Ansell's Brewery Ltd
The Old Offices at the Aston Brewery
Ansell's Brewery Letterhead dated 1888
Ansell's New Brewery Completed in 1957
Malt being unloaded at Ansell's Brewery
An Ansell's brewer inspects the Mash Tun
Ansell's Copper with a 10,800 gallon capacity
Beer examined in the Ansell's Tasting Room
Ansell's Dray leaving the Aston Brewery
Cold Storage Tanks for Bottling Plant
Preparing a Stainless Steel Beer Filter
Joseph Ansell [Founder & Chairman 1857-85]
William Ansell [Chairman 1889-1904]
Edward Ansell [Chairman 1904-19 and 1920-3]
Harry Clements Ansell [Chairman 1919-20]
Colonel James A. Fairhurst [Chairman 1923-44]
Arthur E. Wiley [Chairman 1944-61]
Photo to Follow
Photo to Follow
Photo to Follow
Photo to Follow
Walter Scott [Deputy Chairman in 1957]
Major H. P. Rushton T.D. J.P. [Director in 1957]
R. E. Ansell T.D. [Director in 1957]
J. G. Swanson T.D. [Director in 1957]
G. W. Cornwell [Director in 1957]
E. Foster [Director in 1957]
J. W. Scott [Director in 1957]
D. R. Tamplin [Director in 1957]
J. A. Gopsill [Director in 1957]
New Entrance to Brewery on Lichfield Road
Mechanised Bottle Cleaner and Filler
Bottle Labelling and Crate Packing
Bottling Women in the Wines & Spirits Section
Section of Ansell's New Brewery
The Boilerhouse Firing Floor at the Aston Brewery
Filling Casks with Ansell's Draught Cider
Ansell's Main Entrance Lobby and Reception
Ansell's Hollerith Department
Section of General Office [Accounts]
Accounting Machine Room
Nut Brown Ale Beer Label [c.1940's]
Spotlight Light Bitter Beer Label [c.1950's]
Special Pale Ale Beer Label [c.1950's]
Tomic Stout Beer Label [c.1950's]
Newcrest Stout Beer Label [c.1950's]
Sparkling Cider Bottle Label [c.1950's]
Bruno Sweet Brown Ale Beer Label [c.1950's]
Pioneer Bitter Beer Label [c.1960's]
Special Pale Ale Beer Label [c.1960's]
Special Pale Ale Beer Label [c.1970's]
All text and images © Copyright - click here for more information.
Joseph and Elizabeth's children Thomas, Joseph, William, Alfred and Edward all spent their formative years at the Hope and Anchor. Presumably, Joseph Ansell made sufficient money at the Hope and Anchor in order to set himself up in business. The 1861 census records the family residing on Aston's Lichfield Road where Joseph is listed as a maltster and hop merchant employing three men. Eldest son Thomas was involved in the family business but Joseph worked as a solicitor's clerk whilst William found employment as a gun finisher.
The family business occupied part of the site on which the large brewery would later be developed. The company enjoyed early success and was able to construct new malt houses in addition to acquiring a second site at Moseley. Increased business was achieved by including hop merchants as part of the partnership activities.
In what business guru's today call a "forward extension strategy," Ansell's made the decision to move into brewing in 1881. The family were renowned for their parsimonious conduct, taking the minimal drawings, preferring to reinvest capital into the business. Public houses were acquired and these were supplied with the increasingly popular ales produced at Aston. Increased production required further maltings and, as can be seen from the letterhead below, the company had sites at Aston, Birchfields and Handsworth, along with operations in Moseley Road and Darwin Street.
Joseph Ansell died in 1885 and the role of senior partner passed to his son William. He and his brothers required more capital to keep pace with the company's growth which, by now, was accelerating. Moreover, they were keen to contest the race to win the majority of Birmingham's tied-house domain, a battle they were fighting with Mitchell's and Butler's and the Holt Brewery Company, plus a number of emerging brewing concerns such as Holder's.
In 1889 the firm was converted into a limited company and registered as Joseph Ansell & Sons Ltd. with a share capital of £200,000. The joint managing directors of the new company were William Ansell of Wylde Green House and Edward Ansell of Chesterfield in Erdington, along with the head brewer James Edward Bowly of Birchfield. Printed in The Times in April 1889, the prospectus stated that the "Company is formed for the purpose of taking over, carrying on, and extending the old-established, well-known, and rapidly increasing malting and brewing business of Messrs. Joseph Ansell and Sons, of the Aston Brewery, Aston, Birmingham. The Company will acquire the valuable and extensive freehold and modernly constructed brewery, plant, two freehold maltings, seven leasehold maltings, rolling stock, horses, stocks, book debts, loans, goodwill, and 96 freehold and leasehold public houses. The whole of the assets are free from mortgage and will be so taken over. In addition to the trade done with the tied houses, which is being largely and advantageously extended, 23 additional houses have been secured since the 30th September last, giving a total of 119 tied houses up to the present date, and the properties acquired by the Company are conveniently situated for delivery in Birmingham and the surrounding district. The brewery plant and malting premises are in the highest state of efficiency and repair, and are admirably adapted for extension. The brewery is within a mile and a half of the centre of Birmingham, and has for some time past been developing an increasing and valuable family trade, a branch of the business to which it is intended to give special attention. The Directors are of opinion there is ample scope for a large and profitable development in this department. There is an excellent supply of water obtained from an artesian well of great depth, and a second artesian well is nearly completed which will provide sufficient water to make the Brewery independent of any outside supply. Mr. William Ansell and Mr. Edward Ansell, who have been closely associated with the management of the business, the former for the past 25 years and the latter for the past 13 years, have undertaken to continue the management; Mr. William Ansell for three years, then continuing as a Director, and Mr. Edward Ansell for five years. Mr, J. E. Bowly, who for over six years has occupied the position of Head Brewer, will also act as joint Managing Director for five years. The Company will thus take over the whole of this profitable undertaking without any interruption of business and without any change in the present staff, this securing the same careful and energetic management which has hitherto made the business so prosperous."
Headed by William and Edward Ansell, the company enjoyed great success and went through considerable expansion. The brewery was continually enlarged and by 1901 their tied estate had grown to 388 licensed properties. A bottling plant and stores were constructed. The above illustration is taken from The Brewer's Journal published in September 1900. The picture was subtitled "New Brewery for Messrs. Ansell & Sons, Limited, Aston, Birmingham." The architects and consulting engineers were Inskipp & MacKenzie who were based in London's Bedford Row.
In 1901 the business was re-financed by creating a new company simply called Ansell's Brewery Ltd. and formed with an issued share and loan capital of £860,000. Three years later William Ansell died and Edward assumed the office of Chairman. He remained in charge until 1919 when he elected to resign in favour of his son Harry Clements Ansell [pictured above in military uniform]. However, Harry died at a tragically early age and his father had to resume his role as Chairman.
Colonel James Ashton Fairhurst, son-in-law to William Ansell took over as Chairman in 1923, the year in which Ansell's acquired Rushton's Brewery Ltd., a local competitor based at the Lion Brewery in Aston Road North. This takeover brought another 100 tied-houses under the control of Ansell's who by now operated a considerable estate of public houses and off licences.
The first real foray into new trading territories occurred in 1929 when Ansell's acquired the historic Leamington brewery of Lucas & Co. Ltd. which added more than 120 tied houses to the Aston brewery's estate.
In 1934 the rival Holt Brewery Company was acquired, along with a tied estate of 250 public houses. This established Ansell's as one of the largest regional breweries in the UK.
Maintaining the standard and reputation of the company's beers became a key issue as the brewery was now supplying a vast estate of pubs. Walter Scott was the head brewer during this period and he is credited with an evolution of the taste that made the beers even more popular with drinkers. This was the period when "Ansell's - The Better Beer" became a key slogan and something of a trademark. The slogan was adopted in the painted livery of their tied estate. The company also adopted the squirrel trademark of the Holt Brewery Company.
It was Walter Scott who came up with the plan to rebuild the brewery and bottling stores. Backed by the Chairman and managing directors, it was decided that the company should proceed with a more modern approach to production and distribution. Work on the new brewery started in the mid-1930's but, due to the Second World War, the grand scheme was not finalised for some 20 years. By this time, the plans were superseded by an even more ambitious project and the buildings that form the basis of most Brummies' memory of Ansell's were completed in the company's centenary year.
Meanwhile, in 1946, the company acquired the business of William Jones & Son [Maltsters] Ltd. and five years later the Ordinary Share Capital of Lloyd's [Newport] Ltd. was acquired to enlarge the company's activities in South Wales. Ansell's had already become a major player in other parts of the Midlands but were now extending their reach to other parts of the UK.
The Chairman of the company was now Arthur E. Wiley. He was appointed following the death of Colonel J. A. Fairhurst in 1944. In what was called a "strengthening of the East and South-East perimeters of the Company's sales area," Ansell's acquired the Leicester Brewing & Malting Co. Ltd. in 1952, along with buying E. Brittain & Co. Ltd.
The company merged with Ind Coope & Allsopp and Tetley Walker to form Allied Breweries in 1961. Following a long line of industrial disputes, Ansell's Brewery, Aston Cross, Birmingham, closed in 1981.
A limited range of the Ansell's brand of beer were later brewed at Burton-on-Trent as a subsidiary of the Carlsberg Tetley Group. Of course, the tangy taste of the Aston water, a key component of the ales, was missing and any self-respecting Ansell's Bittermen finally elected to drink something else. Now and then I still see some horrific keg line dispensing liquid that purports to be an Ansell's beer. Thankfully, the old Aston brewers like James Bowly, Walter Scott and John Burton are not able to taste a beer that undermines everything they achieved.
Much of the information above was gleaned from a booklet produced for the company's centenary and this article would have ended with the last paragraph. However, I came across a copy of The Argosy magazine which provides some valuable information on the organisation of Ansell's following the formation of Allied Breweries. I have only ever come across one copy of this in-house publication. Dating from 1968, it was apparently the third issue of Volume 22. Where have all the other issues gone? It was rather like the Deerstalker magazine produced by Mitchell's and Butler's, though not quite as comprehensive. Anyway, here is the information I found within this valuable tome...
"Having held the positions since the formation of Allied Breweries in 1961, Sir Edward Thompson relinquished the appointments of Chairman and Chief Executive of Allied Breweries in 1968. He remained on the board in a consultative capacity. His successor was Sir Derek Pritchard who had held the post of Deputy Chairman of the Company. He moved into the chair on September 28th, the close of the group's financial year. The promotion compelled him to relinquish his Chairmanship of the British National Export Council in November of the same year. Around the same time, several top-level promotions within the Production Division were approved by the Ansell's Board of Directors following the tragically early death of the Head Brewer, John Burton. Former Technical Manager Arthur Derek Rudin was appointed Head Brewer. After war-time service with the RAF, during which he qualified as a pilot, Derek Rudin graduated from Birmingham University with first-class honours in industrial fermentation in 1949, and subsequently took a post-graduate brewing course. He started his practical brewing career at a brewery in Chesterfield in 1950, and subsequently joined the Brewing Industry Research Foundation at Nutfield, Redhill, Surrey, where he worked on various projects including continuous fermentation and hops. In 1959 he joined Ind Coope Ltd; at Burton-on-Trent as a research chemist, where he continued his work on hops and fermentation, and was, for a time, in charge of the pilot brewery. He was later appointed Quality Control Manager [Ale Breweries] before joining Ansell's in 1967 as Technical Manager.
During the same round of promotions, former Administrative Manager John Walker was appointed Industrial Manager. He had also joined Ansell's from Ind Coope. In 1961 he went to Aston as Work Study Manager and was appointed Production Co-ordinator in 1965. In 1967 he was appointed Administrative Manager [Production]. He was also a director of Grants of St. James [Midlands] Ltd., a member of the Brewery Joint Consultative Committee and of the Marketing and Retail Sales Committee. He had originally joined Ind Coope's Engineering Department in 1948. Later he worked with consultants on work study for Ind Coope and at the time he joined Ansell's he was Senior Work Study Officer at the Burton Brewery. John Ensor was promoted to Production Controller. He was a member of a family associated with Ansell's since the First World War. He joined the Company in July 1949 after war service and a three year Diploma course at the British School of Malting and Brewing, Birmingham University. Earlier he had gone straight from Queen Mary's Grammar School, Walsall, into the Army and was wounded in 1945 after serving in the Normandy invasion, and later in Holland and Belgium with the Royal Armoured Corps. For ten years after joining Ansell's, John Ensor was a shift brewer and after going on to day work he looked after the loading decks, cellars and racking before taking over malts and materials from his father, Mr. H. D. Ensor, when the latter retired in 1964 after 49 years service as a shift and day brewer. Subsequently, John Ensor had charge of brewing and fermentation before being appointed second brewer to John Burton in 1967.
At 27, David Cox was the youngest in this bout of senior promotions when he was
appointed Brewer in Charge, No.1 Brewery. He was an old boy of Handsworth
Grammar School, and gained a B.Sc., in applied bio-chemistry at Birmingham
University and subsequently the Diploma in malting and brewing from the School
of Malting and Brewing. He joined Ansell's in October 1963 as a technical brewer
and earlier in 1968 became a member of the three-man Brewery Development Section
following a spell as Brewer in Charge, No.2 Brewery. John Gilkes took over the
post Bernard Easthope, Chief Cellar Inspector. He joined Ansell's after the
Second World War after service in the Royal Navy. He began in the cask office,
subsequently transferred to Accounts and joined the Cellar Inspection Department
in 1953. His predecessor, Bernard Easthope, will not be popular with cask ale
devotees - he saw the first keg beer installation put into an Ansell's pub. He
originally joined Ansell's in 1933 as assistant to his father, then Head
Maltster. Following the Second World War, he was manager of the Birmingham and
Leamington maltings under Mr. Tamplin. Subsequently, he took charge of the
Cellar Inspection Department and was closely involved with bulk beer
Ansell's initiated a three month Summer Campaign in 1968 to launch their new
Light Ale. The campaign was staged on both television and posters. Production of
Ansell's Light Ale, a product formerly brewed at
Burton-on-Trent and marketed in the Midlands by Ind Coope, was transferred
to Aston and marketed by Ansell's within their own trading area. A poster
represented the theme adopted for both the small screen and hoardings. Another
report during the early autumn of 1968 concerned Ansells' maltsters, William
Jones and Son [Maltsters] Ltd. The firm had doubled the drying capacity of
barley drying at their Shrewsbury plant. This was achieved by the installation
of a continuous tower drier of Swedish manufacture. Apparently, there was no
British equivalent. The drier, replacing drum driers, three of which were
originally retorifying drums from the brewery, became necessary to meet
increased production and the consequential need to increase the intake speed of
barley at harvest time. The drier, was fed via a pre-cleaner. The grain was
dried by indirectly heated air drawn by a 50 h.p. fan through heat exchangers at
varying levels and finally cooled in the bottom section before storage and
maturation. The new method had the advantage of preventing damage to the
vitality of the grain. Work on the drier began immediately after the 1967 crop
had been dried and was completed in time for the 1968 season.