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Knottingley and Ferrybridge Local History




For a little over a year following the peremptory dismissal of Gilliat, the head brewer of the former company, J.C. Harvey, the Managing Director, was responsible for the brewing process at the Knottingley Brewery. Harvey received an annual salary of £600 for his services, plus free residence at Lime Grove, enabling him to be on call at all times. (1)

Late in 1893, however, Harvey relinquished both posts, in accordance with a formal Memorandum of Agreement which defined his future position within the company. Under the terms of the Agreement, drawn up at a special meeting of the directors held at the Sheffield offices of Smith, Smith & Elliott on Thursday 23rd November 1893, Harvey resigned as the Managing Director and became a director of the firm. (2) The company undertook to pay for the services of a head brewer and the sum of £200 was written back into the company accounts for the year ending September 1893, for use in the employment of assistant brewers. Having spent considerable sums of his own money on the improvement of Lime Grove and its grounds, it was agreed that Harvey be allowed to continue to occupy the same as long as he remained a company director, but that he should be responsible for payment of the rates. (3)

Harvey's dual role had obviously been a pre-planned measure designed to ensure that production was undertaken in accordance with the desire of the new regime but the financial reversion and the temporary appointment of an assistant brewer to take charge of production suggests that Harvey's decision to quit as managing director with responsibility for brewing was unscheduled and may have occurred because the dual role was too demanding. Indeed, Harvey is known to have suffered quite frequent periods of illness before that time and early in the following decade was replaced as Chairman of the Board by Jeffcock who had been acting Chairman for some time because of Harvey's illness. (4)

On the 27th January 1905, Harvey died, aged 68, following a brief period of illness. (5) A retiring personality, little known outside the sphere of the Brewery business, Harvey worshipped regularly at St Botolph’s Church, Knottingley, and liberally supported the charitable causes espoused by the Church, regularly subscribing to and attending events such as the Soldiers' & Sailors' Help Society soirees and the town's annual Old Folks' Treat. (6) Harvey was interred at Knottingley Cemetery on Monday 30th January 1905, his co-directors, W.H. Camm and Edwin Lawson, accompanied by Robert Heptonstall, representing the Brewery company. (7)

Two assistant brewers were already in the employ of the company at the time of Harvey's 'stand down' Agreement in 1893. Mr D.L. Kiddie had been engaged in April 1893, at a wage of £1-10-0 per week and in consequence of Harvey's withdrawal, Mr C.F. Beaumont, the senior assistant brewer was promoted to the position of chief brewer, pro tem, until the directors could make more permanent arrangements. (8)

Beaumont appears to have given satisfaction for in March 1894, his salary was increased to £150 per annum (9) and the following August he was appointed on a permanent basis and instructed to advertise for a pupil to learn the trade; all applications to be submitted to the directors for their consideration. (10) The following month Mr John Croysdale was accepted as a pupil brewer on a three year contract. Under the terms of the contract Croysdale had to pay the company an annual premium of £100 for the first two years and remain in the unpaid service of the company for the final year. (11)

The circumstances concerning Croysdale's placement are somewhat ambiguous. In May 1894, a Mr J. Shillito of Garforth had contacted the company to make an application on behalf of an unidentified young man who desired to learn the trade of brewing and malting. Shillito arranged to meet the directors at an early date to discuss the matter but the following month he sent a letter stating that the young man, now identified as J. Croysdale, had decided against entering the trade. (12) However, as revealed, by September Croysdale appears to have changed his mind yet again and signed the articles of pupilage on the 11th November, 1894. (13)

The initial confidence of the directors in the ability of the chief brewer appears to have become somewhat qualified towards the end of 1894 when a decision was taken that henceforth all samples of malt should be submitted for approval by a director prior to purchase of the same. Whether the resolution arose from Beaumont's misjudgement is conjectural but the decision would appear to imply some criticism of an action by him or by a subordinate for whom he was nominally responsible, which had affected the quality of the beer. (14) Whatever the nature of the problem, whether due to the composition of the brew or technical problems with the copper which were evident at that period, it was a significant one for a report by R. Heptonstall, the manager of the wine and spirit department, stated that the beer had been of poor quality for several months. (15) The problem proved to be more than a short-term one but whatever its cause Beaumont was clearly of the opinion that he was neither directly or indirectly responsible as shown in June 1896, when he applied to the directors for an increase in his salary. The Board adjourned the subsequent meeting without considering the application and at the following meeting postponed a decision concerning the subject. (16) The reason for the reticence of the board is clearly illustrated by a memo presented at a meeting of the directors in September which revealed continued complaints from external sources concerning the condition of the beer. Following a comprehensive discussion a decision was taken to suspend production at Knottingley brewery until further intimation was given to the chief brewer. Meanwhile, the Secretary was authorised to make arrangements for the purchase of beer from alternative sources to meet the requirements of the company. (17)

The directors appear to have been unsure whether the fault lay with the water supply or the incompetence of the chief brewer. In an attempt to resolve the problem a sample of the water from the town's water mains was sent for analysis and report by Mr Lawrence Briant in London. The outcome was that at a subsequent meeting of the directors, W.H. Camm reported an interview with the chief brewer in which Beaumont had expressed the desire to tender his resignation which was accepted, the sum of £20 being presented to the Brewer upon his departure. (18)

In response to advertisements in the 'Standard' and the 'Brewer's Journal', two applicants, W.W. Connett and Joshua Gillatt, were invited to attend for interview. Meanwhile, Gillatt, who had formerly being dismissed by Harvey in 1892, was appointed in a caretaker capacity at a weekly wage of £5. (19) Following the interviews, however, it was Connett who was offered and accepted the situation at an annual salary of £300 with similar (but undisclosed) terms in respect of pupils to those applicable when Beaumont was the chief brewer. (20)

Croysdale's tutelage continued under Connett and upon its conclusion late in 1897, he applied for an increase in salary which was initially rejected although Croysdale was informed that he could remain in the employ of the brewery pro tem. However, the application was reconsidered early the following year when the directors acceded to Croysdale's request. (21) Connett likewise sought an advance in salary in April 1898, an application that was declined out of hand, and although the decision was accepted by Connett, and no further application was made until three years later, the board still hesitated before denying the request. (22) As with his predecessor, Beaumont, the application of Connett appears to have been singularly ill-timed for a sample of beer recently forwarded to Mr Briant for analysis due to fear of arsenic, while certified as clear, provides an indication that problems were still being experienced with the brew. (23) Despite a bonus payment of £20 in late 1902, Connett obviously felt undervalued and on the 10th July 1903, submitted a letter of resignation to the Board which was accepted (24)

Connett's replacement was Mr Andrew Naismith of Everton near Bawtry who was engaged at a salary of £225 per annum, considerably less than Connett's starting salary seven years earlier. (25) Naismith's salary was increased to £250 per annum from the 1st December 1905 but whereas those employed in a managerial capacity received regular salary upgrades and bonus payments the brewer appears to have been overlooked and yet Naismith's work must have been satisfactory for following the death of Edwin Lawson in 1914, Naismith was appointed manager in his place. The annual salary Naismith received following his promotion was £360 which was only £60 more than Connett had been paid as chief brewer two decades earlier. (26) Furthermore, Naismith's appointment was on the same terms of engagement as applicable to his previous position and therefore afforded him no greater security of tenure. (27)

Of Naismith's performance in the role of manager of Knottingley brewery there is no record. Indeed, there is only one further reference to him which is dated July 1914. (28) The outbreak of the Great War the following month may provide an explanation for Naismith's 'disappearance' but rather strangely, if such was the case, there is no record of his resignation. However, there are similar circumstances concerning William James Sayles who following Naismith's elevation, was appointed head brewer. In a departure from previous practice, Sayles was paid a weekly wage of £3 rather than an annual salary, suggesting, perhaps, that his appointment was a temporary measure. (29) Whatever the circumstances Sayles does not appear to have served for very long for the company records reveal that in September 1918 one William Hodgson resigned as Company brewer, indicating his earlier engagement as a replacement for Sayles. (30) Hodgson was replaced by W.E. Rogers who appears to have given satisfaction, his salary being increased by £60 per annum in June 1919 and followed by a bonus payment of £100 for "effective service" in December that year. (31)

The principal administrator at Knottingley brewery in the context of routine business during the first two decades of the existence of the public limited company was Edwin Lawson. Born at nearby Whitley in 1856, Lawson had commenced work at Croysdales' flour mill, Whitley Bridge, but soon left to take up a position as a clerk at Carters' Knottingley Brewery where over a period of years he rose to become company secretary and by 1887 had been appointed by George William Carter to the duel role of secretary/manager. (32) In the capacity of manager he was responsible for the functioning of the business throughout the period of transition from private to public company in 1892, J.A. Darwent assuming the secretarial role between formation and floatation of the new company. On 1st January 1893, Darwent relinquished the post and Lawson resumed his former duties. (33)
Lawson's dedication to the company transcended the efficient despatch of his administrative duties as shown by his conduct in 1896 when an imminent financial crisis threatened the new company, prompting Lawson to offer a loan of £1,000 to the company from his personal savings. (34) The degree of esteem in which Lawson was held by his employers, past and present, is shown by his despatch to Scarborough, where Carter was resident in 1897, to negotiate with his former employer and benefactor the re-investment of capital upon which the company was so dependant and it is a tribute to his skill that he succeeded in his mission. (35)

The indispensable role of Lawson was reflected in the numerous salary increases and bonus payments he received over the years, from a starting salary of £325 in 1893, with a £25 bonus for the preceding year, to £350 by 1899 and an increase of £25 the following year at which date he again combined the posts of manager and company secretary. (36) By 1904, Lawson had been elected to the board, thereby drawing directors' fees in addition to his basic salary which was increased to £400 from 1st January 1906. (37) In August 1907, the directors placed on record their "full appreciation of the excellent businesslike manner in which Mr Lawson has conducted and carried through the various licensing cases connected with the company". (38)

Amongst other commercial and social interests, Lawson was a director of the Knottingley Gas Co., founder member and treasurer of Knottingley Bowling Club (the green, belonging to the brewery and lying adjacent to Lime Grove) and an active member of the St Oswald Lodge of the Freemasons from 1887. (39)

Following the death of J.C. Harvey in 1905, Lawson's workload increased considerably, placing a strain on his constitution so that he suffered a breakdown in health. Early in 1908, the directors, expressing their regret at Lawson's illness, voted him the sum of £50 towards the cost of a convalescent sea voyage. (40) Before the year end Lawson was working as hard as ever as shown by the gesture of appreciation by the directors in December when they resolved that: " consideration of his energy and most successful manipulation of the difficulties overcome in obtaining the Moorthorpe licence and other difficult licensing work, the Directors wish to recognise this and hereby vote an increase in the salary of Mr Lawson of £100 per annum as from September 30th 1908."

However, the strain was again beginning to take its toll and in the autumn of 1909 Lawson expressed the desire to relinquish his duties as company secretary. It was agreed that Lawson should be relieved of the post with effect from the 1st January 1910 and under the provisions of Article 98 of the company's Articles of Association be appointed as a managing director at the same remuneration he received as secretary/manager. W.H. Camm, who had acted as an assistant to Lawson from March 1905, was appointed to replace him as the company secretary at a salary of £150 per year, (41) but the same fate befell Camm and by 1911 a combination of overwork and ill-health resulted in his seeking to be relieved of his duties and it was agreed that with effect from 1st April 1911 Lawson would resume his former post until a new secretary was appointed. (42) Shortly after the decision had been taken Mr Tom Green was appointed as the company secretary, taking up the post from the 31st March 1911. (43)

Notwithstanding the adverse effects of the work, Lawson had continued as manager after resigning as secretary and in July 1911, was awarded an additional £50 per annum to his salary. (44) The strain was too much, however, and in May 1914, Lawson entered Belmont Nursing Home, Leeds, where he underwent surgery for abdominal cancer. Enfeebled by overwork, Lawson contracted pleurisy and pneumonia and died on the 16th May and was interred at Knottingley cemetery on the 20th May 1914. (45)

The day following Lawson's death the Board formally recorded the demise "With deep regret of an esteemed colleague" and tendered their sympathy to his widow. The head brewer, Andrew Naismith, was appointed Brewery manager from 1st June, at a salary of £360 per annum and Tom Green's salary was increased from £190 to £240 per year, suggesting the division of Lawson's previous workload between the two men. (46)

In November 1914, W.H. Camm was awarded a gratuity of £50 for extra work undertaken during and after Lawson's final illness and subsequent death. The strain on the already overworked Managing Director proved to be fatal and on Monday 11th January 1915, the 71 year old Camm died and was buried at Sheffield General Cemetery on Friday the 12th January, 1915. (47)

Amongst the ranks of middle management one of the longest serving employees was the manager of the wine & sprits department, Robert Heptonstall. Heptonstall, who was born in Nottinghamshire, had entered the employment of George William Carter about 1880, having learned the trade as assistant to a Mr Peacock, wine & spirit merchant of Goole. (48) Like Lawson, Heptonstall found that his skills and dedication were appreciated by both the private and the public employers, receiving a cheque for £10 and the assurance of a salary review by the directors of the new company at Xmas 1892. (49) True to their word, the directors meeting in February 1893, not only advanced Heptonstall's salary but awarded a commission of 2½% upon any amount of 5% annually declared on Ordinary Shares. Consequently, in December of that year Heptonstall was awarded a bonus of £20 in consideration of "the exceptional circumstances of the past year's working." (50)

Heptonstall died in 1907, following a long illness. In common with most of the management of Knottingley brewery, Heptonstall was a member of the local lodge of Freemasons, a supporter of the Conservative Party and regularly attended St Botolph's church. The funeral took place on the afternoon of 17th October 1907, with Edwin Lawson, Tom Green, the brewer, Andrew Naismith and a large proportion of the brewery workforce in attendance. (51) Heptonstall was succeeded by Mr W. Holder of whom nothing further is known.

A further member of the original company was Alfred Crossland who at the time of the formation of the new company had spent more than 30 years at the Brewery. It appears that by May 1901 Crossland had recently retired, perhaps due to illness, for it was resolved to grant £1 per week to Crossland "....lately Traveller in the Co. service, but now ill, to continue until further notice." In November 1902, Crossland's death occurred, the funeral being attended by the head brewer at that time, Connett, and the bulk of the workmen. (52)

Unfortunately for Knottingley Brewery Co., Crossland's contemporaries and successors were less attached to the work and there seem to have been quite frequent changes of staff in respect of travellers and canvassers.
In May 1894, the company engaged Mr Charles R. Woodhouse as its traveller at a wage of £2 per week, plus reasonable travelling expenses. The fact that the nature of a traveller's duties involved access to and handling of company money meant that brewery companies sought to employ only men of honesty and integrity in that position. In order to safeguard against any misappropriation of company money, by the closing decades of the nineteenth century it had become common practice for companies to demand a bond as a financial safeguard from those seeking work as company travellers.

Woodhouse was asked to provide a 'surety' of £200, the bond to be underwritten by a 'Guarantee Society' (i.e. insurance company policy) with the company offering to pay half the premium involved. (53) Woodhouse appears to have proved unsatisfactory, however, being dismissed seven months later, (54) an event which coincided with the employment of Mr H.L. Martin of Sheffield as a clerk and occasional traveller, at a weekly wage of £1-10-0. (55) Martin was obviously engaged on a trial basis. Again, a bond was sought and a guarantee provided by the Palatine Insurance Co. Martin seems to have given satisfaction for in March 1895 he was confirmed as a permanent, full-time traveller and took up residence at Knottingley, the company paying the removal costs. (56) However, in January 1896, further change occurred when Thomas Hollings Heptinstall was engaged as the traveller at £2 per week, plus expenses. Heptinstall's security of £300 was paid on his behalf by Mr John Hollings of Wentbridge. (57)

Louis R. Walker is known to have been employed as the company's traveller and canvasser early in the twentieth century but had his employment terminated in July 1911, being replaced by Charles L. Gamble who was engaged at a salary of £2-10-0 at the direction of Edwin Lawson. (58) The length of Gamble's tenure is not known but it appears to have been fairly brief for at the time of Lawson's death in mid 1914, the two company travellers were named as C.M. Elder and C.A. Ward. (59)

With so many company houses to service and the competition from rival brewery companies it was necessary to engage more than one traveller by the time of the formation of the public limited company. Indeed, some of the larger brewery chains had many such representatives and something of the rich pickings and the degree of cut and thrust promoted by increasing competition in the industrialised urban centres of the West Riding of Yorkshire in the closing decades of the nineteenth century may be obtained by reference to the Tadcaster Tower Brewery Co. which by 1881 had 51 representatives making a daily attendance at Leeds compared with about a dozen in the mid 1860s. (60) The nature of their employment presented travellers with opportunities for 'shady' dealing, hence the considerable turnover of brewers' representatives. Not that company travellers alone were open to dishonesty for in 1894, Joe Morton, a dray man employed by the Knottingley Brewery Co., was found to have embezzled Company money and was prosecuted and dismissed. (61)

Consideration of the nature of the traveller's work reveals the pressure under which company travellers laboured. The job of the company traveller was to visit a number of inns for the purpose of securing new customers and keeping existing ones in a favourable frame of mind. To befriend barmen and licensees it was desirable to buy a few drinks at each port of call with the traveller or 'drummer' as he was known (from the practice of drumming up custom) taking care to imbibe but little to ensure that he would get through the business of the day and also to minimise the adverse effect upon his health. After cultivating the proprietor's friendship, the traveller would seek to persuade him to place an order for his company's beer. Where successful, the brewery draymen when making a delivery would also take a glass, all at the brewery's expense. On occasions such as the opening or reopening of a public house, the chief brewer or a brewery representative would be in attendance, dispersing largess to ensure goodwill and make the event a success. Representatives of the tobacco or wine merchants associated with the brewery were notified of imminent events and usually attended such functions. A considerable sum was therefore spent by brewery companies, all expenses being incidental to trade, to encourage and expand the trade for great was the potential profit. Given the above conditions of employment and it is unsurprising that there was a high turnover of staff. (62)

On the eve of the Great War the administrative staff at Knottingley brewery in addition to the two travellers, included the chief clerk, A.A. France, and clerks, S. Butterfield, F. Backhouse, and A. Backhouse, plus W. Holder, manager of the wine & spirits manager, A. Naismith, the head brewer and T. Green, the company secretary. (63) In addition, the company engaged an agent who served in a semi detached capacity being paid a small retainer plus commission on sales and operating on a freelance basis from his home and therefore not regarded as a formal staff member based at the brewery office. In common with the company travellers, the turnover in such representatives was high either due to the pressures of the work, failure to meet company targets or poaching by rival brewery companies in search of successful agents.

In May 1890, following G.W. Carter's acquisition of the Burmantofts Brewery, Leeds, and selected tied houses, Robert Henry Barker, Mitchell Bros. late agent, was engaged by Carters' Knottingley Brewery Co. as its representative in Borougbridge and district. (64) Similarly, the 1901 Census Return shows William Hood, licensee of the Bay Horse Inn, Hill Top, Knottingley, engaged in a casual, part-time capacity as the brewery's district agent. The competition within the trade at that time was intense; comparable to that amongst supermarket groups today, with special discounts and reductions in prices being a feature of the brewery trade as each brewery company monitored the moves and prices of its rivals.

An example of the situation with regard to competitive prices offered by company agents is seen by reference to Joseph Dixon, a Pontefract based agent representing an unidentified brewery and serving the public within a ten mile radius of his home and therefore in direct competition with the Knottingley Brewery Co. Dixon offered first class ale at a 20% discount with delivery to customers' homes. The prices quoted in 1890 for 6 gallon casks were:

6XXXX 8 shillings or 1s 4d per gallon 20% discount 6s 5d or 1s 7d per gallon
6XXX 7 shillings or 1s 2d per gallon 20% discount 5s 8d or 1s 4d per gallon
6XX 6 shillings or 1s 0d per gallon 20% discount 4s 10d or 1s 2d per gallon
6X 5 shillings or 10d per gallon 20% discount 4s 0d or 1s 0d per gallon

Carters' prices matched those quoted by Dixon and offered an additional discount of 5% on wines and spirits and "special quotations" on all other orders. (65)

By the time of the establishment of the public limited company Mitchell Bros. ex agent, Barker, was gone, having been replaced by George A. Middleton. A company circular dated October 1900 announcing the termination of Middleton's agency, stated that he had represented Knottingley Brewery Co., for "sometime" and was being replaced by John Hodgson Farrer of the Royal Oak Inn, Boroughbridge. Farrer had a somewhat longer tenure of office and was listed as the company agent in 1914. (66)

Of the labourers employed by the brewery in the two decades flanking the twentieth century little is known, in terms of size or function. Data from the Census Returns of 1891 and 1901 presents an incomplete picture as only those employees resident within Knottingley Township are listed. Furthermore, while some entries specify 'brewery labourer' or 'brewery drayman' it is quite possible other enumerators identified brewery workers more generally as 'labourer', 'cooper' and 'clerk'

The data from the Census Return of 1891 lists 16 brewery employees compared with 15 the decade following, the range of occupations being:



Brewer (2) 1 (retired)
Traveller 0
Drayman (5) 4
Manager 1
Horsekeeper 0
Labourer (2) 5
Nightwatchman 0
Clerk 0
Cellarman 1
Cooper 1

An additional employee designated as a 'fitter' features in the 1901 return and an 'agent' is also listed. The statistics reveal only part of the overall workforce, the residue being drawn from the neighbouring villages.

The clearest indication of the size of the workforce comes from the reported attendance at Edwin Lawson's funeral which, as in the case of Robert Heptonstall seven years earlier, included the bulk of the brewery workforce. Of those listed in 1914 were E. Jackson, foreman maltster, J.T. Livsey, head joiner, R. Morley, cooper, and some twenty workmen. (67) Allowing for the 'reserve' labour force manning the brewery, perhaps some ten or a dozen in number, plus clerical staff, it is conjected that about forty people were employed by the company at that time.

Such data as exists concerning brewery workmen tends to be in the form of accident reports. Draymen feature quite frequently in such reports in the late nineteenth-early twentieth century. At a time when traffic was largely horse-drawn it is somewhat surprising to find reports of serious and sometimes, fatal traffic accidents. The extent to which inebriation, arising from indulgence at each point of delivery, was a contributory factor, slowing down the process of thinking and promoting misjudgements and reactive impairments is conjectural but must be a consideration. Nor is such conjecture fanciful for the writer recalls how, as a young man, he was regaled by the tales concerning a former Carter dray man, then in the robust twilight of his life, who in the early days of the twentieth century, due to a stupor induced by weariness and ale, sat dozing on the dray when returning from his round, leaving the horse to plod its leisurely and familiar way back to the brewery. (68)

As the result of one accident the sum of £5 was paid by the company to the widow of drayman, Walter Bellamy, accidentally killed on duty on the 4th April 1893. (69) Again, on the 27th March 1894, William Henry Mercer, a dray man in Carters' employ, was found dead on the highroad at Allerton Bywater. Evidence was given that ten minutes earlier the deceased had been seen standing on the shafts of the dray whilst driving the horse along the road. It was assumed that Mercer had fallen between the shafts of the dray and sustained fatal head injuries. The practice of standing on the shafts while travelling at speed was apparently quite commonplace and drew comment from the coroner concerning its potential danger at the inquest held at the Angel Inn, Allerton Bywater, the following Tuesday when a verdict of accidental death was recorded. (70)

A fatal accident of a rather macabre nature occurred on the 15th of February 1897, when 19 years old Robert Tew was found drowned within the brewery. At the 6.00 p.m. leaving time Tew was found to be missing and an unsuccessful search was made for him. About two hours later an employee named Renshaw was doing the night rounds when he noticed signs of disturbance in one of the square fermenting tanks and upon investigation discovered the body of the youth. Subsequent examination revealed that Tew's watch had stopped at 4.25 p.m. thus indicating the likely time of the accident. At the inquest held at the Rising Sun Inn, Hill Top, Knottingley, the following Thursday, Edwin Lawson stated that the youth had no authority to enter the fermenting room and that workmen were frequently warned against doing so. The jury returned a verdict of death by misadventure. Two incidental points arose from the tragic event. The Home Office representative who attended the inquest in his capacity as Inspector of Factories, called the attention of the firm to the fact that by failing to notify him directly the company was open to prosecution. In mitigation, Lawson stated that he had notified Dr Percival, a local G.P., and was unaware of any further requirement. Secondly, the disposal of a thousand gallons of ale, in which the deceased had expired, was flushed into the sewers on the morning following the accident, a process which in keeping with customary practice had to be undertaken in the presence of an Excise officer. (71) Fortunately for the company any financial loss was offset by its policy with the Provident & Accident Insurance Co., under the terms of the Employers' Liability Act. (72)

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