History of Brunt, Bucknall & Company at Woodville in the county of Derbyshire. Research is augmented with photographs, beer labels, pump clips, stories of local folklore, newspaper articles and a genealogy connections section for those studying their family history.


Brunt, Bucknall and Company
Brunt, Bucknall and Company

Some History on this Brewery
The brewery was founded in 1832 and was known first as the Wooden Box Brewery and, later, the Hartshorne Brewery. The brewery was located at Woodville, then a part of Hartshorne in Derbyshire, though parts of Woodville, including this brewery, were listed under Leicestershire. There was another brewery enterprise run by the Thompson family that would be known as the Wooden Box Brewery and used the trademark "Wooden Box Ales." However, newspaper articles describe the Hartshorne Brewery as being previously known by Wooden Box Brewery.

Thomas Brunt was the publican at the Lord Nelson Inn on Woodville's High Street by 1830. In Pigot's directory published five years later he was listed as a victualler at the Nelson along with being an Iron-Stone and Coarse Earthenware Manufacturer with William Brunt. The latter was also trading as a grocer and druggist. The Brunt family had fingers in many pies and seemingly much of the money paid out in wages was returned to them in one way or another. At this time Brunt and Bucknall were listed as maltsters. Samuel Bagshaw's History, Gazetteer and Directory of Derbyshire of 1846 listed the partnership as brewers and maltsters.

Born in Church Gresley in 1807, Samuel Bucknall was a farmer in the early 19th century. He and his wife Ann lived close to the maltster Samuel Simnitt at Wooden Box and, indeed, took in young Mary Simnitt as a domestic servant, suggesting a link between the two families. It is conceivable that a farmer and maltster should team up with a public house owner to create a brewing enterprise. Whatever, Samuel Bucknall himself was recorded as a maltster and brewer in the census of 1851. As the business developed he moved to a large house at nearby Blackfordby. His neighbour at Little Thorn House was George Bagnall, recorded as a 'managing clerk in a brewery,' perhaps at the rival Wooden Box Brewery but possibly working for Brunt, Bucknall and Company.

In later years Thomas Brunt was described as an earthenware manufacturer, with the palpable exclusion of brewer alongside his name. In 1860 he was bankrupt and in September of that year he was forced to assign all of his estate and effects to Francis Hamp, a wine merchant of Ashby-de-la-Zouch and James Ison, a mining agent of Swadlincote. By this time Thomas Brunt, if indeed he was involved in the brewery, had probably relinquished his interest in the firm which was flourishing. In 1871 Samuel Bucknall was employing 40 men. His close neighbour was now Henry Betterton, manager of the brewery. Joining the firm in 1867, he would later become Chairman and Managing Director.

I suspect that the Brunt branch of the company was always that of the farmer Charles Brunt. Born in 1801, he had married Mary Bucknall, daughter of the aforementioned Samuel Bucknall, in 1826. And it was following the marriage of Harriet Brunt to Samuel Ratcliff in 1852 that another family link was tied. In January 1869 Samuel Ratcliff entered into partnership with Samuel Bucknall and Charles Brunt, thus forming the company of Brunt, Bucknall and Ratcliff. Samuel Ratcliff was the grandson of Samuel Ratcliff, one of the original partners in the firm of Bass, Ratcliff and Gretton. In 1874 Charles Brunt died at Midway House. In his will several charities benefited from his legacy.

Hartshorne Brewery Advertisement [1863]

Brewery manager Henry Betterton had joined the restructured company in 1867. Born in 1845 at Fairford in Gloucestershire, he was the son of an innkeeper. However, his early career saw him work as a teacher. His rapid advance within the company followed his marriage to Agnes, daughter of founding partner Samuel Bucknall who, by the end of the 1870's, had retired and was living in Blackfordby at Thorndale House. This would later become the home of Henry and Agnes Betterton who were the parents of Henry Bucknall Betterton, 1st Baron Rushcliffe who, as a member of the Conservative Party, later served as Minister of Labour under Ramsay Macdonald between 1931 and 1934.

Like many successful Victorian brewing firms, the business increased their tied estate and expanded the site on which they produced their ales. By the end of the 1880's the business was employing over 100 people and producing around 25,000 barrels.

On November 4th, 1890 the prospectus for Brunt, Bucknall and Company Limited was published and showed the directors of the business were Henry Inman Betterton [Chairman and Managing Director] of Blackfordby, Samuel Ratcliff of Ashby-de-la-Zouch and his son Charles Robert Ratcliff, all of whom were partners in Brent, Bucknall and Co., plus Charles George Markham of Woodville who had held the post of Secretary since 1873.

The new company was formed for the purpose of acquiring and carrying on the business of Messrs. Brunt, Bucknall and Co., Common Brewers, Maltsters, and Wine and Spirit Merchants. The company had acquired and held Freehold Property, comprising the Brewery, Maltings, 65 Acres of Land, 45 Freehold Licensed Houses, valued at £103,584, besides 29 other Licensed Houses held for terms of years, and six on yearly tenancies.

Henry Inman Betterton died at a relatively early age in December 1895. He had been a magistrate for the county of Leicestershire and a member of the County Council. Consequently, when his funeral took place there was a very large procession through Woodville and a considerable congregation in the church at Blackfordby. His personal estate was valued at £21, 827. 11s. 9d. Two sixths of his shares in the brewery passed to his eldest son Arthur, the remainder being in trust for his other children. His sons Henry and Frederick were to concentrate on running the Boothorpe Pipe Works.

During the 1890's Brunt, Bucknall and Company continued to refine their tied estate, disposing of some public houses in favour of more viable business opportunities. The company paid Leicester Brewing and Malting £3,000 in order to acquire four public houses. Indeed, the firm expanded their business interests in Leicester by operating an office and stores in Rutland Street. This was managed by W. E. Chadwick.

In 1913 Brunt, Bucknall and Company was acquired by Thomas Salt & Co. Ltd. of Burton-on-Trent. However, the brewery continued to operate as a subsidiary. However, when the parent company was bought out by Bass, Ratcliff and Gretton in 1927, the brewery at Woodville was closed and the site sold.
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Newspaper Articles
"The probate of the will dated May 12th, 1877, with a codicil made December 12th, 1879, of the late Mr. Samuel Ratcliff, of Highfields, Ashby-de-la-Zouch, brewer, who died on June 28th last and was grandson of Mr. Samuel Ratcliff, one of the original partners In the firm of Bass, Ratcliff; and Gretton, has been granted to the executors - his wife, Mrs. Harriet Ratcliff; his son, Mr. Samuel Ratcliff, and his friend, Mr. Edward Frederick Mammat, solicitor, to the last named of whom the testator bequeaths £200, and to his wife, Mrs. Harriet Ratcliff, £1,000, his plate, pictures, furniture and household effects, horses and carriages, the use and enjoyment of Highfields during her widowhood, and one half of the profit of his interest in the business of Brunt and Co., Hartshorne Brewery, Woodville, until the testator's son Mr. Charles Robert Ratcliff should attain the age of 21 years, when the brewery is to be carried on by him and. Mr. Samuel Ratcliff. The income of all the residue of the testator's property is to be paid to her during her widowhood, and on her death or re-marriage his real estate at Burton-on-Trent, Swadlincote, and Midway is to be transferred to his son Mr. John Ratcliff. His interest in the Hartshorne Brewery is to become the property of his sons Samuel and Charles Robert, and legacies of £4,000 each are to be paid to his daughters Harriet Sarah, Ellen Rose, and Alice Emma. The ultimate residue of the testator's estate, real and personal, the personalty being of the value of £47,628 4s. 10s., is to be held in trust in equal shares for all his children."
"Local Will"
Leicester Chronicle : November 2nd 1889

"The fact that Bass, Ratcliff and Gretton, the world-famous firm brewers, with headquarters at Burton-on-Trent, were going to acquire another important business was referred to the annual meeting Thursday, and full details the became known Friday. The firm concerned is Messrs Thomas Salt and Co., Ltd., and its subsidiary companies, Brunt, Bucknall, and Co., Ltd., and E. J. Miller and Co., Ltd., all Burton. The purchase price payable under the agreement is £1,177,773 [subject to various adjustments], plus additional sums in respect of trade book debts and stocks, the vendors retaining their cash and investments. In addition to the purchasing price, Bass Ratcliff and Gretton Limited; have agreed pay £65,000 for the payment compensation to agents and employees of the vendor companies in respect of the termination of their employment, and £40,000 as compensation for loss of office to the directors of the vendor companies. It is a term of the agreement that each of the vendor companies shall go into liquidation as soon as practicable after the completion of the agreement. On completion of the sale [if the necessary resolutions are passed] the directors of the vendor companies propose immediately to redeem the debenture stocks and income stock and debentures at the appropriate premiums, paying interest in lieu of notice. Meetings of the companies concerned have been called for August 23rd, at Derby. The negotiations leading to the combine have been very protracted. The Stock Exchange Year Book states that Bass, Ratcliff and Gretton, Ltd., has a capital of £2,040,000 in fully paid Ordinary shares of £1 each; 4½ per cent, mortgage debenture stock to the amount of £1,360,000; and 3½ per cent. B mortgage debenture stock totalling £560,000. The capital of Thomas Salt and Co., Ltd., is £554,000 mortgaged debenture stock and loans; £81,150 4 per cent, income stock; £116,977 preference stock; £45,125 preferred ordinary; £64,346 deferred ordinary; and £703 2s 6d. voting shares of one farthing each, carrying rights to dividend or distribution of assets, but conferring on the holders the right of one vote for every sixteen complete shares. For the past eight years, seven per cent, has been paid on the preference, preferred ordinary and deferred ordinary stocks of Thomas Salt and Co.. Ltd. Brunt, Bucknall and Co., Ltd., has authorised capital of £60.000 in shares of £10; and five per cent, mortgage debentures for £70,000."
"Big Beer Merger"
Leicester Chronicle : August 13th 1927
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Genealogy Connections
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 Derbyshire Genealogy.

Newspaper Articles
"On Wednesday last the Derbyshire coroner held an inquest at the Queen Adelaide Inn, Woodville, touching the death of John Brewin, who died on the previous day, aged 84. Since the death of his wife, about two years since, the deceased had resided with his daughter and son-in-law, from whom he had received every attention. It appeared that on his daughter's absence from his room for a few minutes on the evening of the 7th inst., his clothes accidentally caught fire. He was able to extinguish the fire without assistance, but his legs were badly burnt. A doctor was at once called in, and for some time deceased appeared to be getting better. The jury, on hearing the evidence, returned a verdict to the effect that "Death resulted through injuries received, but that no one was to blame." The deceased entered the service of the late Mr. Charles Brunt, as a labourer, in 1830; and on the establishment in 1832 of the Hartshorne Brewery [better known locally as the "Wooden Box Brewery"] he commenced to work there. Ever since that time his name has appeared week by week on Messrs. Brunt and Co's wages sheet. Although he has been unable to work for the past six or seven years, his wage [or pension] has been regularly paid. The founders of the Brewery have been dead several years, and the original buildings have gradually made way for new and enlarged ones, so that John Brewin seemed the only link connecting the present with the past. Of his value as a servant nothing need be said here. The above facts speak for themselves."
"Sad Death of an Old Man"
Derby Mercury : February 1st 1888

"On Thursday evening Mr. A. S. Clarson [Birmingham] offered for sale the Stone Cross Inn at Tamworth, occupied for many years by Councillor Luby. There was a large attendance, including representatives from the principal Burton breweries. The bidding started at £1,200, the property being ultimately knocked down to Messrs. Brunt, Bucknall, and Co., Hartshorne Brewery, Burton, at £2,785."
"Sale of a Public House"
Derby Mercury : February 1st 1888

"The future of an historic brewery building in Woodville is one step closer to being safeguarded, as South Derbyshire District Council considers putting a new measure in place. Victoria House, in High Street, was at risk of demolition last year, after the owners were unable to attract business tenants, but following an impassioned plea by councillors to stop bulldozers moving in, it was saved. Six months on, the council is hoping to use its powers to make sure it cannot be knocked down without the authority having a say. At a planning meeting due to take place on Tuesday, councillors are expected to confirm an article four direction, which removes the right for the owners to demolish the building without applying for planning permission. The report says: "The loss of the building would represent a significant step in the evolution of Woodville, removing one of the few surviving heritage assets. "Woodville carries a strong industrial past, not only in terms of the significance of the Brunt and Bucknall Brewery, but also the former pottery kilns and works. "Making a direction in respect of Victoria House is considered appropriate in regard to the protection of the amenities of the area in terms of its local historic significance." Victoria House is the only remaining part of the brewery, and Councillor Steve Taylor, who represents the area for the council, said it was important to people in the area. He added: "It's the last remaining part of the brewery, and people care about what it did and its value. "It's not in a conservation area, and it's not a listed building, but it's a building which has real significance, given the significant activity there was in Woodville." Brunt and Bucknall Brewery was the first to be set up in Swadlincote, and the longest in existence, surviving until 1927. Victoria House is understood to have been used as a bottling store after it was built in 1896. It is considered by the conservation and design officer at Derbyshire County Council to be of architectural merit, and to 'positively contribute to the public realm.' According to English Heritage, an article four direction can increase the public protection both of designated and non-designated heritage assets. The planning board at South Derbyshire District Council will consider the application at their next meeting on Tuesday."
"Raise a pint as brewery house in Woodville could be saved"
Burton Mail : January 18th 2015

David Rains Wallace by Betsy Kendall
“Fermentation may have been a greater discovery than fire.”
David Rains Wallace

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