March 1804, W&F Harley were advertising the sale of a 400 gallon copper, made by Mr Richard of Burton. It was described as being very little worse for wear, having only been used for boiling worts.

This seems to imply that Harleys had replaced their equipment and extended their business. Local history books suggest that what became the Midland Brewery had indeed been built in 1801. Interestingly, in November 1804, there was an advertisement for a brewhouse, malt office stores etc. for carrying out the business of a wholesale brewer. This was to be let for a term of years and entered into immediately or at Christmas next, application to Mr Hardy who was leaving the business or to Mr Kirkman. Possibly he had been influenced by the investment at Harleys.

Certainly in 1806, William Watts at the Swan with Two Necks in Leicester was advertising that he had Loughborough porter and brown stout from a particular brewery. He emphasised that the previous year he had run out of supplies and his customers should take note.

In 1809, William and Francis Harley were operating a malting room in the Rushes. This was the site which was used by Robert Oldershaw in 1902. The Harleys also ran the Old Green Man and its maltings in Swan Street.

Edward Harley was shown on Derby Road as a brewer, maltster and cooper from 1835 to 1855. In 1855, the only entry was for Mrs Elizabeth Harley with no mention of brewing. Edward Harley, born 23rd March 1795, died on 29th August 1861, suggesting that he may have retired from the business. His wife, Elizabeth, was the daughter of Ambrose Brewin, a local maltster. However, neither of their sons, Edward Ambrose Harley and William Harley, seems to have joined the business. Their daughter Caroline married a John N Smith, possibly from the family of maltsters on Derby Road.

In 1855, George Redrup was shown as a brewer in Derby Road and he seems to have taken over the Harley’s business. On 7th February 1863, George Redrup, brewer, took out a patent for a machine for cutting shives, bungs etc. Around this time, the business seems to have been trading as G & JA Redrup.

In September 1865, the Midland Brewery Company was registered to acquire the Loughborough brewery and the stores in Humberstone Gate, Leicester. In 1870, John Sworder was listed as the manager, but between 1871 and 1876 Redrup was still shown as the brewer. However, in 1876 George Trease was listed as the brewer and the following year was also shown as the secretary and manager. In 1884, he was living at No 22, next to the brewery, and described as both the manager and secretary at the business.

In 1876, the Midland agency at 90 High Street, Leicester, was being operated by Charles Brunt Bowmar & Son.

In 1888, the brewery was described as being on the corner of Broad Street, with George Trease as the manager.

In 1891, it was listed as the Midland Brewery Company Ltd, with Benjamin Fisk shown as the secretary and manager (F3096). However, at the 26th Annual Meeting on 30th October, Alderman Griggs, the Chairman, was apologising for the fall in trade and the large quantity of bad beer in stock which had caused a loss. Despite income for the year of £29,000, they had shown a debt of £5355 on the Profit and Loss Account.

To remedy this, the former manager and brewer had been sacked and they were undertaking repairs to the brewery and the licensed houses. One of the shareholders, a Mr Clifford, proposed a committee of inquiry, but after some “warm discussion” the Annual Report was carried.

However, at the following year’s AGM, Alderman Griggs was able to report a decided improvement in business, with a profit of £1,911 allowing a 4% dividend. He stressed that two things were essential for prosperity:- good reliable beer and access to a remunerative market". They had invested £830 in a new mineral water plant and all their houses were now tenanted rather than managed. A call to shareholders had raised £8,861, which as well as providing scope for investment, had helped to reduce bank balances by £6,000.

The 1892 entry for the local trade guide mentioned that the brewhouse contained a mash tub of more than 2,000 gallons. It also described the 72 unions which were being used for fermentation. They also undertook their own bottling.

Nevertheless, problems continued, since at the 1894 AGM, Henry Deane the Chairman explained the business and social reasons why his predecessor had left. However, he was able to report a profit of £2,261 on sales of £29,643, compared with a loss in the previous year. He stated that they had now recovered from the low of 1891 when net sales had fallen to £22,588, down £7,000 from the previous five years average. He praised the manager Mr Edn J Collins, who had put the business back on its feet. Nevertheless, the shareholders at the meeting were clearly still unhappy, since one proposal was to reduce the number of directors to three and another was to limit their remuneration to £25 rather than the expected £50. Both proposals failed to gain sufficient votes.

Henry Deane had retained the chair at the 1895 AGM and was able to report a considerable increase in profit to a gross £8,068 on net sales after discounts of £37,657. This would allow payment of a 5% dividend. The sales had been helped by the construction of the new railways, which had brought many thirsty workers. Mr Collins was praised for his efforts once more.

The brewery, plant and maltings were valued at £20,000, a large sum for the period, together with a small mineral water plant at £493. They also owned freehold pubs to the value of £31,858 and had leaseholds worth some £3,601. Salaries and wages for the year were some £3,393 in total. It was decided to carry forward money to the reserves, partly because of the need for new boilers, but also because payment would be due on the debentures. The agency at Leicester had moved to Highcross Street.

However, in 1896, an alternative use for the funds was found when the Midland bought Nuttall & Co. Ltd’s brewery at Beeby (see North Leicestershire Brewery Co. Ltd. This was valued at £3,318, compared with the Loughborough brewery, and maltings. Nevertheless, the relatively small size was supporting an estate valued at £66,390. The net sales of ales wines and spirits for the year end 31st August 1898 totalled some £44,516. The Loughborough brewery was in the books at £25,697 in 1898, suggesting some investment had taken place.

The 1896 AGM reported a steady growth of trade and the year as the most satisfying yet, with debts at the bank reduced from £5,000 to £518. The gross profit for the eleven months to 31st August was £9,803, allowing a 10% dividend. The property was in thoroughly good repair and full allowance had been made for depreciation. However, the following year 30 Midland shares, up for sale by auction, were withdrawn at £12 2s 6d.

January 1897 saw the recruitment of a new brewer. This was RG Percival who came from Marshall Brothers at Huntingdon. The annual dinner on 29th January was attended by some 50 employees. Mr Collins was in the chair, supported by JH Bennett, J Randle, JW Sculthorpe and Percival H Taylor. These were presumably the managers of the business.

On 15th March 1899, there was a £75,000 debenture mortgage on the properties, the trustees being Thomas Hill and Charles Henry Aldridge. The money from the mortgage probably helped further growth in the estate, with the purchase of the Three Tuns, Melton Mowbray and the Salutation, Keyworth. They also moved their Leicester depot to 44 Humberstone Gate, where James A Hartopp was the manager.

In September 1900, the AGM reported gross profits £10,489, net £6,457. This allowed £3,000 to be added to the reserves, taking them to £10,000. Henry Deane was still the Chairman of the Company. The other directors were William Porter, John Sharkey, Charles Keightley and JA Saunders. EJ Collins the manager and secretary was taken on to the Board.

A further purchase in 1901 was the Royal Hotel, Long Eaton. However, in 1902 the Midland, together with 22 licensed houses and 11 off-licensed properties, was bought by Stretton's Derby Brewery Ltd. Although the registered office became the Wardwick Brewery at Derby, the Midland continued to trade in its own right, for example buying the Britannia Inn, Queniborough and the Three Crowns, Barrow upon Soar in 1920, the latter from the 1899 trust.

In 1927 Allsopp & Sons Ltd bought Stretton's Derby Brewery Ltd, but seem to have kept the Midland site open, despite closing the Derby brewery, which became a mineral water manufactory for Burroughs & Sturgess. However, the Loughborough brewery was closed in 1932, when sales seem to have been handled from a depot in the High Street. In 1934, the debenture mortgage, which had been reduced to £36,000 was transferred to the General Investors and Trustees Ltd, and the brewing business was liquidated on 1st November 1935.

The site was then developed as a chemical plant.