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British Industrial History

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John Smith's

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1847 Brewery founded by John Smith at Tadcaster in North Yorkshire.

1852 John Smith bought the brewing premises of the deceased Jane Hartley, bringing in his brother William to help him. Local markets expanded with the increase of industry in the West Riding.

1873 At the sale of Lord Londesborough's estate, which included much of Tadcaster, John Smith purchased a large section of land along Centre Lane, then occupied by an orchard and a number of cottages. He employed the Leeds architects Scammel and Collyer to design a new brewery of considerable grandeur, using stone brought from his own quarries at Toulston.

1879 John Smith died and did not see the completion of this magnificent £130,000 building which opened in 1883. He left his personal estate, which included such items as the barrels and brewery equipment, in equal shares to his brothers, Samuel, a tanner from Leeds, and William, a bachelor. His real estate, mainly the Old Brewery, went also to his two brothers as tennants-in-common for their lifetime. On the death of either, the property was to go to the successor, but after that, was entailed on the heirs of Samuel, since William was inmarried and had no descendants.

1884 John's brother, William Smith, built a new, bigger brewery next door[1]. Due to the terms of John's will, the Old Brewery passed to Samuel, his nephew, who founded Samuel Smith Brewery there.

William now realised that on his own death the brewery would pass out of the family. He therefore hurried on to complete the building of the new brewery, which was not covered by his will. As soon as possible he transferred the stock, equipment and trade name from the old brewery to the new one.

1886 Thus, when William died, Samuel Smith junior inherited an almost empty building, while the new brewery flourished under the management of the Riley brothers (nephews), who as a result of a clause in the will changed their name to Riley-Smith. Samuel Smith took legal advice as to whether William had been entitled to remove the trade name from the Old Brewery, but the advice went against him. Nevertheless, such was the buoyancy of the brewing trade at that time that Samuel was able to re-equip the Old Brewery, open it under his own name in 1886 and run it in competition with the established firm of John Smith's, both continuing to flourish.

The kind of beer made from the very hard magnesium limestone water, rich in sulphate of lime, from Tadcaster's wells, was the bright bitter beer which had begun to replace in popularity the sweeter, cloudier porters which had up to then been the drink of the working-man. Some of the springs which supplied these hard waters can still be detected, their icy cold jets bubbling up in the sandy beach behind the church, when the river is at the right level.

They were known locally as popple-wells and valued, not just for their brewing interest, but used in the coaching days to supply 'popple-water' at the table of some of the principal inns of the town.

c.1893 In the 1870's Benjamin Braime started a small brewery next to the site which had been acquired by John Smith. Benjamin Braime then sold his High Street brewery to John Smith's. Braime's Brewery then continued in Maltkin Square until 1906 when it went bankrupt. These premises later became John Smith's bottling store.

Despite a takeover by Courage in the 1970s, and its subsequent takeover by Scottish and Newcastle, the Tadcaster brewery is still where John Smith's beers are brewed, mainly due to the advantages of its site. The hard well-water of Tadcaster is no longer important due to technological advances.

The brewery brews roughly 3 million barrels of beer per year.

See Also


Sources of Information

  1. For a detailed description see The Engineer 1884/01/11
  • [1] Tadcaster Official Website
  • [2] Wikipedia