History of William Butler & Co. Ltd. of the Springfield Brewery at Wolverhampton 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.



 

William Butler & Co. Ltd
William Butler & Co. Ltd

Some History on this Brewery
I took some photographs [top right in gallery above] of this brewery's site in the summer of 2004 when the old Springfield Brewery of William Butler and Co. Ltd. still stood but only as a sort of ghost town. Plans for a redevelopment of the extensive site were being mooted. It was hoped that some of the historic buildings would be retained and incorporated into the designs. Soon after the whole place went up in smoke - probably the result of yet another arson attack.

Butler's Strong Ale [c.1920's]          Butler's Light Pale Ale [c.1920's]

However, although this company is associated with Springfield, the story of William Butler goes back to Ettingshall near Bilston. He was born around 1815 in Ettingshall and it was in Priestfield that he first traded as a beer retailer. It was a very modest set-up with a shop for retail sales, no doubt operated by his wife Hannah, whilst William Butler brewed up at the rear of the premises. Legend has it that William Butler sold beers from a cart in and around Ettingshall. Although some public houses and beer houses bought casks of ale, it is claimed that William Butler sold smaller measures to the domestic market.

A successful brewing enterprise can only enjoy growth if the product is well-liked and in-demand. The initial brews by William Butler must have been popular as he was able to take on employees, the most important being a new head brewer who had to ensure continued high quality output. By 1861 William Butler was employing ten men. A trade directory for 1868 lists him as an ale and porter brewer and maltster at the Priestfield Brewery. In 1871 William Butler went into partnership with Thomas Russell, one assumes for an injection of capital into the business, though his new associate had experience in the trade for he had been involved with the Great Western brewery. The new business traded as William Butler and Company.

Butler's Extra Stout [c.1920's]          Butler's Amber Ale [1935]

The firm enjoyed continued growth but the increase in sales found the Priestfield site wanting. A new location was needed for the continued growth of the business. As the name suggests, Springfield had an abundance of water. The land had remained fairly undeveloped as the ground was quite marshy in places and it was also a source of clean water in earlier times. In 1873 the company acquired a seven acre site, partly bordering Grimstone Street and erected new brewery with maltings, cooperage and stables. Production commenced at Springfield during the following year.

Butler's Bitter Ale [c.1920's]          Butler's Molineux Ale [1949]

With the new brewery located close to the canal and railway lines, the company could begin to trade outside of the local area. The good communications could also make the acquisition of public houses in other areas a viable proposition. This opportunity was improved when the Great Western Railway extended a siding into the site which was continually expanding to cope with the success of the company. Between 1881-3 a new brewing tower was constructed, enabling William Butler and Company to increase production from 400 to 1,500 barrels a week.

William Butler's sons joined the company and, following the founder's death in 1893, the eldest, William Bailey Butler, took over the firm which had become a limited company two years earlier. W. B. Butler initiated an aggressive strategy of acquiring other breweries in order to increase the number of tied houses in which the company could retail their own products. A large number of small local breweries were bought out but the estate was increased significantly when they took over 42 public houses of the Bloxwich Brewery in 1925. The Cannock Brewery was also acquired in the same year which brought the tied houses of William Blencowe and Co. under their control. Further afield, the company bought Eley's of Stafford in 1928. The company were also busy in Shropshire and acquired Clarke's of Wellington just after the Second World War.

Butler's Bitter [1938]          Butler's All Malt Stout

The company continued to acquire breweries up until the late 1950's and this saw them become one of the largest regional brewers in the Midlands.  However, they themselves were the target of other large breweries in what is now seen as the period of takeover madness. In 1960 Mitchell's and Butler's acquired the company. The Cape Hill brewery kept the Springfield Brewery open. Indeed, during the late 1970's when I walked into a M&B pub I always ordered beers produced at the Springfield Brewery if they were available as I found them preferable to those brewed at Cape Hill. Brewing ceased around 1990 and the site was used simply as distribution centre. There were plans to develop the site as a retail park with the old buildings retained as landmarks. However, a fire destroyed much of the site in 2006.
All text and images © Copyright - click here for more information.

Related Newspaper Articles
"Mr. E. B. Thorneycroft [deputy coroner] resumed the enquiry at the Culwell Tavern. Bridge Street, yesterday, into the circumstances of the death of Samuel Fitchett [30], a drayman, in the employ of Messrs. Butler and Co., Springfield Brewery, whose body was found in a tank of water on the company's premises, under circumstances already reported. Mr. T. G. Greensill watched the proceedings on behalf of the deceased's relatives; and Mr. Overton [from the office of Messrs. Fowler and Langley] appeared for Messrs. Butler. Mr. Hoare, inspector of factories, also attended. Evidence was given, and a verdict of "accidental death" was returned, the jury adding a rider that there was not a proper fence round the tank, or sufficient light near to it.”
"Drowned at a Brewery"
Birmingham Daily Post
: December 16th 1891 Page 3.

"The late Mr William Butler, of Springfield Brewery, Wolverhampton, who died while on a visit to America for the benefit of his health, has bequeathed £10,000 for the benefit of the inhabitants of the borough. Five thousand pounds are to be devoted to providing a branch public reading room, and the interest on the remainder is to provide music for the public parks.”
"A Munificent Bequest"
Hull Daily Mail : September 20th 1893 Page 4.

Butler's Black Satin Sweet Stout [1954]            Butler's Old Ale [1931]

 

Delivery Cart of William Butler's Springfield Brewery [c.1912]

Brewery Poster for William Butler's Springfield Brewery [c.1900]

Breweries

Brewery Poster for William Butler's Springfield Brewery [c.1900]

Butler's All Malt Stout Poster [c.1953]

William Butler of the Springfield Brewery in Wolverhampton

Butler's Pride of the Midlands Playing Card [c.1950's]

Butler's Old Ale Unissued Beer Label [1959]

Butler's Strong Old Ale Unissued Beer Label [1957]

Butler's Brown Ale [1957]

Butler's Old Ale Unissued Beer Label [1959]

Butler's Pale Ale [1957]

Butler's Brown Ale [1957]

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.

Quotation
Kaiser Wilhelm
“Give me a woman who loves beer and I will conquer the world.”
Kaiser Wilhelm

Work in Progress

Click here to visit Digital Photographic Images

Butler's Brown Ale [1954]

Butler's Coronation Ale [1953]

Click here to follow on Twitter
Click here to visit the website's Facebook pages

Click here for more details

Beer and Pipe Smoker

Cheers!

The Young Barmaid by Charles Sillem Lidderdale

Beer is Best

Drinking Celebrations

Le Bock by Picasso [1901]

Drinking in the Snug

Barman

Click here for more details

Publican

Public Bar Stained Glass
 

Woman Serving Beer

Brewery Buildings