The fact that I have lived in England gives me permission for great beer stories. Personally I could never imagine the way my student life would affect so much my future professional life.
Sometime ago, I received an e-mail with the news that the space occupied by the historic Tetley brewery in Leeds would come to life once again through various events that would be happening, inspired by the city’s history. I liked what I read. It seemed interesting. At the same time I realized that I didn’t know much about it. What did Tetley’s mean for Leeds? What role did Tetley’s play in the broader Yorkshire region. All these years when I thought of Tetley all I thought of was tea. But there is another Tetley and it took a visit to Leeds in 2012 for me to come face to face with the historic brewery. Actually it was a bad time for its history since it had just recently closed.
Motivated by the e-mail I knew it was time for me to do some research. Was I that close to history and never aware of it? What’s begun is half done they say and the beginning was in 1822 by Joshua Tetley, when for 400 pounds he rented a brewery in Salem Place in the region of Hunslet, now a suburb of Leeds. The beer was originally brewed at the Leeds Brewery, which was soon renamed Leeds Tetley Brewery, in order to avoid any confusion with the microbrewery of the same name. In 1839 Joshua makes his son Francis William a partner. The brewery is growing rapidly and construction of a larger brewery begins in 1852.
In 1931 a modern headquarters building was built and in 1954 Tetleys acquired the Sheffield’s Gilmour Brewery along with 500 new pubs (tied houses). Tetley’s place as the largest brewer was confirmed in April of 1960 when it announced the acquisition of Leeds’ Melbourne Brewery. With the new brewery completed, Tetley’s is now the largest brewery in North England with a beer production of more than 171,000 barrels year.
In 1961 Tetley’s merged with other companies. As a result in the 60s the brewery employed thousands of people and by the 80’s the brewery became known as the world’s largest producer of cask beer, with beers that are known and recognized around the world.
Tetley’s highest selling beer was Smoothflow Ale with an alcohol level of 3, 6% abv. It was available in barrels and in cans with a special widget, which were sold abroad as “Tetley’s English Ale”. The same beer but without the widget in the cans was “Tetley’s Original”.
In 1998 Tetley’s was bought out by the Carlsberg Group and continued to brew normally and maintained its success. It brews the Imperial Stout, which was originally created for the Teesside market and was launched as a national premium in 2002. In 2010, Imperial as well as Milds Tetley sold approximately 24,000 hectoliters. On November 5, 2008, Carlsberg UK announces that the permanent closure of the brewery will take place in 2011 while production was moved to Northampton. The announcement was made on BBC Radio Leeds on the day after Barack Obama was elected US president. It is said that it was a deliberate move in order to avoid getting any significant coverage in the British national press (!!).
The brewery closed down in 2011 and in 2012 it was demolished (the day I was at the site of the old brewery the bulldozers were demolishing the last walls) production was transferred by Carlsberg to the Worverhampton, Tadcaster and Hartepool breweries. Tetley’s has maintained its ties with the city of Leeds through sponsorship of the city’s two main rugby teams, the Rhinos and Leeds Carnegie, for those of you that don’t know rugby is a big deal in England, especially on Saturdays which makes the already high consumption of beer even higher.
The most recent undertaking of the brewery and the subject of the e-mail that compelled me to this historic flash-back is the Tetley Project (see more here) which opened its door to the public in 2013. The Tetley headquarters building will be from now on the “home” of contemporary art and learning while it combines a fascinating mix of the old and the new.
The Tetley legacy remains, helping us to understand the stories while at the same time referring us to the dynamic potential of the city of Leeds. The renovation of the historic headquarters building was financed by Carlsberg UK.
The history of Tetley’s brewery has played and will continue to play an important part in the life of Leeds. Ask any Leedo and they will have something to say or a story to reveal regarding the historic brewery. It remains to be seen if the last chapter has been written.
Cheers to you!!!
This post is also available in: Greek
Η Δανάη Μαργαριτίδη έχει πτυχίο Διοίκησης Επιχειρήσεων και μεταπτυχιακό τίτλο Δημοσίων Σχέσεων του Πανεπιστημίου του Λιντς. Γύρισε στην πατρίδα εξαιτίας της εμπιστοσύνης της στην δύναμη που δείχνουμε ως λαός στα δύσκολα και της αγάπης για τους δικούς της ανθρώπους. Τον τελευταίο καιρό κάποια μοίρα της παίζει "ένα παιχνίδι" και η Ζωή την έφερε σε επαφή με την μπύρα..
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