Thursday, 22 October 2015

Melbourne of Leeds

When looking at the takeover madness of the 1950’s and 1960’s, I’m tempted to ponder what might have been.

Drinking in Leeds in the mid 1970’s, it seemed inevitable that the city should be dominated by Tetley. But things could have turned out very differently. And once again, personalities played a role in how things played out.

Anthony Avis once again gives us the insider’s view.

Perhaps the only real competitor Tetley's had in Leeds as to quality and popularity of beer was the Leeds and Wakefield Brewery company (later called Melbourne Brewery after the name of its brewery premises), run by the Ford brothers. It was well managed and had the distinction of owning the biggest trading pub in Leeds - the Fforde Green in Chapeltown. John Henry Ford was friendly with HLBL, and it was through him that secret talks went on in 1959 about L&W joining the consortium Taylor was trying to put together of Hammonds, M&R and H&A; it fell apart because none of the leading players was disposed to surrender his perceived seniority Talks still continued in the hope that one day Melbourne would join in; it did not happen, as Melbourne's chairman, H J S French, was an insurance company shareholder nominee, and not inclined to E P Taylor and the newly created United Breweries. He had opened negotiations with  Tetley's to sell the company to them, already having in his pocket the insurance company shareholding and the commitment of one of the Ford brothers; Tetley's succeeded in their bid. This swiftly led to Tetley's merging with the Walker Cain brewery of Liverpool and then with Ind Coope & Allsopp of Burton; and a new brewery giant was created. It was all quite unnecessary, but was part of the hysteria of the times. John Henry Ford, who had been in favour of joining UB, retired from the business and went to Norfolk and became a fruit farmer.”
"The Brewing Industry 1950 - 1990", by Anthony Avis, 1997, page 123.

Things like this happened more than once. Many in the industry didn’t Like E P Taylor and it seems that he missed out on several deals because of it. The merger of Ind Coope, Tetley and Ansells to form Allied Breweries was seen as a panic reaction to Taylor’s attempts to assemble a national group.

M&R is Moor & Robsons of Hull, H&A Hope & Anchor of Sheffield and HLBL Bradfer-Lawrence, in case you’re wondering.

The Fforde Green wasn’t in Chapeltown but in neighbouring Harehills. It was a big 1930’s pub, of which Leeds had some fine examples. I only ever went there a couple of times. Once being to see the Flamin’ Groovies. It’s now a supermarket.

Melbourne had some fine pubs. Many features of their livery – the bowing courtier logo, for example - were still to be seen in etched windows and mosaic floors. The Rising Sun on Kirkstall Lane was a particularly good example. Also sadly closed. Thinking about all those pubs with Bass Charrington signs is just weird. But that’s what would have happened had Eddie Taylor got his way.

Bass had remarkably few pubs in Leeds, considering the West Yorkshire origins of one of the core parts of the company. So few, that when the Big Six swapped pubs in the early 1980’s, Tetley gave Bass some of their Leeds pubs. It gave some idea about what a Bass takeover of Melbourne would have entailed. Because while Tetley looked after their historic pubs, Bass buggered up theirs with crap renovations.

I’ll finish with the pair of analyses I have for Melbourne beers:

Melbourne Brewery bottled beers
Year Beer Style Price per pint d OG FG ABV App. Atten-uation colour
1938 Melbourne Gold Cup Pale Ale 1040.8 1008.2 4.24 79.90% 28 Brown
1949 Light Ale Light Ale 12 1029 1005.9 3.00 79.66% 27.5
Whitbread Gravity book held at the London Metropolitan Archives, document number LMA/4453/D/02/001.
Whitbread Gravity book held at the London Metropolitan Archives, document number LMA/4453/D/02/002.

For those of you living in the UK, here's a film of Melbourne just before they closed.


Anonymous said...

Ron - any connection with the Melbourn brewery ? There were quite a few pubs belonging to Melbourn Brewery in the Vale of Belvoir , among them the Windmill at Redmile (aka the Barley Mow in Auf Wiedersehen Pet) and the Malt Shovel in Grantham. These later became Sam Smiths though at some time were Ruddles owned.
I seem to remember there was some connection with Stamford.But many pubs along and near the A1 didn't belong to local breweries.

Ron Pattinson said...


different brewery. Without the final E.