Despite being a Birmingham
brewery of some renown, there appears to no definitive history of this company.
archives there is a document which states that "the first record of the
Davenport family in the brewing trade is that of Robert Davenport in 1829, a
brewer at 120 Brearley Street, Hockley. He also had premises in Pritchett Street
and eventually owned several public houses." The same document reports that his
son Robert "moved into Bath Row in 1852." I'm not content with using secondary
sources and this document seems to underline my scepticism with such material.
The two key reasons are that a branch of the Davenport clan had already moved to
Bath Row by the time of the 1851 census, invalidating the document and further
compounded by the fact that, in the trade directory I checked, a Robert
Davenport was at the White Swan public house in Hospital Street in 1829.
Joseph McKenna probably accessed the same document and published the information
in his "Birmingham Breweries" publication. What is more certain is that, by
1835, a number of Davenport names appeared in a directory for Birmingham.
Robert Davenport was still listed as a maltster at 120 Brearley Street but other
properties were being operated by the Davenport clan, notably at Princip Street
in the Gun Quarter. This was a house known as the Fox and Dogs. It is not
certain whether all these Davenport's were members of the same family, though it
would not be ridiculous to speculate that they were related.
The family member in which I am particularly interested is John Davenport. I
have traced him back to 1841 when he was making a living as a victualler in Nova
Scotia Street. Interestingly, John Davenport employed Thomas Armer as a brewer
and William Ranell as a maltster. This seems to suggest that he was not selling
beers produced by other Davenport maltsters and brewers in Birmingham. In a
trade directory published in 1846 John Davenport is listed at the White Horse
Cellars at No.80 Constitutional Hill. By 1851 however he was located at No.121
Bath Row where he was later documented as a maltster and hop merchant. He lived
at Bath Row with his London-born wife Jane and four children: Joseph, John,
Sarah and Thomas. Following in their father's footsteps, Joseph and Thomas would
later be listed as maltsters living at this address. It was at Bath Row that the
company was registered In 1867 as "Maltsters, Hop Merchants and makers of Pale
and Brown Malt for brewing bitter ales and porter."
The aforementioned document in Birmingham's
archives states that the Davenport family had "bought the old Bath House, from which the Row took its name, converted the mansion
into offices and built over the gardens." This suggests that John Davenport
started afresh in Bath Row. However, Joseph Steadman was recorded as a maltster
and brewer at No.121 Bath Row in 1845 so it would appear that John Davenport
acquired an existing maltings on the site.
Joseph Davenport succeeded his father at the helm of the business. The maltster
and brewer was still living at Bath Row in the early 1870's, along with his wife
Adalaide and three children: Joseph, Edith and Baron John. The latter is
significant for he was the person responsible for the massive growth of the firm
in later years. With the continued growth of the business the Davenport's moved
to Arthur Road in Edgbaston. Indeed, Joseph's family lived next to John
Davenport who could claim to be the founder of the 'modern' company. Having said
that, I note that a trade directory for Birmingham
published in 1774 lists a widow Davenport running a public house at No.45
Digbeth. And when I went as far back as I could with trade directories, I found
a John Davenport running the Unicorn at Digbeth in 1767. Indeed, Norman Barber's
"A Century of British Brewers" states that Davenport's was founded in 1739!
Perhaps all the Davenport's listed above in 19th century trade directories are
descendants of this John Davenport.
Davenport's grew steadily during the Victorian era and by 1896 the firm operated
an estate of 57 public houses when it was incorporated as a limited company as
John Davenport & Sons Brewery Limited. It was Baron John Davenport who started
the infamous 'Beer at Home' delivery service in 1904. This proved to be highly
successful and growth in the enterprise was rapid, necessitating the
establishment of an extensive distribution network.
The logistics of moving beer around the country was possibly a key reason for
Davenport's acquiring and building public houses further afield. In addition,
the company also established supply depots in other areas. Eventually, a separate company, Davenport's CB Ltd., was
created in order to conduct the operations of the bottled
beer and home delivery service. John Davenport and Sons Ltd. concentrated on the brewery and
tied estate of public houses.
The site at Bath Row continued to expand during the inter-war years. Indeed, the
company's growth between the mid-1920's and the end of the 1930's was
considerable. By the outbreak of World War Two there were 500 people employed at
the brewery. Houses, roads and cottages were swept away to make room for store
rooms, loading decks, cold stores, not to mention a new brewery and plant.
Baron John Davenport died in June 1939 and his dynamic leadership was a
considerable loss. The company struggled between 1939-45 and during the
immediate post-war period - due largely to the rationing of brewing ingredients
and the lack of fuel for transportation within their distribution network.
However, the Bath Row firm bounced back when it embraced the 'new' media of
advertising in which a generation of British drinkers were influenced by the
highly successful 'Beer at Home' adverts and jingles.
Davenport's acquired Dare's Brewery in 1962 which added 30 public houses to the
company's tied estate. Following the closure of the Belgrave Road site,
Davenport's had land with which they could negotiate with
the City Council. This allowed them to secure the site of the neighbouring St.Thomas's School
in Granville Street which enabled the firm to build a new garage in 1970.
Changes in retailing led to the decline of the home delivery service and this
part of the operation was sold off. Davenport's was acquired by Greenhall
Whitley in 1986 and, although brewing continued at Bath Row for a period, the
estate of public houses was slowly transformed and supplied with beers from
Cheshire rather than Bath Row. The brewery was inevitably closed.
All text and images
- click here for more information.
Davenport's issued their own magazine for many years and these provide some
interesting insights into the brewery and the people who worked there. I have
managed to acquire a number of the early editions and have reproduced some of
the highlights below.
Once again this Company have pointed the way for the entire Brewing Industry;
always abreast of that rapid development which is one of the main features of
modern brewing, we have made a stride ahead of even our keenest competitors by
the installation of the new Bottle-Filling Machine, which is shown above. Many
of you are familiar with this fascinating piece of mechanism, but may not be
aware of some interesting facts concerning its origin. Some two years ago the
market for machines of this type was rapidly passing into the hands of companies
who were marketing machines of a foreign origin. We determined to changed this
position, and gave our full support to the present makers. Whilst we both
regarded this move as something of a gamble, its ultimate success has surpassed
our wildest hopes. We are now the owners of the largest Bottle Filling Machine
in Europe, so large, in fact, that we cannot take advantage of its full
capabilities; this on account of there being no bottle washing machine yet built
of the type we use, which can supply the required quantity of bottles per
minute, with which the filler can cope. The makers were so satisfied with this
super machine that their present model was built on exactly the same lines, but
to rather smaller proportions. Already it is experiencing widespread popularity
in Bottling Stores all over the country. To remain stationary is to fall back so
this improvement carries us a distinct step forward.
Malt and Hops Vol.1 Issue 1 - June 1939
The passing away of our late Managing Director, Mr. Baron John Davenport, has
filled our hearts with a grief and sorrow which we shall all bear for a very
long time. We wish his successor, Mr. J. D. Davis, every happiness and pleasure,
with his new responsibility. We all know that the guidance given by our late
Chief will be carried on by Mr. Davis in the same thoughtful and considerate
manner. We are sorry to record the death of Mr. W. Rushton who during the past
12 years has become a familiar figure to all as Office Commissionaire. He had 25
years' service to his credit. It is our pleasant task to record the marriage of
Miss C. Brown [Office], Miss Q. Brown [Office], and Miss L. Sheridan
[Bottling]. We wish them every happiness. Our very Hearty Good Wishes for a
long, pleasant and well-earned retirement are extended to the following: Mr. A.
G. Brookes, Mr. A. J. Rider [Dudley], Mr. B. G. Foreman, Mr. F. Price, Mr. W.
Nightingale, Mr. J. Perkins, Mrs. M. A. Hill, Miss W. C. Cunliffe. A special
mention must be made of Mr. G. Chatham, the manager of our Guinness Bottling
Dept., one of the largest Guinness Bottling Departments in England. Commencing
with us at the age of 7, he has completed nearly sixty years' service. An old
and valued servant of the Company, forced to retire on account of ill health, we
wish him the best of health and a long and happy retirement.
Malt and Hops Vol.1 Issue 2 - July 1939
Nearly 400 male employees travelled to Blackpool on Saturday, July 1st 1939,
where a most enjoyable day was spent. It was noticeable that on the train
journey impromptu musical parties outnumbered the card "schools." Fine weather
greeted the party at Blackpool. Attractions most popularly visited were the
Tower, Winter Gardens, and the South Shore Pleasure Beach. The outing was a
great success, and our thanks are extended to the persons responsible for the
splendid organisation. During the return journey a 1d. collection was taken for
the purpose of inserting a notice in the local papers expressing appreciation to
the directors. The sum collected amounted to £1.4s.11d., and as the cost of
Press Announcements, etc., was 19s., it was decided to donate the remaining
5s.11d. to the Sports and Social Club. All those in favour say "Aye!" Thanks
very much, this sum has now been forwarded to the Club Secretary. On Saturday,
June 10th, the Annual Outing of the Bottling Department took place, and this
year the party, numbering in all fifty-seven, visited Blackpool. Half an hour
before the train arrived, Blackpool was visited by a heavy storm, and throughout
the entire day the sky was overcast and rain was threatening. Despite this fact,
however, everybody thoroughly enjoyed the day, and it was voted to be as big as
success as any in the past. Lunch was had at the Hotel Metropole, and in the
opinion of the party it was the best meal they had been fortunate enough to
secure at Blackpool on any outing. Prior to lunch a short silence was observed
by all in memory of Mr. Baron Davenport, and several speeches, in which people
recalled his many kindnesses to the Department, were made. Mrs. Baron Davenport
once again made her usual gift, and the thanks of the Department were forwarded
to her. The Pleasure Beach is in finer form than ever before, and practically
everybody in the party brought home some memento of their visit there, even if
it was only a bruise obtained in the Revolving Barrel at the Fun House. The
Annual Outing of Derby Depot took place on Saturday June 18th, to Blackpool.
Thirty-nine members assembled for lunch together at Stanley's Restaurant, where
a very good meal was provided. Before this commenced reference was made to the
loss sustained by the death of the Chairman of the Company, and all present
stood in silence for a few seconds as a token of respect. After lunch a very
sincere vote of thanks was passed to the Board of Directors, and a vote of
thanks was also passed to the Office Staff at Derby for their work in connection
with the arrangements. Everyone then dispersed to find his own amusement, and
the return journey was made to Derby in the small hours, when all agreed that a
most enjoyable day had been spent.
Malt and Hops Vol.1 Issue 3 - August 1939
All text and images
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If you have a genealogy story or query regarding this brewery you can
contact me and I will post it here in addition to including your message within the website pages for
"I don't really work in the brewing industry any longer, although I do some part
time work for Frankton Bagby, which is a microbrewer near Rugby. I also have a
part interest in Hanby Ales of Wem. After leaving Davenport's when it was
closed, I worked at Marston's for six years, but that was taken over about three
years ago and since then I have been self employed. Of course I am still a
member of the 'Institute and Guild of Brewing' and regularly attend meetings at
Banks's, Mitchell's and Butler's, Batham's and Holden's Brewery. A group of
retired and semi-retired brewers meet regularly at different pubs around the
West Midlands. In case you are interested as well as myself, our group consists
of John Davies [ex-Davenport's Brewing Director], John Wilson, [ex-Davenports
Q.C. Manager], Alex Pennycook [ex-Davenports brewer who now runs Stanway
Brewery], Phil Brown [ex-Banks's head brewer], James Hewitt [ex-Bass brewer and
former head brewer at Springfield Brewery], Bill Hadley [ex-Packaging Manager at
M&B], David Parkes [ex-Head Brewer with Carlsberg Tetley], Aubrey Grey
[ex-Guinness] and Dennis Briggs, who recently retired as Professor at Birmingham
University and was co-writer of the standard brewing text book 'Malting and
Brewing Science' by Hough Briggs and Stephens. Regarding Bob Wilson in the White
Lion. Davenports had a marketing manager at one period, who was very much into
sports sponsorship and during this time, we saw a variety of sports people
through the brewery. I have very little interest in sport and had to be very
careful not to offend people who were apparently famous because I did not know
who they were. I remember upsetting someone called Gary Newbon because I asked
him who he was. I noticed the marketing people going a pale shade of puce and
the aforementioned Mr. Newbon was lost for words because apparently he thought
he was so famous he had no need to introduce himself. The White Lion was not
really the Brewery Tap, although it was frequently used by the brewers because
it was one of the best pubs in Birmingham [that was before the refurbishment].
The real Brewery Tap was The Holloway, which used to be called the Greyhound,
when it was a Bulmer's Cider House. When Davenport's acquired the place we
changed the name to The Holloway because the Greyhound had a reputation for
problem drinkers. Davenport's did have a club attached to the brewery but, as a
brewer, I had access to the sample room. We regularly used the sample room for
scientific sampling, but believed that the only real way to sample beer was to
sit with a number of like-minded people and drink the stuff. Anybody who worked
on the brewery side of Davenports [as opposed to the C.B. or bottling side] will
have a fund of stories regarding visits to the sample room. At one point we used
to make much of the fact that Davenport's was the only Birmingham brewery [after
the closure of Ansell's] because M&B was not actually in Birmingham but in
Former brewer at Davenport's
“Beer at home means Davenports!
That’s the beer!
Lots of cheer!
The finest malt with hops and yeast,
Turns a snack into a feast.
Straight from brewery to your home,
Soon you’ll know why folks all say:
“Beer at home means DAVENPORTS!”
Old Television Jingle
In 1935 Davenport's published "Fifty
Years of Progress," a book billed as "a description of The House of Davenport
with illustrations from photographs of the organisation." I managed to find a
copy of this at a second-hand book shop and, after spending a small fortune to
buy the tome, I
have reproduced much of it in this column so that everyone can enjoy reading the
text and looking at the wonderful photographs.
In the forward Baron John Davenport
stated that "we offer this little book to our Shareholders and Registered
Customers in the hope that it will provide them with a few moments of
interesting reading, and perchance stimulate a feeling of pride in the
organisation they have helped to build." The book does not discuss the history
of the brewery but was intended to show how the business looked in the
In the book Davenport's stated that Barley Malt, the very foundation of pure beer,
must be stored with the same fastidious care with which it is selected. Not only
must it be kept immune from every trace of dampness, but at one unvarying
temperature. Here you see a stock of malt stored in a specially constructed
chamber with insulated damp-proof walls, in a temperature of 85 degrees
Fahrenheit which never varies throughout the year.
This photograph showed the Screening
Room at the brewery where the first process of brewing was undertaken.
Davenport's claimed that they ensured 'scrupulous care was taken to ensure
cleanliness of materials and that, in their spotless surroundings, every trace
of dust was removed from the husk of the malt. The malt was
rolled round and round by rotating wire drums, that ensured the corn rubbed the dust and husk
from one another. From the Screen Room, the screened malt was passed into a
conveyer and transported to the Malt Mill.
The cleaned malt from the Screening
Room entered the Malt Mill through the conveyer. The Mill was quite a
complicated machine which, rather than crush or grind the husks, cracked them
open then dropped them into a hopper below. It was capable of sorting different
size corns, dealing with the largest first so ensuring all sizes received equal
From the hopper, the malt dropped
into this washing machine where the union of malt and water took place. Within
the machine the malt was mixed in its correct proportion with water at a
carefully controlled temperature. The thorough mixing of the malt and water was
ensured by rapidly revolving arms inside the large cylinder seen at the bottom
of this photograph.
From the mashing machine the mixture
of malt and water flowed into the Mash Tun, a large insulated vessel. It was
here that the liquid was kept at a carefully controlled heat for two hours.
During this period of mashing, diastase, a natural constituent of malt, acted
upon the starch of the malt corn and transformed it into rich malt sugar, or, to
give it its technical name, Maltose.
The Sugar Room was the store for the
various sugars used in the production of Davenports' Ales and Stouts. They were
selected with the most careful regard to purity and quality as they were
considered a valuable adjunct to malt in the brewing of some types of beer. The
various kinds of packing seen here denote different varieties of sugar.
From the mash tun the solution of
solution of malt, sugar and water [technically known as wort] was run off
through pipes to one of these huge coppers. Here were added the hops that gave
flavour and tonic qualities to the brew, and the whole was boiled vigorously for
two-and-a-half hours. The boiling process adequately substantiated the claim for
the purity of beer as a beverage. No harmful germ could possibly survive such
The Hop Room stored a supply of hops
sufficient to cover a week's requirements. The bulk of the stock, however, was
kept in cold storage to ensure that the hops retained their freshness. This
image shows a consignment of prime hops from the famous Kentish hop gardens,
marked with the ancient sign of the Rampant Horse which dates back to Saxon
From the copper the wort flowed
through the large pipe, seen on the left in this image, into the Hop Back, a
large strainer or colander through the perforated plates of which the wort
flowed, leaving behind the residue of the hops. The Hop Back was situated in the
cellars, thus the process of brewing had proceeded from the top of the brewery
to the bottom.
The cooler room was an airy,
well-ventilated room situated on the topmost storey of the brewery. The wort
which left in the Hop Back was pumped up to the large shallow vessels seen in
this image. Here it rested for a short period to allow hop seeds and small
particles of hops that had escaped the Hop Back to settle.
The wort, at a temperature between
190º and 200º Fahrenheit, was passed through pipes to the troughs seen at the
top of each refrigerator, from which it overflowed and trickled down the pan
below, where it reached a temperature of 59º. During its journey it passed over
a vertical layer of pipes through which cold water circulated. This process was
very carefully adjusted to ensure that the wort, when it reached the pan, was of
the right temperature for the reception of the yeast.
The Collecting Room was particularly
important for it was here that the wort, flowing from the refrigerators, was
mixed with yeast to commence what became actual beer. It was also here that the
Officer of Customs and Excise gauged the quantity and strength of each brew in
order to ascertain the amount of Duty payable.
When the wort had been inspected and
released by the Excise Officer in the Collecting Room, it was allowed to flow
into the vessels seen in this image. It remained in these for a week, and during
that period the transformation into beer was completed.
This image showed what was the
oldest of the fermenting tanks at Davenport's, but claimed to be still far in
advance of those used by many other breweries due to the perfect control of
atmospheric temperature. In the height of summer this room was always cool and
fresh, whilst in the depth of winter it was always mild and comfortable. The
cooling equipment responsible for these conditions can be seen suspended from
The yeast, which grew to six times
its original weight during fermentation, was skimmed from the top of the beer
and placed in the tanks shown in this image. The yeast was then pressed between
cloths into dry cakes.
At the conclusion of fermentation
the Davenport's beer flowed into the large tanks seen here, where its
behaviour and improvement was rigorously controlled and followed with the
assistance of the various gauges and thermometers shown. The conditioning room
was controlled to definite temperatures and these never varied.
When the natural conditioning was
completed, the beer was chilled for the purpose of retaining the quality
resulting from the process. This was accomplished by passing the beer through
pipes which were encased in still larger pipes containing frozen brine. The
latter was circulated from the tank seen above in this image.
This image shows the refrigerating
machinery that controlled the chilling plant situated in cold stores. The size
and capabilities of this equipment was such that, if instead of chilling beer,
it could have been utilised to produced 120 tons of ice per day. The machinery
was powered by an electricity sub-station on the Bath Row site.
This is a view of the 'new' cold
store at the Bath Row brewery. The brewery claimed that the tiled walls were
part of the very latest achievements in Cold Store construction, only made
possible by the recent invention of a new and special type of tile. The chilled
beer flows into these tanks, where it was stored until ready for filtering.
The chilled beer passed through the filters where it left behind all trace of
suspended yeast and particles of hops, emerging as a bright beer and flowing
into another tank ready for bottling. The material through which the beer was
filtered was made of cotton fibre, compressed into circular plates about 18
inches wide and 1¼ inch thick.
In the Pulp Washing Room the cotton fibre pulp from the filters was cleansed
after being used, a process that took a whole day. The plates were placed in the
copper vessel and churned around for many hours, during which time cold water
was continually running through the pulp. Afterwards the water was heated and
the pulp sterilised. It was then washed again with cold water for several hours,
each wash being tested for sterility.
Movement of the beer from the
Conditioning Room to the Cold Stores, and then on to the Bottling Hall, was
accomplished by means of compressed air. Ordinary air was used for the purpose,
but as this contains many impurities it was first filtered, washed, and cooled
whilst passing through the plant show in the photograph above.
This is a general view of the Bottling Hall, in which the final stage of
production was reached. Davenport's modernised this facility so that the plant
was, in 1935, capable of bottling and despatching no less than 24,000 bottles of
beer per hour.
These two automatic bottle washing machines delivered 12,000 clean chilled
bottles per hour. The bottles entered a machine and passed through four tanks,
in each of which they were soaked for five minutes and sprayed inside and
outside five times. In the first two they were treated with caustic soda at high
temperatures, which completely sterilised them, in the third with hot water, and
in the last with cold water at 37 degrees Fahrenheit. The final chilling
assisted the filling process.
On the right-hand side of this image
is seen a continuous stream of clean chilled bottles proceeding to an automatic
filling machine. Here they were filled with beer flowing from the Cold Stores
Tank. Upon being discharged from the machine each bottle was stoppered by hand
and then automatically tightened. The respective temperatures of both beer and
bottles were under constant check by mean of the two Automatic Registers shown.
In this picture, showing another view of the bottling unit, the filled bottles
are seen travelling to the labelling machine from which they emerged labelled.
They were then placed in cases and the top label attached. Each case was then
sealed ready for delivery.
As Davenport's stated: having taken so much care to ensure that all bottles were
scrupulously clean, the brewery used reliable stoppers. Upon being removed from
the bottles, the stoppers were sorted and faulty rubber rings were replaced.
They were then placed individually in a chain and conveyed through hot water
between brushes which thoroughly scrubbed each one, after which the machine
discharged them into tanks of clean running water.
The finished beer was stored In this
spacious room. Cases were conveyed here to await delivery. The temperature of
this Beer Store was as carefully controlled as in all other parts of the
brewery. The capacity of the beer store was 100,000 cases.
In addition to beers and stout, the company catered for their Registered
Customers' requirements in wines and spirits. Davenport's kept a large stock of
these, including the famous brands and vintages.
From the Bottled Beer Stores the cases were transported by means of Automatic
Conveyors to the Loading Docks seen in this photograph. It was thought that
practically every type of conveyor was in use at one point or another of the
premises. From these decks Davenport's could load 15 five-ton lorries at the
Bottling Staff Canteen had at the brewery had
several bathrooms attached, and was provided for the use of the Bottling Staff.
It formed part of the pioneer experiments in Works Welfare, being established at
the turn of the 20th century when the provision of baths for workers was almost
unknown. In this canteen, at 11am and 4pm, tea and coffee was served, whilst at
midday substantial meals were provided at moderate prices.
This spacious garage housed a large section of the brewery's Motor Transport
Fleet. The total number of motor vehicles employed by Davenport's at the time of
this photo was 140. The garage had a well organised and completely equipped
This photograph shows a section of the Motor Transport Fleet, including a 12 ton
lorry used to convey supplies to depots for re-distribution. The vehicles varied
in size and were adapted to the loads they had to carry and the nature of the
journeys they had to travel.
A view of the
Order Office where every order had
to pass through to be in compliance with the law which forbid the sale of Ales
and Stouts which had not been previously ordered and invoiced to the customer.
The Invoicing Office had up-to-date equipment for typing the delivery sheets and
invoices that accompanied every single bottle of beer sent out from the Bath Row
The popular Customer Registration Scheme necessitated a vast amount of clerical
work in the Registration Office. The busy scene depicted here was one of daily
occurrence in this Department, where details concerning over 175,000 individual
customers were recorded and filed in the cabinets which surrounded the room.
This photograph of the General Office
provides another insight into the daily activities necessitated by the vast list
of registered customers. The staff of clerks seen in this image were engaged
upon the preparation of the detailed records required in connection with the
company's Profit Sharing Scheme.
The Typists' Rest Room was a cosy haven, well appointed and for use of the
brewery's clerks and typists. It was designed to be in keeping with the general
scheme of decoration that pertained throughout the suite of offices.
The Dining Room was on the ground floor and was distinguished by its dignified
scheme of decoration in oak and tapestry. It was in daily use by the whole of
the General Office Staff, from the Managing Director down to the youngest Junior