Sunday, 7 March 2021

Going out with a whimper

This is a very sad tale. A brewery closing its doors after several centuries. Seemingly with very little fuss.


In the article, the founding date is given as 1662, but A Century of British Brewers plus plus says 16th century. Which would have made it the oldest brewery in the UK. Why have I never heard of it?


Last pints of home-brewed Formby mild ale produced in the 1662 family-owned brewery in Freshfield Road were drunk with relish in the Railway Hotel this week.

On Monday night, the business officially passed into the hands of its new owners, who bought it a month ago, and who, it is believed, will not continue to brew Formby ale. 

A farewell party was staged last Sunday night by Mr. and Mrs. William Baker, who have just relinquished the ownership. 

Customers gathered in the Railway bar and main room to give the former licensee and his wife a cheery sendoff to their new home in West Kirby. 

The new host and hostess, Mr. and Mrs. John Bannister, were installed and welcomed on Monday. 

Neither is a stranger to Formby. Mr. Bannister left the district 18 years ago. He took up an appointment in a Liverpool public house, then moved to premises in Wavertree. For the last nine years he has been manager of the Birkey Hotel, Crosby. 

On September 28th, the Railway (Formby), Liver (Waterloo) and Grapes (Thornton) Hotels, and the Formby brewery whose beer they sold were sold by auction for £97,000 to Joshua Tetley and Sons Ltd., Leeds brewery concern."
Formby Times - Saturday 05 November 1949, page 1.

The brewery was called T & WR Dickinson, in case you're wondering. Interesting that it was sold by auction. Obviously, Tetley wasn't interested in the brewery, just the pubs. Serving just three tied houses, it must have been pretty tiny.

Surprisingly, all three pubs are still trading. So Tetley's investment must have paid off pretty well. It also looks like at least some of the brewery premises are still there, around the back of the Royal Hotel.

Reciprocity Brewery in 1892

I'd love to know the story behind the sale. The last brewer couldn't even drink, being just 16 years old.


Anonymous said...

One search says Shepherd Neame is now the oldest, but as an American I have no idea if that is true.

I would bet that having a legitimate claim is worth a lot in terms of brand value these days, though. Some big brewer is probably eager to make a "partnership" just for the advertising value.

Rob Sterowski said...

On the map, though, it looks far too big to only be brewing enough for three pubs.

Anonymous said...

If that's the royal hotel in waterloo, that's the site of the lion brewery that was owned by Oakils, the brewery site is now the car park for waterloo town hall, the offices still stand and at some point where a police station

Ron Pattinson said...


no, it's the Royal Hotel in Formby.

Steve N said...

The Birkey was my pub of choice from around 16 to early 20's, and where my good friends from the band Jellystone Park (later Clinic) introduced me to the delights of a pint of Whitbread bitter with a bottle of Gold Label. Or several. Drink half the pint, top up with Gold Label. Gold Label sales went through the roof and the brewery started to provide sales material with Gold Label displays and banners behind the bar. They must have been mystified. FFWD 20+ years and Jim from Foggy Noggin was brewing a great Gold Label imitation which blended beautifully with Bit O'Beaver. Who'd have thunk it.