Ansell's Brewery Ltd.
Founded by Joseph Ansell in 1857, Ansell and Son were originally maltsters and hop merchants but moved into the brewing business in 1881. The company was founded by Birmingham-born Joseph Ansell [pictured below] who married Elizabeth Dawson in 1835 and the couple took over the Hope and Anchor, located in Fisher Street, Birmingham. Ironically, this pub would later form part of the Mitchell's and Butler's estate - the chief rival to Ansell's in later years!
Joseph and Elizabeth's had eight children. Thomas, Joseph, William, Alfred and Edward Ansell all spent their formative years at the Hope and Anchor. Presumably, Joseph Ansell made sufficient money at the beer house in order to set himself up in business. The 1861 census records the family residing on Aston's Lichfield Road where Joseph is listed as a maltster and hop merchant employing three men. Eldest son Thomas was involved in the family business but Joseph worked as a solicitor's clerk whilst William found employment as a gun finisher.
The family business occupied part of the site on which the large brewery would later be developed. The company enjoyed early success and was able to construct new malt houses in addition to acquiring a second site at Moseley. Increased business was achieved by including hop merchants as part of the partnership activities. Joseph's sons, William and Edward were able to join the business which became known as Ansell and Sons.
In modern business parlance known as "forward extension strategy," Ansell's made the decision to move into brewing in 1881. The family were renowned for their parsimonious conduct, taking the minimal drawings, preferring to reinvest capital into the business. Public-houses were acquired and these were supplied with the increasingly popular ales produced at Aston. Increased production required further maltings and, as can be seen from the letterhead below, the company had sites at Aston, Birchfields and Handsworth, along with operations in Moseley Road and Darwin Street.
Joseph Ansell died in 1885 and the role of senior partner passed to his son William. He and his brothers required more capital to keep pace with the company's growth which, by now, was accelerating. Moreover, they were keen to contest the race to win the majority of Birmingham's tied-house domain, a battle they were fighting with Mitchell's and Butler's and the Holt Brewery Company, plus a number of emerging brewing concerns such as Holder's
In 1889 the firm was converted into a limited company and registered as Joseph Ansell & Sons Ltd. with a share capital of £200,000. The joint managing directors of the new company were William Ansell of Wylde Green House and Edward Ansell of Chesterfield in Erdington, along with the head brewer James Edward Bowly of Birchfield.
Printed in The Times in April 1889, the prospectus stated that the "Company is formed for the purpose of taking over, carrying on, and extending the old-established, well-known, and rapidly increasing malting and brewing business of Messrs. Joseph Ansell and Sons, of the Aston Brewery, Aston, Birmingham. The Company will acquire the valuable and extensive freehold and modernly constructed brewery, plant, two freehold maltings, seven leasehold maltings, rolling stock, horses, stocks, book debts, loans, goodwill, and 96 freehold and leasehold public houses. The whole of the assets are free from mortgage and will be so taken over. In addition to the trade done with the tied houses, which is being largely and advantageously extended, 23 additional houses have been secured since the 30th September last, giving a total of 119 tied houses up to the present date, and the properties acquired by the Company are conveniently situated for delivery in Birmingham and the surrounding district. The brewery plant and malting premises are in the highest state of efficiency and repair, and are admirably adapted for extension. The brewery is within a mile and a half of the centre of Birmingham, and has for some time past been developing an increasing and valuable family trade, a branch of the business to which it is intended to give special attention. The Directors are of opinion there is ample scope for a large and profitable development in this department. There is an excellent supply of water obtained from an artesian well of great depth, and a second artesian well is nearly completed which will provide sufficient water to make the Brewery independent of any outside supply. Mr. William Ansell and Mr. Edward Ansell, who have been closely associated with the management of the business, the former for the past 25 years and the latter for the past 13 years, have undertaken to continue the management; Mr. William Ansell for three years, then continuing as a Director, and Mr. Edward Ansell for five years. Mr. J. E. Bowly, who for over six years has occupied the position of Head Brewer, will also act as joint Managing Director for five years. The Company will thus take over the whole of this profitable undertaking without any interruption of business and without any change in the present staff, this securing the same careful and energetic management which has hitherto made the business so prosperous."
Headed by William and Edward Ansell, the company enjoyed great success and went through considerable expansion. The brewery was continually enlarged and by 1901 their tied estate had grown to 388 licensed properties. A bottling plant and stores were constructed. The above illustration is taken from The Brewer's Journal published in September 1900. The picture was subtitled "New Brewery for Messrs. Ansell & Sons, Limited, Aston, Birmingham." The architects and consulting engineers were Inskipp & MacKenzie who were based in London's Bedford Row.
In 1901 the business was re-financed by creating a new company simply called Ansell's Brewery Ltd. and formed with an issued share and loan capital of £860,000. Three years later William Ansell died and Edward assumed the office of Chairman. He remained in charge until 1919 when he elected to resign in favour of his son Harry Clements Ansell. Pictured above in military uniform, Harry Clements Ansell served in Italy during the First World War. He was an officer in the Royal Army Service Corps. He had married Winifred Brown at Wigan in April 1909. The couple had four children. A keen sportsman, he died quite unexpectedly at the age of 41 in May 1920. As a result, his father had to resume the role of Chairman at Ansell's Brewery Ltd.
Colonel James Ashton Fairhurst, son-in-law to William Ansell took over as Chairman in 1923, the year in which Ansell's acquired Rushton's Brewery Ltd., a local competitor based at the Lion Brewery in Aston Road North. This takeover brought another 300 tied-houses under the control of Ansell's who by this stage operated a considerable estate of public-houses and off licences.
The first real foray into new trading territories occurred in 1929 when Ansell's acquired the historic Leamington brewery of Lucas & Co. Ltd. which added more than 120 tied houses to the Aston brewery's estate.
In 1934 the rival Holt Brewery Company was acquired, along with a tied estate of 250 public houses. This established Ansell's as one of the largest regional breweries in the UK.
Maintaining the standard and reputation of the company's beers became a key issue as the brewery was now supplying a vast estate of pubs. Walter Scott was the head brewer during this period and he is credited with an evolution of the taste that made the beers even more popular with drinkers. This was the period when "Ansell's - The Better Beer" became a key slogan and something of a trademark. The slogan was adopted in the painted livery of their tied estate. The company also adopted the squirrel trademark of the Holt Brewery Company.
It was Walter Scott who came up with the plan to rebuild the brewery and bottling stores. Backed by the Chairman and managing directors, it was decided that the company should proceed with a more modern approach to production and distribution. Work on the new brewery started in the mid-1930s but, due to the Second World War, the grand scheme was not finalised for some 20 years. By this time, the plans were superseded by an even more ambitious project and the buildings that form the basis of most Brummies' memory of Ansell's were completed in the company's centenary year.
Meanwhile, in 1946, the company acquired the business of William Jones & Son [Maltsters] Ltd. and five years later the Ordinary Share Capital of Lloyd's [Newport] Ltd. was acquired to enlarge the company's activities in South Wales. Ansell's had already become a major player in various parts of the Midlands but were now extending their reach to other areas of the UK.
The Chairman of the company towards the end of the Second World War was Arthur E. Wiley. He had married Vera Evaline Ansell at Tamworth in 1917. He was appointed following the death of Colonel J. A. Fairhurst in 1944. In what was called a "strengthening of the East and South-East perimeters of the Company's sales area," Ansell's acquired the Leicester Brewing & Malting Co. Ltd. in 1952, along with buying E. Brittain & Co. Ltd.
The company merged with Ind Coope & Allsopp and Tetley Walker to form Allied Breweries in 1961, the year in which G. W. Cornwell succeeded Arthur E. Wiley as managing director. Arthur E. Wiley continued as Chairman. Following a long line of industrial disputes, Ansell's Brewery, Aston Cross, Birmingham, closed in 1981. A limited range of the Ansell's brand of beer were later brewed at Burton-on-Trent as a subsidiary of the Carlsberg Tetley Group. Of course, the tangy taste of the Aston water, a key component of the ales, was missing and any self-respecting Ansell's Bitter Man finally elected to drink something else. Now and then I still see some horrific keg line dispensing liquid that purports to be an Ansell's beer. Thankfully, the old Aston brewers like James Bowly, Walter Scott and John Burton are not able to taste a beer that undermines everything they achieved.
Much of the information above was gleaned from a booklet produced for the company's centenary and this article would have ended with the last paragraph. However, I came across a copy of The Argosy magazine which provides some valuable information on the organisation of Ansell's following the formation of Allied Breweries. I have only ever come across one copy of this in-house publication. Dating from 1968, it was apparently the third issue of Volume 22. Where have all the other issues gone? It was rather like the Deerstalker magazine produced by Mitchell's and Butler's, though not quite as comprehensive. Anyway, here is the information I found within this valuable tome...
"Having held the positions since the formation of Allied Breweries in 1961, Sir Edward Thompson relinquished the appointments of Chairman and Chief Executive of Allied Breweries in 1968. He remained on the board in a consultative capacity. His successor was Sir Derek Pritchard who had held the post of Deputy Chairman of the Company. He moved into the chair on September 28th, the close of the group's financial year. The promotion compelled him to relinquish his Chairmanship of the British National Export Council in November of the same year. Around the same time, several top-level promotions within the Production Division were approved by the Ansell's Board of Directors following the tragically early death of the Head Brewer, John Burton. Former Technical Manager Arthur Derek Rudin was appointed Head Brewer. After war-time service with the RAF, during which he qualified as a pilot, Derek Rudin graduated from Birmingham University with first-class honours in industrial fermentation in 1949, and subsequently took a post-graduate brewing course. He started his practical brewing career at a brewery in Chesterfield in 1950, and subsequently joined the Brewing Industry Research Foundation at Nutfield, Redhill, Surrey, where he worked on various projects including continuous fermentation and hops. In 1959 he joined Ind Coope Ltd; at Burton-on-Trent as a research chemist, where he continued his work on hops and fermentation, and was, for a time, in charge of the pilot brewery. He was later appointed Quality Control Manager [Ale Breweries] before joining Ansell's in 1967 as Technical Manager.
During the same round of promotions, former Administrative Manager John Walker was appointed Industrial Manager. He had also joined Ansell's from Ind Coope. In 1961 he went to Aston as Work Study Manager and was appointed Production Co-ordinator in 1965. In 1967 he was appointed Administrative Manager [Production]. He was also a director of Grants of St. James [Midlands] Ltd., a member of the Brewery Joint Consultative Committee and of the Marketing and Retail Sales Committee. He had originally joined Ind Coope's Engineering Department in 1948. Later he worked with consultants on work study for Ind Coope and at the time he joined Ansell's he was Senior Work Study Officer at the Burton Brewery.
John Ensor was promoted to Production Controller. He was a member of a family associated with Ansell's since the First World War. He joined the Company in July 1949 after war service and a three year Diploma course at the British School of Malting and Brewing, Birmingham University. Earlier he had gone straight from Queen Mary's Grammar School, Walsall, into the Army and was wounded in 1945 after serving in the Normandy invasion, and later in Holland and Belgium with the Royal Armoured Corps. For ten years after joining Ansell's, John Ensor was a shift brewer and after going on to day work he looked after the loading decks, cellars and racking before taking over malts and materials from his father, Mr. H. D. Ensor, when the latter retired in 1964 after 49 years service as a shift and day brewer. Subsequently, John Ensor had charge of brewing and fermentation before being appointed second brewer to John Burton in 1967.
At 27, David Cox was the youngest in this bout of senior promotions when he was appointed Brewer in Charge, No.1 Brewery. He was an old boy of Handsworth Grammar School, and gained a B.Sc., in applied bio-chemistry at Birmingham University and subsequently the Diploma in malting and brewing from the School of Malting and Brewing. He joined Ansell's in October 1963 as a technical brewer and earlier in 1968 became a member of the three-man Brewery Development Section following a spell as Brewer in Charge, No.2 Brewery. John Gilkes took over the post Bernard Easthope, Chief Cellar Inspector. He joined Ansell's after the Second World War after service in the Royal Navy. He began in the cask office, subsequently transferred to Accounts and joined the Cellar Inspection Department in 1953. His predecessor, Bernard Easthope, will not be popular with cask ale devotees - he saw the first keg beer installation put into an Ansell's pub. He originally joined Ansell's in 1933 as assistant to his father, then Head Maltster. Following the Second World War, he was manager of the Birmingham and Leamington maltings under Mr. Tamplin. Subsequently, he took charge of the Cellar Inspection Department and was closely involved with bulk beer installation work."
Centenary Board of Directors
In 1957 Ansell's Brewery celebrated their centenary and I have some photographs of the Board of Directors in this year. The quality of the prints are not great but I have reproduced them at a size that will display reasonably ....
On the left is the Chairman Athur E. Whiley and on the right is Vice-Chairman Walter Scott. They held the post of joint-managing director and steered the company through a succesful period following the Second World War. I think that Walter Scott may have died during the centenary year. Arthur Wiley held the post of Chairman from 1944 to 1961.
The left-hand image is a photograph of Major H. P. Rushton who sat on the board. He was a well-known field sports competitor and was often featured in newspapers following hunt meetings or point-to-point races. He lived at Phepson Manor at Himbleton near Droitwich. The right-hand photograph is that of Robert E. Ansell, great-grandson of the company's founder. Around the brewery he was affectionately known as Mr. Bob.
On the left here is G. W. Cornwell who was appointed managing director in October 1961. The right-hand image is that of J. Gordon. Swanson who was once Deputy Chairman. Other members of the board at this time were E. Foster, J. W. Scott, D. R. Tamplin and J. A. Gopsill
In 1950 when extensions to the brewery were commenced, the company gathered together various items and buried them in the foundations. They were placed in a container which was both airtight and acid-resisting. The plans for the new building were included, along with 1940s Reports of the Directors with Balance Sheets. The container also featured bank notes, newspapers, point-of-sale material and a tub of malt. Two glasses and metal tray were included, along with bottles of beer in production at this time. These included Pioneer Pale Ale, Tonic Stout, Medium Mild Brown Ale, Strong Stout, Strong Ale and Special Pale Ale. Two bottles of cider were also added to the container.
Information on Beers
In 1957 the range of beers produced at the Aston Brewery was simple - bitter and mild! Well, on draught at least. However, there were more beers available in bottles. Special was the company's flagship bitter in a bottle. Newcrest was a sweet stout. Nut Brown Ale was a popular light mild ale. Spotlight was described as a bitter of distinction. And, finally, Tomic was a rich, full-flavoured stout.
Ansell's initiated a three month Summer Campaign in 1968 to launch their new Light Ale. The campaign was staged on both television and posters. Production of Ansell's Light Ale, a product formerly brewed at Burton-on-Trent and marketed in the Midlands by Ind Coope, was transferred to Aston and marketed by Ansell's within their own trading area. A poster represented the theme adopted for both the small screen and hoardings. Another report during the early autumn of 1968 concerned Ansells' maltsters, William Jones and Son [Maltsters] Ltd. The firm had doubled the drying capacity of barley drying at their Shrewsbury plant. This was achieved by the installation of a continuous tower drier of Swedish manufacture. Apparently, there was no British equivalent. The drier, replacing drum driers, three of which were originally retorifying drums from the brewery, became necessary to meet increased production and the consequential need to increase the intake speed of barley at harvest time. The drier, was fed via a pre-cleaner. The grain was dried by indirectly heated air drawn by a 50 h.p. fan through heat exchangers at varying levels and finally cooled in the bottom section before storage and maturation. The new method had the advantage of preventing damage to the vitality of the grain. Work on the drier began immediately after the 1967 crop had been dried and was completed in time for the 1968 season.
Have Your Say
If you would like to share any further information on this brewery - perhaps you knew somebody who worked here? Whatever the reason it would be great to hear of your stories. Simply send a message and I will post it here.
A Tour of Ansell's Brewery
I have enough photographs of Ansell's Brewery to put together an online tour of the buildings and what went on inside.
The tour may as well kick-off with a view that many people are familiar with. This is the offices of Ansell's Brewery as seen from Aston Road North not long after the building was completed.
Gate No.5 was also used as the entrance for employees of the Brewer's offices. Here can be seen some beer tankers awaiting filling. The fermentation block can also be seen, along with one of the chimneys for the power house.
The reception or 'posh' entrance would have been for those visiting the brewery on business, along, of course, for the management of the brewery. There was a commissionaire to open the door and doff his cap to important guests and a receptionist who probably had telephone duties. Check out the inlaid Ansell's logo in the floor.
Ansell's employed an army in the offices with people undertaking tasks that can all be done by computers nowadays. Here we can see lots of employees in the Hollerith Department - if you don't know that term then look it up to see how things were done by machines back in the day. It will not be surprising to learn that the inventor's company would eventually become IBM.
The Accounting Machine Room is another part of the brewery that probably would have been replaced by a single Excel spreadsheet operator. Computers eh?
There seems to be more men in this area of the office - only one young woman sat at the back on her own. Hopefully, the workplace would be more balanced these days.
The large barley storage silos that were probably seen as quite vanguard at the time. The structure almost looks like a tower block designed by Le Corbusier. The silos had a capacity of 2,000 tons.
The water used at the brewery was sourced from artesian wells on the site at Aston. The water was stored in a huge glazed brick vessel, with a capacity of approximately 54,000 gallons. The vessel had the appearance of a large swimming bath.
Barley germinating on the malting floor. Long since superseded, this was the traditional method for preparing barley for the production of beer. This was how Joseph Ansell first started in the brewing industry.
One of a battery of rotating drums for drying barley by hot air. Ansell's were one of the first regional brewers in the UK to adopt modern machinery that facilitated increased production.
This is part of what was described as one of the largest malt curing kilns in Europe and shows the automatic floor turner in the background. It was harder work in the old days and the malt had to be turned over manually by trudging up and down the floor [see below].
This image shows the old routine before the dedicated silo block was installed. Here two men are tipping malt from the brewery's malt store, a room which retained a floating stock of 450 tons.
Again, this is looking at the older brewery set-. The men tipping malt from the store were emptying sacks into one of the malt mills. These machines ground the malt into a grist immediately preceding actual use in the brewing process.
Following its processing in the malt mill whereby the malt was ground for brewing, the mash known as grist was fed into grist bins. These were positioned above the mash tuns. It would seem that a key component of the process was being the prodding with a stick!
A battery of screens that were installed at the Aston Brewery in order to remove dust and damaged corns, but also acting as a cleaner for the malt. The company liked to boast "if a man shall light upon a purer drink, or one brewed under more hygienic conditions or from more wholesome materials, let him congratulate himself on having discovered the very nectar of the gods, for it is indeed no earthly drink that he has!"
In this photograph of the 'improved' brewery of the mid-1950s, one can see the malt sacks that had been filled from the storage silos, the bottoms of which are visible. You can get a idea of the scale of production at Ansell's in these images.
Unloading sacks of malt at the brewery - though I am not sure why this was not a more integrated process. Lumping the sacks around on site in a lorry rather than, say, a conveyor belt seems to be incongruous with the advanced processes they had implemented at the brewery.
Clean malt was transferred to the malt mill at Ansell's. This was sited in a dedicated malt room. Once crushed the grist was then mixed with water from the brewery's artesian wells that, as mentioned, was stored in a glazed brick vessel of approximately 54,000 gallons.
This image of the malt bins at Ansell's shows the scale of production at the brewery. I have seen malt bins in small breweries and they are indeed quite modest - check out the size of these next to the supervisor monitoring the process. It was from these bins that the malt grist was carefully funnelled into the mash tun.
This images shows the mash tuns used the post-war years. Indeed, these had been used for many decades. The employees can be seen working within a cramped environment and are stood on crates to look into the mash tun and other machinery. It is interesting to compare this with the post-modernisation images below.
A brewer inspecting a mash tun in what looks like a more scientific environment. From the malt bins the grist was carefully mixed with the well water at an accurately controlled temperature. The resultant porridge-like mash flowed into mash tuns where all the goodness was extracted from the malt grist, in the form of a rich liquid malt extract known as Wort. The mash tuns at Ansell's contained approximately 30 tons of mashed malt grist.
This image goes back to the old days when operating the mash tun was a much harder task and involved a deal of physical effort. Of course, modern brewers of 21st century microbreweries still have to get their hands dirty. It is interesting to note that the brewers wore white coats after the brewery was modernised and the process more mechanical. In this image the outlet of the masher is being swung out of the mash tun after mixing about 90 tons of malt and water.
Before looking at the clinical Copper Room of the 'improved' brewery it is worth taking a look at the old set-up which looked more 'industrial.' In this image the man at the rear is adding hops through the so-called manhole.
As we are getting to the part where hops are being introduced to the brew, we better return to the hop store seen here around 1950 where a blend of hops is being prepared by three employees. Again, the process looks less scientific - the blend being measured by hand, though the man in charge of the store no doubt had a great deal of experience.
A view of the 'new' copper rooms at Ansell's Brewery. The Wort from the mash tun was transferred to the copper. However, not all the malt grist is soluble in water, but only certain constituents form the solution of malt extract or wort. That portion of the malt which remained undissolved was retained by the slotted false bottoms of the mash tuns and used for cattle feed.
Another view of the copper rooms at Ansell's Brewery. The wort from the mash tuns was run off to coppers, where hops and sugar were added prior to two hours of boiling. Each of the gleaming coppers, or huge steam pressure vessels, were capable of boiling up to 10,800 gallons of wort at one boiling. This meant that more than 86,000 pints of wort could be boiled in one vessel - and the company had more than just the one! The boil is an effective sterilising process and, in addition, extracts the valuable bitter and preservative properties from the hops.
After boiling in the copper the "hopped wort" was discharged into vessels known as "Hop Backs." These were somewhat similar in design to the mash tuns having slotted false bottoms which retained the hops from which the brewing value had been extracted, but allowed the Wort to filter through. The "Hopped Wort," which had reached near boiling point, had to be cooled artificially before fermentation could commence. This was achieved by means of coolers. The stainless steel coolers at Ansell's were each capable of cooling over 4,000 gallons of hopped wort per hour.
This is a view of the older wort refrigerators used at the brewery. The process was the same but no doubt less efficient than the replacement equipment installed in the 1950s. In both cases however, the air in the cooling room was free from atmospheric impurities, being supplied by a special Pure Air Plant. This helped to maintain the purity of the wort. A good part of the brewery to work, especially for somebody with asthma!
After cooling to 60 degrees Fahrenheit the wort was collected in large tanks, also known as Excise Gauged Collecting Vessels. It was there that the amount of duty payable was assessed, the exact quantity and strength being ascertained by the "Dip and Gravity" of the liquid. A precise amount of yeast was then added to the wort before being dropped down one floor into large fermenting vessels.
Once the fermenting vessels were filled carbon dioxide was liberated and alcohol was formed by the action of the yeast, whilst at the same time the yeast multiplied itself some six or seven times. Thus a brewery constantly produces much more yeast than is actually required for brewing. If you are wondering where some of this goes start thinking Marmite! Here you can see an Ansell's employee checking the temperature of a fermentation in the company's once-famous yeast propagation and fermenting rooms. Many of the vessels at the Aston brewery were capable of holding over 22,000 gallons of beer.
Two men can be seen here skimming the yeast towards the vacuum pipe which removed the yeast from the fermenting vessel. Vacuum yeast skimming was originated at Ansell's and the process was adopted at most major breweries in the UK. Selected yeast was stored in enclosed glass-lined vessels at a cold temperature until required for the next brewing. Surplus yeast was sold for medicinal purposes, special flavourings and food being wholly or partly composed of Brewers' yeast on account of its rich vitamin content. You've just got to love that Marmite! As for brewers, yeast is the gift that just keeps on giving.
Once separated from the fermentation vessels the yeast, some six or seven times greater in quantity than that originally added to the brew. Ansell's were the first to use the Scott's Yeast Pressing system, and this was adopted in most major breweries in the UK. Here two men can be seen dressing the yeast press with filter clothes before pressing the yeast into dry cakes.
When the fermenting process was sufficiently advanced the beers were run from the fermentation vessels into settling tanks, from which the casks were filled after an additional quantity of hops were added. In the background of this photograph, you can see casks being filled from the settling tanks. In the foreground hops are being added to each cask in a task known as final dry hopping. This imparted extra hop aroma to the beers made at Ansell's.
Ansell's were one of the first regional brewers to install an automated cask washing system. In these photographs operators can be seen feeding casks onto the first jet of the machine. The casks were later sterilised by steam cleaning before being dried, inspected and being refilled. After being refilled, each cask was allowed time to condition and mature, the period it remained in store was determined by weather conditions and the type of brew.
Here you can see an Ansell's employee rolling a cask into position within one of the conditioning cellars at the brewery. There were four large cellars at Ansell's where casks could be rested during secondary fermentation. Each of the cellars had a floor space capable of holding 1,000 barrels so that a double stack in each cellar provided storage for 8,000 barrels - more than a quarter of a million gallons. The temperature in the cellars was carefully regulated in order that maturing took place in ideal conditions.
Did this man have the best job at Ansell's Brewery? He was stretchered home every night groaning "no more beer - my head's banging." I am kidding of course - ale tasting was a serious business and one had to be diligent in one's duty! Coincident with the storage of the casks in the cellars, a sample of each brew was taken to the Sample Room, where it was regularly tested and its progress carefully noted.
Of course, the brewery couldn't simply rely on Bert giving the beer a nod. Each brew was scientifically tested before being sent out. The beers were rigorously subjected to a thorough examination at all stages of their life, by the chemists working in the laboratories. When they decided a beer was perfectly conditioned, it was brought up to the loading decks for despatch.
In later years the brewing process became more automated and here one can see the control panel being operated by one person. Brewing by numbers or the appliance of science? Of course, it was still necessary to have people in the brewery for a number of tasks.
Ansell's didn't use their resources at the brewery ensuring the beer was perfect only to allow the product to be ruined in the retailing of the liquid. They trained their managers in how to store and dispense ale to the customer so that it remained "the better beer." This photograph was taken in one of the pub's owned by the company - frustratingly I do not know the particular location. However, Ansell's were keen to show off the latest air-conditioning and hygiene standards in their cellars.
So far, the brewery tour has concentrated on the making of draught ale. However, many of the same processes were used in the production of bottled beer, a key market for Ansell's Brewery.
One can just about see two men in this photograph, the employees provide a sense of scale of the cold storage tanks for beers sold in bottles. A dedicated compressor room at the Aston Brewery provided the refrigeration requirements of the bottling stores where the cold storage tanks held 110,000 gallons of chilled beers.
The beers produced for bottles followed the same course as draught beer up to the fermentation stage. At that point, instead of being run into the settling tanks, these batches were sent to glass-lined steel tanks for natural conditioning. The beers were then chilled prior to filtration, a process used by the brewery to ensure a clear, sparkling drink in the bottle. In this image you can see two employees preparing a stainless steel beer filter.
Now it is time to have a look at the bottling section of the brewery. I imagine this was quite a noisy place in which to work and it would appear that there were no ear defenders issued to the employees! They possibly had cotton wool bunged in. In this image you can see the bottle washing machine in action. The unpacker could lift six dozen dirty bottles at a time from their cases to feed the intake of the bottle washing machine. The washing process took twenty minutes.
This image shows one of several bottling lines, where the bottles were automatically removed from their wooden cases and fed into the washer [see above]. On leaving the washer the bottles were examined in front of lights and then passed on to the filling machine, Crown stoppering machine, labelling machine and finally being deposited into the empty crates from which they were taken. The crates were then conveyed to the stock rooms. The filling and crowning machine had an output of 19,200 bottles per hour.
Despite the mechanisation of the bottling process, they still had to have somebody checking the labelling was correct and that the crates were packed properly before they continued along the conveyor belt. I presume the young man was a fitter or engineer who kept the whole thing rolling along - or was on hand to fix it should the line come to a halt.
Imagine being at the end of this relentless conyeyor belt and being responsible for stacking the crates without causing a log-jam. Hard work I imagine for somebody, though good for the pecs! The image below show the bottled beer stock room in the years immediately after the Second World War. The process looks the same but housed in an older building.
This is another bottling section within the brewery, though the women here are working with wines and spirits. Ansell's supplied the trade with their own branded whiskies, wines, ports and sherry. To the rear you can see some of the 1,000 gallon storage tanks used for these drinks. The company were also noted for their squashes and cordials.
This was one of several port cellars at the brewery. Ansell's also held large stocks of rum, sherries and wines. Ansell's Scottish Glen and Bonnie Scotland brands were blended especially for their trade and stored for many years in bonded warehouses. The brewery also blended Silverstream and London gins.
Ansell's also did good trade in cider, particularly with their own Gold Seal labelled product. This was produced in the company's factory in Herefordshire. I would think that this was transported by tanker to the Aston brewery for processing. In this image employees are filling casks with draught cider.
A view of some of the cider blending vessels used by Ansell's. The company also had a series of 10,000 gallon maturing vessels dedicated to cider.
Two views of the squash bottling line in which it seems the women did the work and the men simply watched!
Ansell's claimed to have installed one of the most modern Industrial Power Houses in the country. This was in order to ensure a constant supply of steam and electricity for the brewing process which was conducted 24 hours per day and seven days per week.
And just in case things went pear-s the brewery had this 600 h.p. 400 kilowatt Stand-by Diesel Generator. I wonder if this was put into action during the power cuts of the early-mid 1970s?
By the mid-1950s Ansell's had an extensive fleet of vehicles to maintain the large delivery schedule. The company had a fleet of 250 vehicles, ranging from 8cwt vans to eight wheelers. 90 cars were also used for administration and supervision. The heavier vehicles were maintained at Witton Garage, light vans and cars were serviced on the third floor at the Park Road main building, access to which was by means of ramped runways inside the building. In the above image, the brewery have set up a photo-shoot of a dray and tanker outside the Boar's Head at Perry Barr.
Related Newspaper Articles
"As a result of discussions which have now reached an advanced stage, the boards of Ind Coope Limited, Tetley Walker Limited and Ansell's
Brewery Limited, have come to the conclusion that the development of the Companies' regional and national businesses and assets in closer association should have
substantial growth benefits for the Shareholders of all three Companies. They are convinced that this association, by providing improved amenities and wider choice of
beers within the Group, through the pooling of management and production techniques, and through mutually satisfactory trading arrangements with other Groups and Companies,
would at the same time afford a better service to their customers. It is envisaged that the association would take the form of a merger through the medium of a new Holding
Company which would make offers to acquire the whole of the issued share capital of each of the constituent companies by means of an exchange of shares. The constituent
companies would continue to operate under their own Boards, with their own managements and staff, and would within their own spheres continue to develop their resources
in the way best suited to the Group as a whole. It is intended, subject to the approval of the Board of Trade, that the name of the Holding Company should be Ind Coope,
Tetley Ansell Limited, and that its Board, under the Chairmanship of Mr. Edward Thompson and with Lord Brocket and Mr. A. E. Wiley as Joint Vice-Chairmen, should,
including these three, consist initially of eleven members, of whom five would be from Ind Coope and three each from Tetley Walker and Ansell's. It is hoped to
announce the full terms of merger shortly, when formal offers will be submitted to Shareholders by Baring Brothers & Co. Limited."
Birmingham Daily Post : March 30th 1961 Page 30
"Following a short illness, Lieut.-Col. J. A. Fairhurst, chairman and joint managing director of Ansell's Brewery, Ltd., died on
Saturday, at his residence, Arlington Manor, Newbury, aged 76. He was High Sheriff for Berkshire in 1923, and was a Deputy Lieutenant for the county. Lieutenant-Col.
Fairhurst married a daughter of Mr. William Ansell, J.P. of Wylde Green. He succeeded the late Ald. Edward Ansell as chairman of Ansell's Brewery, Ltd., some years
ago and his son, Capt. Fairhurst, is also a director of the company. Educated at Rugby and Jesus College, Cambridge, he took his M.A. in 1892, and the same year became
a barrister of the Inner Temple. A keen sportsman, he had some racehorses, mainly steeplechasers, in training at Marlborough with E. G. Pease."
"Ansell's Brewery Chief Dies"
Evening Despatch : January 10th 1944 Page 4
"The licensee of an Ansell's public house in Walsall, who has been selling lager supplied by Mitchell's and Butler's, is to
explain his actions to a director of his brewery this week. The licensee, Mr. Leslie Bent, of the New Inn, Walsall, decided to buy a few barrels of Mitchell's and
Butler's lager when supplies of the Ansell's lager ran out because of a dispute over deliveries from Allied Breweries, Burton-upon-Trent. After a meeting
of senior executives of Ansell's Brewery, a spokesman said: "This is part of a larger problem - the ban on the delivery of national brands - and we
have no further comment to make at present, except to say that the licensee involved will be interviewed by a director this week." Mr. Kenneth Bradley. chairman of
the Transport and General Workers' Union branch at Ansell's Brewery said that Mr. Bent had not been deprived of supplies. He added that the union members were
irate at Mr. Bent's actions, but were prepared to wait and see what action the management would take before they took any action themselves. "We could make his
public house go dry if we put him on our black list," said Mr. Bradley. Mr. Bent declined to comment on the matter last night."
"Director to Question Licensee"
Birmingham Daily Post : August 3rd 1971 Page 14
"Mr. Robert E. Ansell, of the Birmingham brewery, has retired. His retirement has ended the Ansell link in the firm founded by his
great-grandfather. Mr. Ansell, aged 56, has retired on medical advice following a severe heart attack 18 months ago. He will now concentrate his energy on his
400-acre farm at Upper Billesley, near Stratford-on-Avon. His family have been closely involved in the running and development of the business since Joseph
Ansell founded the company 117 years ago. Until 1901 a it was a private concern but since it went public in the last year of Queen Victoria's reign there has been
an Ansell on the board of directors. Mr. Robert Ansell began his career with the family brewery nearly 38 years ago. A year as a stock-taker saw him become well known at
the company's public houses. After war service as a Royal Artillery officer he rejoined Ansell's in 1945. In 1950 he was given the task of forming Ansell's
free trade department and saw beer sales to clubs and free houses grow from a few hundred barrels to many thousands a week. After the formation of Allied Breweries, Mr.
Ansell transferred to the wines and spirits side of the business as chairman of both Grants of St. James's [Midlands] and Grants of St. James's [South
Wales]. In 1969, after the group's. major reorganisation, he returned to Ansell's as director with special responsibilities towards tenants."
"Brewery's Ansell Era Ends"
Coventry Evening Telegraph : October 4th 1974 Page 34
"A deal affecting two well-known Midland breweries was completed yesterday, when it was announced that the business of Lucas and Co. Ltd.
[Leamington Brewery], had been sold to Ansell's Brewery, Ltd., of Birmingham. The issued capital of Ansell's is £950,000, of which £600,000 is
in ordinary shares and £350,000 in 5 per cent. cumulative preference shares, all of £5 each. For the past two years a dividend of 12½ per cent. and a bonus
of 2½ per cent. have been paid each time. The authorised capital of Lucas and Co. Ltd., is £175,000, in shares of £10 each. £75,000 being 5 per cent.
cumulative preference and £100,000 ordinary."
"Big Brewery Fusion"
Birmingham Daily Gazette : October 12th 1928 Page 8
"Ansell's Brewery have appointed it personnel manager to maintain good relations between the brewery and its 900 public house managers.
Mr. Brian Swindeil, who is 36, has joined the Midlands-based sales and marketing company for Allied Breweries from Tetley in Leeds to head a new Ansell regional
personnel department at Aston Cross. He is directly responsible to Mr. John Guest, the Ansell's chief executive, for all personnel functions relating to the
Ansell's commercial staff, with particular reference to the company's relations with its licensee managers and their representative organisations. He is already
taking part in top-level meetings concerning company public house managers matters and will gradually assume an increasing role. Mr. Swindell joined Allied Breweries
with Tetley's in 1971 when he went to Leeds as personnel officer [staff] working on both the marketing and production sides of the company. In July last
year he was appointed personnel officer, Joshua Tetley, covering the northern region. A Midlander by birth - he is a native of Mickleover, a Derby suburb, Mr.
Swindell left school to join Rolls-Royce in Derby. National Service followed a five-year apprenticeship and he returned to Rolls-Royce in 1961 to transfer
from engineering into group management services. Two years later he moved into personnel administration. He became personnel officer for the aero engine division's
engine test establishment, later transferring to the company's nuclear division."
"Brewery Appoint 'Link' Man"
Coventry Evening Telegraph : February 11th 1974 Page 6