A Tetley’s Centenary









U.K. brewers and distillers have not least made notable contributions to the annals of company hagiography. Many of these are beyond our reach, but have been explicated with skill by other bloggers including Ron and Ray and Jessica, names well known to the Faculty.

However we do fish one out of occasion and here is Exhibit A: a history of Joshua Tetley’s in Leeds published just after WW I. It is, A hundredth birthday, reviewing a century of progress, 1823-1923. I had the advantage of knowing Leeds fairly well due to business connections – no, not in the 1920s, in the 1990s and early 2000s – and had the bitter a few times when it was still made in Leeds. And it really was very good. An odd thing, or not so odd: the closer to the river we tried it, the better it was.

This history has the plush writing style and quality publishing format one expects at the top range of the genre.

Here are some notable points from the book:

– Tetley’s originally were maltsters and wine and brandy merchants, they branched into brewing by buying the brewery Sykes

– First year of brewing was 1822

– Year one was a challenge but sales doubled in the next business year due to sedulous efforts by founder J. Tetley

– Malting remained important as many customers bought malt, not finished beer, who brewed at home, also pub-brewers

– In the 1800s free houses were a large part of Tetley’s beer trade, initially the company did not have an “estate” as it is known (its own pubs managed or licensed)

– Company owned no public house until 1890, but rapidly acquired an estate as the number of its freehold customers was falling due to competitors enlarging their estate including by flotations of shares

– Tetley’s became a limited liability corporation in 1892

– In the latter 1800s bottling became a focus of the company and it acquired facilities to bottle beer on a large scale with commercial reliability

– WW I was a trying period due to legislation impacting brewery production, also, 25 staff were killed on the front, 55 wounded

– 261 men served out of a staff complement of 600 in 1914, a very high number considering many staff were aged men or boys

– Tetley’s range in 1922 included bitter, “special” (a premium bitter, no doubt), Imperial ale (a barley wine), and brown stout.

The brewery closed five years ago, a real loss for the city, but the brand is still made, elsewhere in the country.


Note re images: the first image above is from the Yorkshire Reporter, here. The second is from the book linked in the text, via HathiTrust. Both believed available for educational and cultural purposes. All intellectual property therein or thereto belong solely to their lawful owners or authorized users. All feedback welcomed.

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