Tuesday, 17 November 2015

Yet another Hammonds takeover

Back with Anthony Avis and another example of the strange atmosphere in many old brewing companies.

Case was one of the later companies Hammonds acquired, in 1959. It was located in Cumbria in the extreme Northwest of England.

“Case & Co began as a wine and spirit business in the main street of Ulverston in the middle of the nineteenth century, and expanded with the growth of Vickers shipyard in Barrow, building a brewery and acquiring a tied house estate in that town. The brewery in Barrow was begun by Geoffrey Case's father, and was his private domain; Geoffrey was allowed no part in its control until he had turned forty and by the time he took charge, it was a brewery business entirely, based in Barrow. He became the brewer, and the brewery became his main interest in life, apart from his horses and point to point meetings; and his golf. He was a good brewer, and his beer was very popular. His equipment was ancient, parts of it literally held together, if not with pieces of string, then assuredly with lengths of rope; but he knew how it was done and managed it all with adroitness. He had a good foreman brewer inherited from his father, who carried him through the learning phase.”
"The Brewing Industry 1950 - 1990", by Anthony Avis, 1997, page 65.

Usually brewery owners were keen on getting their son involved in the business with a view to the continuity of the business. Though autocratic owners weren’t rare, either. The son, as in so many cases, seems to have got a taste for country living, judging by his interests. Held together with rope? Very classy.

This next bit made me smile:

“His brewing routine produced very low rates of wastage, a matter of intense professional interest to the other brewers in the Hammonds group, after Case was taken in. This was until it was realised that the brewery fermenting vessels had such thin walls that they bulged when full. The Excise officers only calibrated the first three feet or so when assessing duty; the result was that Geoffrey gained quite a number of gallons of duty free beer.”
"The Brewing Industry 1950 - 1990", by Anthony Avis, 1997, page 65.

It’s an indication of the poor state of repair of many breweries. Many don’t seem to have had much in the way of investment since before WW I. The pressing need to replace knackered equipment prompted many to sell up. The most recent example I can think of is Gales. They needed to completely replace their brewhouse and either didn’t have the money or the inclination.

It seemed there were some real boozers in the brewery:

“Bookwork was not his favourite occupation, so he left the accountancy side of the business entirely to the company secretary, a man from the Principality named Tudwal C Roberts, a long serving employee locked into the drinking habits which then were common in small breweries. He had sacrificed his liver for the company and its owners, and if one could have warmed one's hands in York by the glow from James Melrose's nose, then a fire could have been ignited in Barrow from the heat of Tudwal's rubicund face.”
"The Brewing Industry 1950 - 1990", by Anthony Avis, 1997, page 65.

This sounds like me at a works do:

“The final negotiations were conducted in the Midland Hotel in Manchester over a luncheon, at which I was present with PLBL, the joint managing director of Hammonds. We met Geoffrey Case and T C Roberts, and soon settled outstanding points of detail and then went downstairs for luncheon. I noted the wretched Tudwal drank everything within reach, and with a neurotic and self absorbed compulsion; it was not drinking for pleasure and companionship, it was consumption because alcohol was available; it put me on notice.”
"The Brewing Industry 1950 - 1990", by Anthony Avis, 1997, page 66.

Not even I would do this:

“Some weeks later I made my first official visit to Barrow and to Case's office there. I saw T C Roberts in his room and was astonished by his behaviour. As we sat talking, he got up from his chair and sidled round to a filing cabinet, pulled open a drawer; and taking an opened bottle of red wine from it, with a glass, he filled it and drank, with his back to me. Some inner force made him do this; perhaps he did not care what I might be thinking; perhaps he was ashamed at his involuntary behaviour - I do not know. When he had finished splashing the wine down his throat and shirt front, he turned round and returned to his seat with no comment at all. It happened several times during the meeting; to me it seemed so unreal.”
"The Brewing Industry 1950 - 1990", by Anthony Avis, 1997, page 66.

Surely he should have been drinking beer in a brewery?

Many brewery owners seemed extremely naïve about the result of selling up:

“Geoffrey Case never got over the fact that he had sold the brewery and therefore control; like many before him, he held to the belief that somehow he had got his money out of the company, but that everything would stay the same. Initially, John Lees-Jones, a fellow director on the Hammonds board, and I went every week to Barrow, and gradually we altered the way the company was run. Geoffrey reverted to being the brewer only; Dudley Renwick was brought in by us as general manager; he was a member of the Deuchar brewing dynasty of Newcastle upon Tyne, and a man with an air of authority.”
"The Brewing Industry 1950 - 1990", by Anthony Avis, 1997, page 66.

It ended in tears for Geoffrey Case:

“The sole responsibility for the brewery had oppressed him and because of the sale he now had help and understanding from his new colleagues; and for him the outlook improved distinctly. He was a pleasant, hesitant, shy countryman. The idyll of his existence lasted a few years only; UB was formed, Hammonds went, and out of it came United Lancastrian Breweries, and a regime not to his liking. The outcome was inevitable.”
"The Brewing Industry 1950 - 1990", by Anthony Avis, 1997, page 65

Seem to have been a very eccentric bunch running breweries.


Tandleman said...

Brilliant story. You mention John Lees-Jones. Wonder if he was related to the current Lees-Jones of JW Lees fame?

A Brew Rat said...

Great story. I had to Google "Tudwal C Roberts", as the name is killer, and found out that he was a WWI veteran. So we should feel sorry for the poor sot.