History of Holden's Brewery Ltd. of the Park Brewery at Woodsetton in the county of Staffordshire. 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.


Holden's Brewery Ltd.
Holden's Brewery Ltd.

Some History on this Brewery
Son of Daniel Holden, a boot and shoe maker, Edwin Alfred Holden was born in Rowley Regis in March 1875. Like his elder brother Frederick, teenage Edwin Holden worked as a boot maker whilst living at the family's home in Springfield Lane. His mother Jane hailed from Wolverhampton; he had an older sister named Louisa but was four years older than a brother named Percival.

Edwin Holden followed the family business moving to Netherton and taking lodgings in Northfield Road. In Netherton he met and married a publican's daughter, Lucy Blanche Elizabeth Round at St. Andrew's church on October 25th 1898. Lucy was the daughter of Benjamin Round and Elizabeth Nickless. Born in 1878, she spent her early years in St. Thomas's Street in Netherton. Lucy's grandfather was Samuel Round who, along with his brother James, inherited the Steam Brewery behind the Cottage Spring Inn at Netherton. Little wonder therefore that her father Benjamin should enter the licensed trade. In 1886 Benjamin Round took over as licensee of a small public house called Trust to Providence, located in Netherton's Washington Street.

The story goes that Benjamin Round persuaded his daughter and fiancée Edwin Holden to take over the tenancy of a public house in order to start a family in stable surroundings. It was to be the beginning of the link between the Holden name and Black Country beer. Two months after their wedding, Edwin and Lucy Holden moved into the old Britannia Inn, a short distance from their rooms in Northfield Road. At this time the Britannia Inn was operated by Atkinson's Brewery. The couple were seemingly happy to work with this brewery as they were linked with their pubs for many years before going independent.

Edwin and Lucy Holden stayed at the Britannia Inn for six years before moving to the Struggling Man at Shaver's End between Dudley and Gornal. This was another Atkinson's house so perhaps they wanted a new challenge within the company's portfolio of properties or maybe they were asked to improve upon the trade in this pub. Edwin Holden immersed himself in many of the sports and social activities based at the Struggling Man Inn. He was elected Vice-President of Dudley F.C., a team that played their home fixtures to the rear of the building. He was also a key figure at Dudley Cricket Club. The busy publican also bred dogs at the rear of the Struggling Man.

Three years later and the Holden's were on the move again to take the Atkinson's-operated Horse and Jockey in Dibdale Lane, Lower Gornal, some half a mile away. Son Teddy was born at the Horse and Jockey on November 13th 1907. Their fourth house, again run by Atkinson's, was the Bloomfield Inn at Bloomfield Road in Tipton which they took over in October 1909. However, they only remained there for a short period.

Within a year, the family had taken over a free house - The Summer House at Woodsetton, where they remained until 1920. In 1916 Edwin Holden, now in failing health, bought the Park Inn in George Street, Woodsetton, taking the license in 1920, shortly before his death. It was, like the Summer House, a homebrew pub with a small brewery at the rear and in the cellar. This proved to be an exciting new turning point for the family and after developing a popular ale for the locals the brewing equipment was enlarged from within the cellar to adjoining buildings, which had been previously been used as a malt store by Atkinson's Brewery.

Lucy Holden proved to have a strong business head on her shoulders. Over the next three years and through great personal endeavour she was able to purchase a second pub, the Painter's Arms in Coseley, which had been owned by Butler's Brewery. This acquisition was principally for her son who had returned from Birmingham University after earning his brewing colours.

From the traditional dark strong mild brewed twice a week on the premises, the brewery developed during the 1950's and 1960's to its present size, with a capacity of 250 barrels a week. There is a large bottling plant at the brewery, the last remaining such plant in the Black Country. Holden's brewed and bottled beers for PDH [formerly Davenport's] in addition to its own range.

In the brewery tour to the right you will see brewer, Ivan Hayes, testing the gravity of the beer. He was my guide around the brewery in 2002.
© Copyright. Posted on 3rd January 2012
Images supplied by Digital Photographic Images

and Dudley Archives and Holden's Brewery Ltd.

Information on Beers

Black Country Mild 3.7%
A splendid smooth blend of malt hops and roast flavours go into Black Country Mild, a beer whose full-bodied taste belies it's gravity. An excellent mild.

Black Country Bitter 3.7%
Hops and malt predominate in this amber, smooth drink. Pleasantly bitter with a dry, hoppy bitter finish. An excellent session ale.

Golden Glow 4.4%
Introduced into the portfolio in 2000, this is a pale golden beer with a subtle hop aroma plus gentle sweetness and a light hoppiness add to the flavour. A moreish beer, this started out as a summer seasonal beer but such was its popularity it was quickly promoted to the regular range.

Black Country Old Ale 7.2%
Not exactly a regular beer - but it does emerge every Christmas. Old Ale is brewed using Fuggles Hops and Maris Otter Malt to produce a very strong dark beer with a sweet malty body and a smooth bitter finish.

Black Country Special Bitter 5.1%
This is billed as a pale brown, sweet and malty, strong bitter, full-bodied, with a bittersweet after taste. However, I have found this too easy to drink for its gravity. It's absolutely delicious but be warned - this will give you a headache if you treat it like a session ale.

XB 4.1%
A sweeter, fruitier version of the bitter and one I have enjoyed over the years. However, it's hard to find these days since the amber beers have come online. It is also brewed as a host beer, under the names of it's various outlets.

Monthly Guest Ales

Temple of Love 4.5% February 2012
Temple of Love is a beer named after a hit single by the Sisters of Mercy, a goth band fronted by Andrew Eldritch and featuring a drum machine called Doktor Avalanche. The Sisters of Mercy have had a couple of spin-off bands, notably Ghost Dance and The Mission. Andrew Eldritch is often called the "Gothfather of Rock." Golden in colour, this delicious subtle malty beer has a fruity aroma with a lasting bittersweet finish. First Gold hops and optic malt combine to give you a heavenly pint. Have mercy.

Major Tom 4.2%  January 2012
Named in honour of David Bowie, this blonde beer has a sweet fruity dominance with a moreish full malty body. The climax of fruit, malt and a bitter tang gives a pint that's out of this world.

Goalden Glory 4.42%  June 2010
Brewed especially for the 2010 World Cup in South Africa - check the formation of the ABV!! The brewery claimed "you would definitely score with this full-bodied golden bitter brewed with Fuggles hops and English Maris Otter malt. The 4.42 formation delivered a delicate hoppy aroma leading to a long bittersweet finish." It was the perfect pint to commiserate the pitiful England performance.

Crazy Legs 4.6%  December 2008
This beer was named after Elroy "Crazy Legs" Hirsch who played his first college season with the Wisconsin Badgers in 1942 when he earned his nickname from his unusual running style. He joined the Los Angeles Rams and was instrumental in their victory in the 1951 championship which was to stand for 19 years. He was inducted into the Pro-Football Hall of Fame in 1968. Crazy Legs was a powerful ale with a ruby hue. Incredibly flavoursome and surprisingly refreshing with a hint of sweetness. Touchdown!

Fatty Foulkes 4.1%  November 2008
This beer was named after Willie "Fatty Foulkes", born in the Shropshire town of Dawley in 1874. He was nearly 30 when he joined Chelsea and subsequently became their first goalkeeper and manager. Football has never had a goalkeeper like him. Six foot tall and weighing 22 stone, he was a popular character but due to his size often the recipient of team banter. He would retaliate by sitting on the offender until he apologised. The union of hops and malt were perfectly balanced to produce a potent taste for a beer of this gravity. It went for the hat-trick.

Whispering Death 4.3%  October 2008
This beer was named after Michael Anthony Holding, one of the quickest bowlers ever to play Test Cricket. He was known as "Whispering Death" due to his quiet approach to the bowling crease. Six foot tall, he was an outstanding West Indian athlete and was the bowler in what has been described as the greatest over in Test history when he bowled to English batsman Geoff Boycott in 1981 in Bridgetown. Whispering Death was an intense copper-coloured beer with a distinctive hoppy nose and a dry, bitter finish. It bowled you over!

The Pirate 4.0%  September 2008
This beer was named after Marco "The Pirate" Pantani. Born in Italy in 1970, he won the Tour de France and the Giro d'Italia in 1998. He was known as "el Parata [The Pirate]" due to the bandana he wore and his attacking style of riding. Of slight build and unmatchable ability, he was virtually untouchable in the Alps and Pyrenees and was known as being one of the best climbers of all time in professional road bicycle racing. The Pirate was a golden coloured beer with a flowery aroma and pronounced bitter flavours. Customers were seeing polka dots after a couple of these!

Lord Oxford 4.5%  August 2008
Lord Oxford was a beer named after Charles Fry. Born in the Warwickshire town of Henley-in-Arden in 1940, Fry was captain of cricket at Repton School and won a Blue at Oxford University in 1959 scoring 576 runs at an average of 26. 18 including a maiden century against the Free Foresters. He became a president of Marylebone Cricket Club in 2003-4 and Chairman of the MCC. Lord Oxford was a very drinkable tawny coloured beer. The balance of malt and bitterness was followed by a clean, hoppy aftertaste that was cleaner than a cricketer's whites!

Cannibal 4.8%  July 2008
A beer named in honour of the cycling legend Eddie "The Cannibal" Merckx. Regarded as the greatest and most successful cyclist of all time, Merckx started competing in 1961 and started his first grand tour at the 1967 Giro de Italia. In his Tour de France debut in 1969 he achieved a triple award and became the first Belgian to win the Tour for 30 years and became a national hero. Cannibal was a refreshing straw coloured bitter, subtly hoppy, with a pleasant, sweet finish. No-one was competing in the Tour de France after a couple of these!

Galloping Major 4.6%  June 2008
This beer was named after Ferenc Puskas, one of the greatest footballers of all time who scored 84 goals in 85 internationals for Hungary. With a deadly accurate left foot, he was the top goal scorer in Europe whilst he was playing for Real Madrid in 1948. In 1995 he was recognised as the top scorer of the 20th century by the IFFHS. Galloping Major was an impressive straw-coloured bitter with an assertive hop character and fruitiness. It filled yer boots!

Bomber Brown 4.1%  May 2008
Bomber Brown was the nickname of West Bromwich Albion legend Tony Brown. He joined WBA in 1961 and scored in every round of the Football League Cup in the 1965-6 season. He was the leading scorer in Division One in 1970-1 and was the catalyst in Albion's return to fame in 1976. In a 17 year career at The Hawthorns he scored 218 goals in 574 league games. Bomber Brown was a superb bitter with a delicate aroma and distinct hop character that led to a dry, hoppy finish. Back of the net!

Night Train 4.3%  April 2008
This beer was named after the American footballer Dick Lane. His official website states that "few players in pro-football history instilled more fear in wide receivers or running backs than Dick "Night Train" Lane, whose style of play was one of ferocity, intimidation and raw power. Known around the league for his open-field tackling and cat-like reflexes, Lane was single-handedly responsible for the banishment of the clothesline tackle and still holds the modern-day NFL record for interceptions by a rookie cornerback with 14." This crisp refreshing honey-coloured session beer was brewed using Challenger hops and Maris Otter malt. It had a head start on others!

Black Jack 4.0%  March 2008
Black Jack was a beer that commemorated Sir Jack Brabham, the first driver in history to be knighted for his services to motorsport. The triple world champion is the only Formula One driver to have won a world title in a car of his own construction - the BT19 - which he drove to victory in 1966. In the following year the Brabham team won its second successive world championship when New Zealander Denny Hulme drove the BT20 to victory. This light golden-coloured beer had a wonderfully subtle malty taste that easily took pole position!

Raging Bull 4.5%  February 2008
Raging Bull was a beer dedicated to the boxer Jake LaMotta. Portrayed by Robert De Niro in the film "Raging Bull", world middleweight champion LaMotta led a colourful life inside and outside the ring. He shocked the sports world by admitting dropping a fight for the Mafia in return for a title shot against World Champion Marcel Cerdan. In 1951 Sugar Ray Robinson beat him in a fight known as boxing's version of "The St.Valentine's Day Massacre." A well-rounded beer golden chestnut-coloured beer with fruit aroma and hoppy overtones, Raging Bull had a fantastic bittersweet fusion on the palette. It was a knockout.

Three Fingers 4.2%  January 2008
A beer named after Mordecai Brown a.k.a. Three Finger Brown. As a seven year-old at his uncle's farm his right hand was severely damaged when he caught it in a corn grinder - his forefinger being amputated. His injuries forced him to grip a ball in a certain way which resulted in a large amount of spin, a distinct advantage when he took up baseball. He was the pitching mainstay of the great "Tinker-to-Evers-to-Chance" Club teams that won four pennants and two world championships from 1906-1910. The ale was a medium-bodied pale caramel coloured beer with an equal balance of fruit and malt in the flavour combination. A smooth satisfying drink.

Dec The Halls 4.6%  December 2007
Sparkling gold in colour this premium festive tipple began with a big and sweet malty nose, then developed into a well rounded and satisfying bitter-sweet aftertaste. Christmas spirit in a glass! This beer re-appeared as a guest ale in 2011.

Super Nova 4.1%  November 2007
Full gold in colour this superhuman beer was surprisingly uncomplicated with a strong hoppy aroma and a heroic full bodied malty sweetness. It was, er, super...man! This beer re-appeared as a guest ale in 2011.

Octavia 4.3%  October 2007
A surprisingly big and complex golden goddess with a forceful malty nose, Octavia was a full bodied delicious sweet fruity ale that delivered a satisfying symphony of fruit and hops. It was perfect for whetting your whistle! This beer re-appeared as a guest ale in 2011.

Septimus Sid 4.5%  September 2007
Produced in September 2007, this was polished brass in colour. A strapping malty brew, Septimus Sid was fresh, fruity and sweet on the nose and vacillated between a malty sweetness and a dry hoppy palate. In a league of it's own! This beer re-appeared as a guest ale in 2011.

Haughty Den 4.5%  August 2007
Platinum gold in colour, this refined premium beer had a light nose of malt and toasted cereal notes with a restrained and well mannered delicious fruity sweetness. A perfectly pretentious pint! This beer re-appeared as a guest ale in 2011.

Julie Dunn 4.2%  July 2007
Produced for July 2007, Julie Dunn was a fresh light silvery gold coloured beer with a dynamic hop aroma and a crisp clean bitter taste resulting in a perfectly accomplished satisfying malty sweetness. A duly deserved drink! This beer re-appeared as a guest ale in 2011.

Jungle Jim 4.6%  June 2007
The monthly guest ale for June 2007 was Jungle Jim, a beer that was sunflower yellow in colour with a bold and boisterous citrus hop aroma, which lead to a solid malty depth of flavour, and finished in an audaciously bitter biting aftertaste. This beer re-appeared as a guest ale in 2011.

May Becknott 4.1%  May 2007
Billed as a heavenly sun-faded straw-coloured beer, May Becknott had a light and agile personality which swungs between gentle malty overtones and floral hoppy undertones, all of which resulted in a perfectly balanced drink. The pump clip character was May, a very average circus contortionist until her coach realised that she could resist everything apart from temptation. So, by putting a pint of Holden's just out of reach, he slowly encouraged her to become the most supple performer in history. This beer re-appeared as a guest ale in 2011.

April Shower 4.3%  April 2007
Sparkling primrose in colour with a delicate hoppy aroma, this medium bodied beer had an underlying gentle malty sweetness and muted cereal notes, which developed into a restorative bitter finish. According to the brewery it was a totally revitalizing experience! This beer re-appeared as a guest ale in 2011.

Mardy Maud 4.0%  March 2007
The monthly guest ale for March 2007 was Mardy Maud, a feisty light caramel coloured beer with a spirited hoppy aroma, a dynamic fruity yet inherently sweet body that resulted in a lively and complex bitter-sweet palate. A spirited little devil! This beer re-appeared as a guest ale in 2011.

Freddie Febrio 4.5%  February 2007
This beer was available at the pumps in February 2007. Freddie Febrio was white gold in colour. The premium bitter had a sharp zesty hop aroma with a dry yet subtly malty bitter edge, resulting in a delicious dry hoppy bite. The brewery guaranteed Freddie Febrio to extinguish any thirst! This beer re-appeared as a guest ale in 2011.

Cartoon Strip for Flo Jangles

Flo Jangles 4.2%  January 2007
Produced for January 2007, Flo Jangles was a dirty blonde beer with a dominant fruity sweetness and a moreish full malty body, which resulted in a climax of fruit, malt and a lingering bitter tang. A fruity little minx! This beer re-appeared as a guest ale in 2011.

Christmas Blaster 4.8%  December 2006
Available in December 2006, Challenger hops and Optic malt were suffused to create winter sunshine in a glass. With a lively and assertive hop character and a dominant malty sweetness throughout this premium beer resulted in a moreish malty aftertaste. Christmas Blaster certainly blew away the cobwebs! In days of yore, "time off" was a rare luxury. The Sabbath was strictly adhered to - but this was a time for sober religious reflection not joviality - and holidays were few and far between. Christmas holidays consisted of Christmas day and [for some] Boxing Day. However, nothing stood in the way of efficiency - and a blast furnace needed to be cared for and kept up to temperature no matter what day of the year, for if it cooled it would need to be dismantled and re-fired - a long and costly process. As a result a skeleton workforce was always in attendance and if they were unfortunate enough to have to work on the 25th December the poor souls were jokingly referred to as Christmas Blasters. This beer re-appeared as a monthly guest ale during 2010.

Fogger 4.5%  November 2006
Available in November 2006, this beer was sparkling gold in colour with a fruity aroma and a deliciously subtle malty taste. First Gold hops and optic malt combined to result in a long and lingering bittersweet finish. Nail making was, quite literally a cottage industry. In thousands of tiny workshops families eked out a meagre living accepting a weight of iron, "converting" it into nails and supplying a corresponding weight of nails and scrap to their middlemen, only to repeat the process time and time again. The Fogger was a particularly despicable type of middlemen who preyed on the poverty of the nailers during times of extreme hardship. He supplied them with iron on credit, often keeping incorrect scales to con the nailers. When he returned to collected the finished nails he would use another set of fixed scales to under weigh the finished product, thereby "buying" them at lower than cost price. The Fogger was often blamed for keeping the price of nails artificially low thereby keeping nailers in a parlous state of grinding poverty. This beer re-appeared as a monthly guest ale during 2010.

Table Tapper 4.7%  October 2006
Available in October 2006, Herald hops and optic malt were fused to give this straw champagne coloured beer a distinctive hoppy nose and a rich a full-bodied quaffable taste that resulted in a spellbinding dry bitter taste. Out of this world! As for the story behind the name..... times were hard, education poor and superstition rife in the Black Country of the 19th century. Not surprisingly, it was the perfect environment for unscrupulous women to earn a few farthings by exploiting the fears of their desperate neighbours. Building their reputation as soothsayers, they would purport to converse with those who had "passed over" to proffer advice and admonishment to their awestruck clientele. Shrouding their activity in mystery and developing their own rituals these women would often get their victims to join hands and close their eyes before beginning their dialogue with the spirit world, often doing so with questions and responses tapped out on the kitchen table - hence their disparaging and commonly used description as Table Tappers. This beer re-appeared as a monthly guest ale during 2010.

Wharfinger 4.3%  September 2006
Travel back to the start of the 19th century and roads were poor, still having to cope with nothing more than the occasional stagecoach, railways were yet to be invented. Canals were the super highways of their day. Still a novelty, they carried what were considered huge loads the length and breadth of the country and literally provided the momentum for the industrial revolution. Even rivers were major navigation routes, with Trows carrying raw materials, iron products, tiles and china the length of the River Severn. With so much valuable cargo moving to and fro it was essential that the wharfs were managed efficiently and with a rod of iron to ensure that pilfering was prevented. The manager, or Wharfinger, was therefore usually both an imposing and authoritative figure. Available in September 2006, this beer was orange gold in colour. The combination of Challenger hops and Maris Otter malt resulted in a big taste which was equally divided between the assertive dry hop character and the robust malty taste, leaving a full bitter finish. This beer re-appeared as a monthly guest ale during 2010.

Amigo Puller 4.6%  August 2006
First Gold hops and Maris Otter malt were blended together to form a wonderful butter toffee coloured beer with a subtle malty aroma and a fruity well-balanced, long finish. It was one to drag your mates out for a couple in August! The Black Country was littered with coal pits. Some were major commercial operations with pit-head wheels above shafts going deep underground; other were remnants of ancient mines small and run on a subsistence level. Others were shallow pits excavated by men desperate to feed their starving families. In the latter two cases, the means of reaching the coal face was often by sitting on a stick tied to the end of a rope and being hauled to the surface by a particularly strong member of the team. This was literally the miner's lifeline and as a result the stick was known as the amigo [or friend], and the man who hauled on the rope was, consequently, an Amigo Puller. This beer re-appeared as a monthly guest ale during 2010.

Burton Runner 4.2%  July 2006
Cradley Heath was famous for chain making. It was a harsh living, both men and women worked at hundreds of forges which peppered the area for pay that, even by the standards of the time, was pitifully low. Beer played a great part in the lives of both male and female chain workers as a relatively inexpensive means of cooling down and topping up fluid levels. Reports at the time suggested that drinking 24 pints a day was not unusual. Indeed, beer was so important to the workers that each factory had a boy whose only job was to run out and fetch pints for the men. The fact that workers were so poor means that it is not surprising that the beer that was served was the cheapest available: known as Burton Returns it was largely beer that had been returned to the brewery as undrinkable by more fastidious customers... and as a result the boys were known as Burton Runners. Available in July 2006, Herald hops and Maris Otter malt combined to give this bronze gold brew a light malty scent with a distinctive hop character leading to a clean and refreshing finish. It was well worth going the extra mile for! This beer re-appeared as a monthly guest ale during 2010.

Shaft Spragger 4.5%  June 2006
Available during June 2006, Bramling Cross hops and Optic and crystal malt gave this long velvety polished conker coloured beer a wonderfully balanced taste which swung between gentle hop notes and robust malty overtones resulting in a long lingering dry finish. The larger mines of the Black Country were invariably owned by titled land owners who knew little [and cared even less] of the sorry plight of the miners who toiled in appalling conditions to earn a meagre living. Profit was king and investment was made in essential machinery only if it would increase productivity in a way that additional labour would not - after all, labour was both cheap and in exhaustible supply. It is therefore perhaps not surprising that while wagons were an essential means of transporting coal to the surface, brakes were viewed an unnecessary luxury when you could employ an unfortunate individual to risk life and limb to control the movement of mine carts by poking sprags between the spokes of the wheels to act as a basic brake. The Shaft Spragger was one of the most dangerous jobs in a very perilous industry. This beer re-appeared as a monthly guest ale during 2010.

Bottom Knocker 4.7%  May 2006
Wye Northdown hops and Optic Malt gave this May 2006 beer a clean and feisty golden caramel flavour with a distinctive fruity bouquet. Bottom Knocker was substantially malty in its body resulting in a delicious hoppy tang. Destined not to be the butt of any joke! Imagine yourself at one of the region's pottery factories in years gone by. The craftsmen have plied their trade, carefully hand turning pots on a potter's wheel, and now the wet clay needs to be placed into a traditional bottle kiln and fired for days at an incredibly high temperature. Loading the kiln was itself a skilled task placing as many items as possible into the kiln and avoiding breakages. To help them with this unenviable task items were placed into containers called saggers both to aid carriage and make stacking easier. Not surprisingly, the base of a sagger was pummelled from clay, the only inexpensive material capable of tolerating such high temperatures - and it was the responsibility of the sagger maker's assistant to complete this menial task, perpetually pounding the clay, And his official job title? A sagger maker's bottom knocker! This beer re-appeared as a monthly guest ale during 2010.

Wind Blower 4.3%  April 2006
In the smaller iron bashing factories of the Black Country, manual labour rather than steam engines was employed to drive the machines by which the forges were supplied with blast [hot air]. Invariably viewed as work for the insane, infirm or children, this was one of the most menial and pitiful tasks. Often the Wind Blower would be responsible for supplying blast to up to six forges. Throughout a twelve hour shift they would not have a single break, perpetually and relentlessly having to turn the handle of a wheel which activated bellows for each forge. The typical wage in 1895 for this soul-destroying work was one shilling per day. Available in April 2006, Wind Blower was brewed using Progress hops and Optic Malt to give this corn dolly yellow beer a soft and pleasant fragrance with underlying light cereal notes. This led to a clean and crisp dry finish that was guaranteed to put the wind up your sails! This beer re-appeared as a monthly guest ale during 2010.

Feeder Wench 4.6%  March 2006
Available in March 2006, Feeder Wench was a dirty blonde beer which was sweetly coy and charming with a gentle malty aroma and subtle hoppy overtones, developing into a refreshing and restorative drink. It was brewed using Bramling Cross hops and Maris Otter malt. A real lady! In the 19th century, Cradley Heath was renowned throughout the world for its production of nails. The town's reputation was built on the fact that in hundreds of factories thousands of poorly paid workers were relentlessly producing the "staples of the industry". The Feeder Wench was the girl responsible for hand feeding metal into the nail making machines. It was hot, dirty and noisy work. Usually working in rows of ten feeder wenches, the pace of production was so relentless that for every two feeder wenches there was a spare feeder who would take over if a girl needed to leave her machine. This beer re-appeared as a monthly guest ale during 2010.

Shag Boss 4.2%  February 2006
Mines do not only produce the required material be it coal or metal ore. Invariably a percentage of material mined is "useless" rock which still needs to be transported to the surface and disposed of. The management of this process is not as unimportant as may at first appear, requiring as it does a level of integrity and vigilance to ensure that the miners are not misusing the opportunity to smuggle valuable coal or ore from the mine for accomplices to then remove if from the spoil heaps. It was usually a foreman who was made responsible for managing the waste [or shag, as it was called] and his title was, not unreasonably. the Shag Boss! February's ale was totally bling in colour with a positive aromatic nose, the combination of Wye Northdown hops and Maris Otter malt gave a dominant fruity sweetness and led to a crescendo which was sweet and full, yet long and satisfying. This beer re-appeared as a monthly guest ale during 2010.

Gongoozler 4.5%  January 2006
Ever since their first appearance, locks on canals have been a source of fascination, not only as an engineering marvel providing a simple yet effective means of lifting heavy barges almost vertically, but also as a hive of activity as handles are turned, paddles lifted and gates are man hauled. Not surprisingly, therefore, locks have also proved a magnet to those who like to watch others working and it is to the most infuriating of these examples that canal folk have given the name Gongoozler. Often the lock keeper's dim-witted assistant, the Gongoozler is much more of a hindrance than a help, drifting around the lock gawping at everyone else working and invariably getting under everyone's feet and hampering their progress. This January ale was a morning sunlight in colour, with a delicate hoppy aroma and a full and malty flavour, which led to a long dry and tangy finish. It was brewed using Progress hops and Maris Otter malt. Gongoozler was a contrasting and contradictory beer. A bruly taffling brew! This beer re-appeared as a monthly guest ale during 2010.

Lambswool 4.5%  December 2005
The beer for December 2005 was a rich full-bodied ale brewed using Styrian Goldings Hops and Optic Malt. Gold in colour with a pronounced hoppy aroma and strong malt flavour on the palate which resulted in a lingering and complex aftertaste. A festive drink traditionally given by managers and small employers to their workers, lambswool was a punch made from real ale, roasted apples and spices. Made in large glazed earthenware vessels known as a "Jowl", the lambswool was ladled around the company until empty when the drinkers then sang a carol. This re-appeared as the monthly guest ale in March 2009, though it was downgraded to 4.3%.

Horn Dance 4.2%  November 2005
This was the monthly special for November 2005 and I had many fantastic pints of it in the Great Western. It was a medium auburn coloured beer with a good balance of fruit and malt in the flavour resulting in a malty bitter finish and residual sweetness. It was brewed using Goldings Hops and Optic Malt to make an easy drinking session bitter. Horn Dance was named after the event still famously celebrated in Abbots Bromley. The Horn Dance was also performed, in various guises, in the Black Country. Many believe that the origins lie in the witchcraft ritual of the wearing of "the horns of the beast" which was prohibited in 668 as being "devilish". Such festivities may well have been intended to summon dark forces to aid fertility! This re-appeared as the monthly guest ale in January 2009 but with a slightly lower ABV of 4.1%.

Dragon's Blood 4.7%  October 2005
Available in October 2005, this beer was a golden amber premium ale with an assertive hop character and fruitiness dominating throughout which led to an intense hoppy yet fruity finish. It was brewed using Fuggles Hops and English Maris Otter Malt. Black Country lasses who wished to recall a lover from a distance bought a pennyworth of dragon's blood, cut a piece of flannel into a heart shape and stuck three pins into it - these represented cupid's darts, with the pin points facing the centre. Dragon's Blood was sprinkled on the flannel, which was burnt on the fir as the clock struck midnight whilst reciting: "Tis not this blood I wish to burn, But [name]'s heart I wish to turn; May he neither rest nor sleep, till he returns to me to speak". This ritual was performed on Friday nights; the last Friday in the month was said to be the best time of all. This re-appeared as the monthly guest ale in October 2009 but with a slightly lower ABV of 4.6%.

Summat Else 4.6%  September 2005
Well dressing was a widespread Black Country custom whereby wells were adorned with flowers. There was always fierce competition to become the local well-dressing champion. In the early 1800's such a competition was won, surprisingly, by an old woman who lived alone in an isolated cottage. Her success was attributed to a hob (a small friendly goblin). Like many households, she used to put a bowl of milk porridge and a bit of cake on the doorstep before going to bed. This was provided for 'the luck' i.e. the hob. On one occasion she found the food had been eaten and shortly after heard a strange voice asking for shelter. The woman, a kindly individual, knew it must be either a ghost or Summat else - a name which she quickly gave to the small hob who accepted her offer of shelter and took up residence in the chimney. The two struck up a supernatural friendship and the hob - as a measure of gratitude - helped the old woman to collect enough petals to win the annual well dressing competition. Summat Else was the special brew for the month of September 2005. It was a straw coloured bitter brewed using English Maris Otter malt and Cascade Hops, producing an ale with a floral hop aroma and a constant bitterness present throughout that led to a satisfying dry hoppy aftertaste. It was an unusual and distinctive brew - hence summat else! The name of this beer emerged again in July 2009 but for a cask cider NOT a beer. It was a full-bodied bittersweet cider, rich in tannins and flavenoids which created its natural flavour and golden colour. The cider was made with fresh Malvern apples. The counter displays stated that "Holden's have been brewing beer only for a very long time. On a sunny day in June Jonothan and Abi Holden were discussing how lovely a chilled glass of dry cider would be in the sunshine. From this was born the idea of Holden's very own cider, and the name, well, instead of beer it was called summat else instead!!"

Frail Rib 4.3%  August 2005
Available in August 2005, this was an exceptionally pale flax coloured crisp, clean beer brewed using lager malt and Styrian Goldings Hops. It was a thirst quenchingly refreshing beer with a delicate hoppy aroma and subtle malty overtones that led to a crisp bitter finish. Frail Rib is a Black Country term for an unwanted or ineffective wife. Well into the 1800's wife selling was an accepted means of ending a marriage. The practice had no sanction in law, but it was a matter of general knowledge that if the prescribed custom was followed the separation was legal. The general procedure was for the husband to tie a halter around the woman's neck, take her down to the market gate, where he would purchase a toll ticket, lead her several times round the market and eventually put her up for auction. Once the sale had been made it was usual for the husband, wife and purchaser to retire to a nearby pub to complete the deal - the husband handing over the toll ticket to the new owner. The seller would purchase a brand new halter, while the purchaser would try to lead his wife through as many as three toll gates to make the agreement more binding! This re-appeared as the monthly guest ale in September 2009.

Midsummer Witch 4.5%  July 2005
Brewed with Fuggles Hops and Optic Malt and available in July 2005, Midsummer Witch was a honey coloured premium beer with a sweet malty aroma and complex hoppy undertones that led to a dry malty bitter finish. It was believed that on Midsummer's Eve all the witches on the earth gathered on the moon for the witch's parliament where they arranged the fate of ordinary mortals for the next twelve months. With witches and evil spirits infesting the air, Black Country residents had many customs designed to protect their souls. These included building bonfires as a protection (being a purifier and destroyer of infection), gathering fern seeds in a white handkerchief and carrying it in their pockets to render them invisible against witches, while others pushed burning wheels (sun wheels) down hills to symbolise the return of the sun. This re-appeared as the monthly guest ale in June 2009 but the ABV was lowered to 4.2%.

Old Nick 4.2%  June 2005
This was the beer to be found at the pumps in June 2005. Old Nick - or Old Nicholls - was a wise man that lived in the appropriately named Hell Lane in Dudley. Old Nick's reputation for sound advice was sadly damaged when local miners asked for help in solving the mystery of why their candles kept disappearing in the night. Old Nick said that it was The Devil who was stealing the candles and this could be stopped by visiting the pit at night with a bible and, on hearing the approach of The Devil, begin reciting the Lord's Prayer backwards. After a tense and nervous night, the miners heard strange noises and began to recite the Lord's Prayer and lit matches for comfort only to see a plague of rats happily eating the stock of candles! Old Nick was a pale golden beer brewed using Styrian Hops and the Optic Malt that produced an ale with a sweet fruity aroma and a distinctive hop character that led to a dry hoppy finish. This beer re-appeared as the monthly guest ale in December 2009, although it was increased in strength to 5.5% and was presented with a different pump clip as it was then the company's Christmas ale.

Will 'O' Wisp 4.7%  May 2005
Available in May 2005, this was an amber coloured premium beer brewed using Fuggles Hops and Maris Otter Malt. Fruit and Malt predominated in this easy drinking cheeky little number which results in a spirited bitter kick. Will 'O' Wisp was a puck like character who led men astray in the deep mines under the Black Country. Taking the form of other miners or candlelight, he would entice unwitting miners to venture into abandoned or dangerous workings where they were likely to become hopelessly lost or disorientated. This re-appeared as the monthly guest ale in August 2009 but the ABV was downgraded to 4.5%.

Springheel Jack 4.6%  April 2005
Brewed with Cascade Hops and Optic Malt and available in April 2005, Springheel Jack was a golden beer with a feisty hop character and a distinctive malty flavour that lead to a perky bitter finish. Springheel Jack was well known throughout the Black Country in the 19th century. Hundreds would gather on the cinder banks when it was thought that Springheel Jack would appear. Those who had seen him would describe how he would leap from roof and steeple in a ghostly display of acrobatics. This re-appeared as the monthly guest ale in April 2009.

Thigh Bones 4.3%  March 2005
This was the beer to be found at the pumps in March 2005. In an attempt to ward off evil spirits in the 1700's superstitious people from the Black Country would look to obtain the thigh bones from a body in the churchyard and place them across the foot of the bed each night. It is questionable whether this had the desired effect, but it certainly pleased the family hound. Thigh Bones was a pale straw coloured beer with a strong malty nose and an underlying sweetness that lead to a clean dry bitter finish. It was brewed using Fuggles Hops and Optic Malt.

Passionate Monk 4.5%  February 2005
For the month of 2005 featuring Valentines Day, Holden's brewed Passionate Monk. It was a honey coloured beer lovingly brewed using Goldings Hops and English Maris Otter Malt. A fruity aroma and a complex hop character dominated leading to an easy drinking bittersweet finish. An old ghost haunts Haden Hall in Old Hill, Rowley Regis. In the 18th century, a young monk from Hales Abbey had broken his vows by falling in love with a local girl. One night they had resolved to flee the abbey through an underground passage leading to Haden Hall. Unhappily, they were caught and, as punishment, were walled up alive in the passage. Since then the girl, Elaine, is said to appear near the hall ringing her hands and searching for her lover. This re-appeared as the monthly guest ale in February 2009.

Devil Dunn 4.2%  January 2005
This was the first special brew of 2005. I had some excellent pints of this in The Vine at Kinver. It was so good I had to have four pints just to check for consistency!! Sold throughout January, Devil Dunn was a pale golden beer with a distinctive hoppy aroma, malty overtones and a long lingering bitter finish. And, as for the name... the famous Black Country wise man Devil Dunn from Dudley was a white witch who died in 1851and attracted clients from as far afield as London and Scotland. He claimed to be able to locate stolen property by using charms and many of his clients were wealthy, well educated people. Dunn also had a legendary spell to alleviate tooth ache. Sold for a shilling, the sufferer had to wear it close to their body - and thousands vouched for its efficacy. This re-appeared as the monthly guest ale in January 2009.

Dudley Tremor 4.8%  November 2004
Sold during November 2004, Dudley Tremor was brewed in recognition of the Dudley earthquake which occurred in 2002 and measured 4.8 on the Richter Scale - hence the A.B.V. I can well remember this event and when the house shook [some four miles away] I did mutter the classic "what the fuck was that?" as I went outside in the early hours expecting to see the next door neighbour's house flattened by a meteorite!! The earthquake centred around Gornal rather than Dudley and took place on September 23rd just before one o'clock in the morning. Officially, it occurred on the Midland Microcraton along the Malvern Lineament. Dudley Tremor was a tawny full bodied premium bitter, generously hopped to give a mellow, hoppy aroma. A well balanced flavour of roasted malt and sweetness led to a great bitter sweet finish.

Sandwell Slider 4.6%  October 2004
This beer was sold throughout October 2004. Forget Eddie the Eagle, Britain's most unlikely skiing hero must have been Sliding Sid Scott, who worked at Sandwell Colliery supervising the tipping of coal waste. To speed his journeys down the slag heaps of Sandwell he would often jump aboard a discarded piece of timber and displaying an amazing sense of balance and skill shoot to the bottom of the pit mound. As his proficiency increased he would often slalom for the sheer fun of it. He is now recognised as the father of snowboarding having unwittingly invented the sport some seventy years before its official birth and never having seen a snow covered mountain in his life! Sandwell Slider was an amber coloured smooth drinking bitter brewed using aromatic Goldings hops and English Maris Otter malt. Perfectly balanced with a malty aroma and hoppy undertones leading to a flawless dry bitter finish.

Quarry Basher 4.9%  September 2004
The Tipton Slasher's fame may have lived on to this day, but let's not forget Grorty Dick Dunn. In the darkest days of the recession in the 1920's families could barely afford to put food on tables and certainly couldn't afford to waste it. Dick Dunn provided a public service by collecting left over Grorty Dick [a Black Country delicacy of mashed oats] in large muslin bags and pummelling it to break down once again into a soft mash, so that it could be reheated and eaten later. Thus, he unwittingly invented the punch bag and inadvertently provided himself with enough exercise to develop a physique which amazed the Western World. Incredibly, Grorty Dick also constituted most of his diet so it can fake full credit for developing him into the world-class athlete who finally took the World Heavy Weight title in 1926. Sold in September 2004, Quarry Basher was a full-bodied toffee coloured premium beer brewed using Fuggles hops and the English Maris Otter malt. Hoppy and slightly sweet, it had a robust fruitiness and a final heavyweight hop bite. Packed a punch!

Netherton Flickers 4.3%  August 2004
The back to back houses of Netherton may not have been the obvious breeding ground for one of tennis' greatest doubles partnerships but it was there that petty rivalry over the washing lines escalated and taught the basic skills of the sport to Hilda Potts and Ivy Hawkes. Washing used to be hung on communal lines and this led to bitter rivalry as to who had the cleanest laundry. Hilda believed that Ivy was sabotaging her washing and would use laundry tongs to flick dirt over the line on to her neighbour's smalls. This malicious act was reciprocated with ever increasing accuracy and ferocity. Their skill was put to good use when, in the 1937 Wimbledon Championships, the two women having been reconciled and introduced to the grass court game, used their wrist action to achieve one overhead winner after another and revolutionise the Ladies Doubles Game. Sold throughout August 2004, Netherton Flickers was a very fruity pale golden beer brewed using aromatic Goldings hops and English Maris Otter malt - a perfect partnership of a hoppy aroma and malty flavour prevailed to give a strong clean lingering bitter finish.

Lye Crossers 4.3%  July 2004
I haven't got any tasting notes for this beer I'm afraid. A shame because some sporting punters may have forgotten that in the late 1880's Lye boasted a team that was almost the equal of their two illustrious neighbours, The Baggies and The Wolves. Lye's success was, however, short-lived as it was almost entirely due to the dazzling footballing skills of two unlikely twin brothers who played on the left and right wing respectively. Charlie, Number 7, weighed 15 stone, had a shiny bald pate and had a bustling style which featured a fearsome shoulder charge. When deployed, this tactic often knocked opposing full backs so far off the pitch they had to pay to come back through the turnstiles. Twin brother Sidney weighed just 7½ stone and boasted an enormous handlebar moustache. Reliant on speed and fast footwork the opposition rarely got close enough to tackle him. Many pundits argue that it was their totally different styles which enhanced the twin brother's effectiveness. But the truth was that, for eight magnificent seasons, they helped the Lye team to unparalleled success, feeding a grateful forward line with chance after chance. Inevitably, the brothers became known as the Lye Crossers but unfortunately when they retired, inevitably as twins, on the same day, the team lost its greatest assets and went into decline from which it never recovered.

Bilston Breezer 4.8%  June 2004
I'm afraid I do not have the background story for this special ale. Available in May 2004, this light single hopped beer was made with aromatic Goldings Hops and English Maris Otter Malt. Pale Golden in colour with a crisp distinctive bittersweet edge, it was a beer with great depth and character.

Walsall Wallup 4.5%  May 2004
I'm afraid I do not have the background story for this special ale. Available in May 2004, this fruity pale ale amber beer was made with Fuggles hops and English Maris Otter Malt. With an excellent fruity and malty aroma, this refreshing bitter ended in a lingering dry hoppy finish.

Sedgley Lifter 4.7%  February 2004
I'm afraid I do not have the background story for this special ale. Available in February 2004, this honey-coloured robust beer was made with English Maris Otter Malt and Goldings hops. With a solid body, malty overtones and a perfect bittersweet balance in the taste, this premium beer had a dominating hoppy finish.

True Love 4.7%  February 2003
Produced in February 2003, I wish this was rolled out every Valentine's Day because it was one of the finest brews produced at Woodsetton - fully of lovely fruit flavours and overtones. And the pump clip couldn't have been more apt - this really was a beer that made you want to hug your glass.


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 Staffordshire Genealogy.

Holden's Park Ale Bottle Label

Holden's Old Ale Bottle Label

Holden's Old Ale

Holden's Park Brown Ale

Holden's Golden Pale Ale

Holden's Park Ale

Holden's Golden Ale Bottle Label

Holden's Master Ale Bottle Label

Holden's True Love

Holden's Coneygre Ale

Holden's Bomber Brown

Holden's Fatty Foulkes

Holden's Mardy Maud

Holden's Julie Dunn

Holden's Wharfinger

Holden's Wind Blower

Holden's Devil Dunn

Holden's Passionate Monk

Holden's Old Nick

Holden's Summat Else Cider

Holden's Lye Crossers

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

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Work in Progress

Newspaper Articles
MPs Toast Commons Bid
Holden's director Abi Holden with brewhouse manager Roger Bennett, managing director Jonothan Holden, and MPs Ian Austin and Tom Watson.

"Black Country MPs Ian Austin and Tom Watson today launched a campaign to get the great and good to start supping the region's top beers.

The pair want the House of Commons bars and restaurants to start stocking Woodsetton-brewed Holden's beers so MPs and staff can enjoy a good pint.

Yesterday Mr. Austin, who represents Dudley North, and Mr. Watson, whose West Bromwich East constituency, borders Woodsetton, visited the Tipton Road brewery.

There they met director Abi Holden, from the family-run firm, and talked about how they wanted Holden's beers to become the pride of the Houses of Parliament. Mr. Austin said: "Holden's are a fantastic family firm, creating jobs, and winning awards with their high quality beer - which we want in the House of Commons. They are a great Black Country business producing great Black Country beers. I don't think anyone would turn down a pint."

He and his Labour colleague are lobbying the Parliamentary authorities to get the Black Country ales served in the bars and restaurants of the Palace of Westminster."
"MPs Toast Commons Bid"
by Paul Kelly in
Express and Star
July 30th 2005
© Copyright. Image supplied by Express and Star

“A Black Country brewery has been given the go-ahead to expand in moves that will see production increase by 50 per cent. Dudley Council has approved plans for a three-storey extension at Holden’s Brewery in Woodsetton. The £200,000 expansion at the site in George Street will include a 70,000-pint storage tank and two fermenting vessels. It will mean production of the brewery’s five beers can be stepped up from 50,000 to 75,000 pints per week. Managing Director Jonothan Holden said: “This is an exciting time for the brewery. In the current financial climate to think we are doing well is very pleasing. I think it is down to our good, local product, its price and the quality of the landlords who sell it on.” The brewery’s expansion plans also include exporting one beer, called Golden Special Bitter, to Japan. To support the move the company has also opened a new bottle store and office space at its site. Mr. Holden said: “We are finding that people really enjoy the organic taste of our cask ale beers – there is a real market for them. It will be great not just to serve in the West Midlands, but also the High Street.” Groundwork is already complete for the site expansion, with work to begin soon on the storage space. The plan follows an earlier one, also approved by Dudley Council, which was for a two-storey expansion. However, this was dropped for the new scheme, which could be followed by further work at the site over the next two years. Bosses have said they hope to build a brewing house, with a planning application likely to be submitted next year. The firm is one of the oldest of its kind in the area and was started in 1915.”
"Holden's given go-ahead to expand its enterprise"
in Halesowen Chronicle
July 26th 2012
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Lucy Blanch Holden
Lucy Blanche Holden who founded the family brewery along with her husband Edwin after the couple had moved to the Park Inn at Woodsetton in 1920.

Edwin Holden with son Teddy
Edwin Holden with son Teddy in an early family portrait. Teddy would later graduate from Birmingham University and take over the Painters' Arms in Coseley.

Teddy Holden
Teddy Holden was born in November 1907 at the Horse and Jockey in Lower Gornal. He married Clara and devoted his life to the development of the Park Brewery in Woodsetton.

Edwin Holden
Edwin Holden who, following his father's death in 1981, took the company forward and increased the brewery's tied estate.

Holden's Brewery Tour

The Hopper

Malt Mill

Mash Tun

The Copper

Brewer and Mash Tun

Gravity Test

Gravity Test

Fermenting Tank

Fermenting Tank

The Press

Yeast Store


Racking Area

Bottling Plant

Bottling Plant

Holden's Dray

Holden's Dray at the Bell at Trysull

Beer going in the Cellar Drop

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Public Bar Stained Glass

Woman Serving Beer

Brewery Buildings