Atkinson's Brewery Ltd.
Founded as Atkinson's Brothers, this company was based at the Aston Park Brewery. Their legacy can still be found in the fabric of some Birmingham pubs and others the company constructed and/or operated further afield. Keen-eyed drinkers will notice the company's "Triple A" trademark on etched window panes or drainpipe heads of surviving public houses. The company operated taverns in the surrounding areas, particularly in the Black Country and Warwickshire.
This photograph was taken in the 1960s and shows the brewery tower of the former Atkinson's site in Aston. I do not know the exact date of the image. However, work on the Aston Expressway started in 1969 and passed over much of what can be seen in this photograph. The lorry in the foreground may be a Ford D-1000 and this model was introduced in 1967 so perhaps the image is from 1967-8.
I have read that this company was founded in 1855 but when looking for the Atkinson brothers in the census I found William and Frederic Atkinson sharing a house in Church Lane in 1881 and this indicates that William, the eldest of the brothers, was born in 1845 at Potton in Bedfordshire. His younger brother Frederic hailed from St. Neots in Huntingdonshire and was eight years his junior. This would suggest that they were too young to have founded a brewery in 1855. In 1881 they were both recorded as brewers and maltsters. They lived with their sister Mary who was also born in St. Neots.
The brothers were the sons of Frederick Atkinson and Kezia Masters. Their father was a wine, spirit, coal and timber merchant who had traded on the High Street in St Neots. William did not enter the family business and had to earn his own living by working for a corn merchant in Hitchin. The family later settled in Eaton Socon where William continued his work whilst younger brother Frederic served a professional apprenticeship.
It would appear that the Atkinson brothers came to Birmingham when the original Model Brewery founded by William Smith was sold off in 1878. The Atkinson brothers bought the brewery, maltings and the neighbouring Queen's Hotel, the tap house. William Smith's son Frederick remained at the brewery and worked for the Atkinson brothers for a period before establishing his own business at the nearby Victoria Brewery. The latter took the name of his father's Model Brewery whilst the brewery operated by the Atkinson brothers became the Aston Park Brewery.
William and Frederic Atkinson evidently operated a successful business and the firm grew steadily. They commissioned the Lancashire architects, Gregory and Haynes, to enlarge the brewery in 1885 which serviced a growing estate of tied houses. By the end of the 19th century, around eighty pubs and off licences were being supplied by Atkinson's ales. The firm became a limited company in the early 1890s and traded as Atkinson's Limited and, following a further launch of shares in 1898, became known as Atkinson's Brewery Ltd.
William Osborn Atkinson married Ethel Lucy Tapp, daughter of George Tapp who worked as an assistant to the Director General in the War Office. The couple lived at a house called Oaklands at Gravelly Hill. In 1889 Frederic married Alice Feaver Bown, daughter of a fairly prosperous farmer in Somerset. The couple initially lived in Church Lane before moving out to Hillside on Slade Road in Erdington.
William Atkinson died in 1905 and this would no doubt have had quite an impact on how the business was run. Frederic continued to work at the company but there was an increasing presence in the boardroom from the Horton family. William Horton had been a shareholder in the company from at least 1890. He was the son of Isaac Horton, the property developer who was responsible for the construction of both the Grand Hotel on Colmore Row and the Midland Hotel close to New Street Station.
Horton Estates Ltd. eventually acquired Atkinson's Brewery Ltd. and no doubt their capital strength, combined with their expertise in property acquisition and development, enabled the company to increase their tied estate of public houses in Birmingham and beyond. The company acquired Twist's Brewery Limited of Walsall in 1950 and this brought the estate to more than 360 licensed premises.
In 1958 Victor Horton married Edith Butler, a member of the family running the Mitchell's and Butler's empire. Almost inevitably, the conversation at the dinner table forged links between the two families and the subject of a merger and/or takeover was mooted. Two of the Horton family were appointed to the board of Mitchell's and Butler's who took over Atkinson's Brewery Ltd. in 1959. The Atkinson's brewery remained open for a short period but, following M&B's merger with Bass, Radcliff and Gretton in 1961 it was the end of the road for the Aston Park Brewery.
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'll post it here.