The Golden Bitter of Burnley. Part II.

In Part I I discussed a wartime brewery tour given at Massey’s Burnley Brewery, known locally as the Bridge End Brewery, Westgate. Google street views seem to confirm little is left of the brewery, but it is hard to tell as flying roadways obscure some buildings near the bridge.

An old block, occupied now by the Bridge Beer Huis, perhaps was connected to the brewery, but hard to tell again. Readers familiar with the area might tell me (Edd?).

The Brewery History website has good period images, whence the following taken, late-1800s:



The same website includes this notice of 1938, which raises an obvious question:



Searches in the British Newspaper Archive confirm the Gradely name drops out about 1940, in favour of Golden Bitter. The latter was used continuously postwar, apparently until the end of brewing some years after the Bass-Charrington takeover (1966-1967).

Golden Bitter is the name one might intuitively connect to a brewer’s G.B., more so than the odd-sounding Gradely Beer. But as a few old-timers in Lancashire might concur, that’s a reet gradely name for a beer.

The term gradely, which connects clearly to “grade” or high grade, is a Lancashire provincialism, known apparently in other parts of the north. A learned exposition was offered in the 1851 Notes & Queries.

(Note the impressive distinction drawn between the adjectival and adverbial uses of the term. The meaning was the same but its intensity varied depending on the grammatical sense. We have nothing on 19th century scholarship).

Robert Kelly in the Lancashire Telegraph on April 7, 2017 included “reet gradely” in a list of dialect terms still known, for “very good”.

It may have been serendipity that an abbreviation for a term increasingly old-fashioned translated well to golden bitter, but there you have it. Massey’s actively advertised Gradely Beer for G.B. in the local press in the 1930s.

A well-designed ad showed well-suited men with glasses of the beer at “clubs” and “hotels”. Hotel sounds aspirational for public house here, but possibly the brand was aiming upmarket.

See sample advert in Burnley Express, December 2, 1933.

The Gradely name may have been introduced in the early 1930s, as earlier evidence for the brand seems lacking, but I can’t be certain.

Just ahead of the war, Massey’s advertised Gradely Beer on May 6, 1939 in Rochdale Observer: “‘G.B’. (Gradley Bitter)”. Special Mild and Baby Prize Stout were included in the ad.

The Brewery History site has a good collection of labels from Roy Denison’s valuable archive, stretching through the 20th century.

Perhaps it is not surprising that some brands of Massey’s beer had claims to rank and status. The magnate who built the business into the 1870s, prior to conversion to a limited liability company, was Lord Massey. A given (Christian) name, in this case, but no less felicitous for that!

See further on Massey’s Burnley Brewery in a page of the BBC website, Lancashire section.



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