Websters

REMEMBERING THE MEN AND WOMEN

OF

WEBSTERS ICONIC BREWERY

I dedicate this page to the memory of one of Halifax’s iconic breweries and to some of the men and women that had the pleasure of working there, as I did myself as a drayman driver in the winter of 1970.

Websters Fountain Head Brewery is sadly, now no more, and the following photographic record exists as a reminder of how things were in the Breweries lead up to it’s closure with the loss of 400 jobs in 1996

I have been fortunate enough to come by some photographs which were taken by my friend who wishes to remain anonymous, and therefore truckcentral (with my friends permission) would like to share them with you, hoping that they will bring back fond and happy memories.

If you worked here in the final days, you will recognise yourself…please enjoy. CHEERS.

Throughout the 1970s WEBSTERS was known for the advertising slogan: ‘Drives out the Northern thirst’.

I worked at the Fountain Head Brewery as a driver drayman in the winter of 1970, alongside my then father in law, Athur Smith, the job was much heavier work then, as most of the barrells were big Hogsheads and weighed on a bit, you needed the knack to land them on the stand in the pub cellars, if you caught your fingers against the wall with the barrell, it was odds on that you would lose that particular didget, but there was allways a pint or even two at every pub most days, we delivered to the famous Wigan Casino quite a lot (before it bacame an all night soul venue) and that was a full day of a job, no M62 then, so old road all the way to Wigan, after a few months on the dray, I transferred to the bottle wagon, and in hindsight reckon it was a big mistake on my behalf, I was only the “young un” then, so the older drivers would send me down the cellar to catch the wooden cases with the bottles in, I would stack them accordingly, and then send the empties back up, that was sheer graft, my arms weren’t my own after I had finished, I had spells in my hands off the wooden bottle cases, and bruises on my forearms, but nevertheless thoroughly enjoyed myself.

Samuel Webster was only 25 when he took over a small brewery business and extensive water rights in Ovenden Wood. Within 10 years of being started the Firm had earned itself a reputation as the premier brewer in the North and went on to win medals in international competitions.

Initially the Firm supplied its beers only to free houses, but in 1845 Samuel Webster bought his first pub – the Lane Ends Inn across the valley from the brewery. The Company also had an office at the Union Cross Yard in Halifax.

Increasing demand led to redevelopment and extensions of the brewery in 1873. By 1880, Webster’s had bought its 100th tied house and its estate included such notable public houses as the Cock Inn in Halifax town centre.

In 1889, the business became a public limited company with Isaac Webster, Samuel’s eldest son, becoming the 1st Chairman.

The Firm continued to expand in the 19th century and in 1900 the Maltings was built to turn barley grains into malt for brewing.

The business expanded steadily, with Webster buying up local brewers, including Joseph Stocks and Son of Halifax in 1932 and the Bradford brewer, J Hey in 1966. In 1972, the Firm joined the Watney Mann group and in 1973 a new brew house was commissioned.

In 1979 a £6 million pound lager plant was started. In 1985, the Firm joined with Wilson Brewery of Manchester to form Samuel Webster and Wilsons Ltd.

By then, both companies were part of the massive Grand Metropolitan Group.

In 1988, the Company celebrated its 150th anniversary and at that time it serviced about 1000 pubs in the north of England and as far afield as Deganwy in North Wales.

In 1990 they became part of the Courage Group (itself part of the Australian Group, Fosters). Finally Scottish and Newcastle snapped up Courage’s breweries in 1995 and closed the Fountain Head Brewery in 1996.