Daniel Batham and Son Ltd.
The first beers made by the Batham family were produced by the home brewster Charlotte Billingham at Cradley Heath. According to the company's official history this was next to the Plough and Harrow on Corngreaves Road. With this printed information I had the romantic notion that, for a number of years I must have walked across the site of the building where she once brewed up. In the 1970s the land around the Plough and Harrow was derelict and folks would take a short cut behind the pub when walking along Corngreaves Road. In so doing I thought my footsteps probably passed along the former back garden of the Batham household and over the old brewhouse. The Plough and Harrow was still standing in the 21st century but was surrounded by modern factory units. However, forget all such nonsense as it really is nonsense. She did not live next to the Plough and Harrow at all.
There is an official history book for Batham's and was put together by John Richards in 1993. Although Charlotte Billingham is mentioned in the book, I think her contribution to the history of the brewery is not adequately emphasised. In fact, her photograph is not even featured within the pages. There are plenty of words on the family lineage of her husband Daniel Batham but the Billingham family is not examined in any detail. This is a serious oversight as Charlotte was part of an extended clan that had their fingers in many pies, including the metal and chain trade, along with farming, brewing and meat processing.
The family tradition is that Charlotte brewed up beers as a sideline to running a lodging house at Corngreaves close to the aforementioned Plough and Harrow. This is incorrect. Tracing the footsteps of the census enumerator in 1871, he set off from the Five Ways down what we know today as Grainger's Lane. After a matter of yards he came to the Railway Tavern kept by William Billingham - another member of the clan. This house would later be acquired by descendants. The enumerator continued down the hill and came to the Batham household eight houses BEFORE the Beehive Inn, a building that stood on the corner of Southgate, originally a cul-de-sac called Beehive Street. I have marked the location of the Batham household on the above map extract.
I have often wondered how Charlotte suddenly found a calling to home-brewing. However, when looking back at her roots I found that her uncle was Benjamin "Benny Fiddler" Billingham, landlord of the Bell Inn near the Five Ways at Cradley Heath. Living just down from "The Ways," Charlotte would have visited her uncle at the Bell Inn. She possibly learned the art of brewing from the man who was both farmer and brewer. Indeed, if her uncle was not influential in her fledgling brewing operation I would be most surprised. The ingredients probably came from the family malthouse which stood near the Five Ways until recent times.
Charlotte Billingham possibly met Daniel Batham in her uncle's pub. Or perhaps their paths crossed in Lomey Town where she lived with her parents in her teenage years. Daniel Batham was a coal miner and may have been engaged at the Whitehall Colliery which was close to Charlotte's home. She was the daughter of the chain-maker Joseph Billingham and his wife Susannah. Daniel was the son of Daniel Batham and Eliza Cartwright who had settled in Quarry Bank. It was there that their son Daniel Batham was born. He was baptised at St. Michael's Church at Brierley Hill in August 1842. It was a crowded household and the family's living conditions would have been poor.
Daniel Batham and Charlotte Billingham were married in April 1865 at St. Thomas's Church at Dudley. In 1871 the couple, along with their four year-old son Daniel, were living at the property shown in the map extract above. Daniel was still working as a miner at this time. Charlotte brought in additional household income by taking in lodgers. Three men were residing at their home in 1871 - shoemaker William Pegg, his son also named William who was a tailor, and the chainmaker Samson Attwood.
Working as a coal miner in the 19th century was not such a secure job and Daniel Batham was unemployed at the time of the census in 1881. By this time he and Charlotte were living across the county border at No.29 High Street in Cradley. They also had two more children, Amy and Ida. With Daniel being out of work, their 14 year-old son Daniel had to got out and earn an income working with tin plate. The family's cottage was next to the fishmonger's shop of Warwick Plant. The street has been re-numbered and two properties merged but I am reasonably sure the former cottage in which the Batham family lived is still standing.
The next chapter in the story of Daniel and Charlotte Batham is something of a curiosity. Somehow the couple raised the finance to take on the White Horse Inn on the High Street at Cradley. Were they helped by the Billingham family? They had two more children, Caleb and Dora, whilst running the White Horse Inn during the 1880s. It is likely that Charlotte imparted some of her brewing knowledge to her son Daniel. In the 1891 census he is documented as a brewer. The family ales were produced in an out-building behind the tavern. As sales grew, the brewery was improved. The ales were sold to other public-houses in the Black Country.
Succeeding the butcher John Attwood in 1882, Daniel Batham held the licence of the White Horse Inn for forty years. He died in July 1922. Charlotte predeceased him and passed away in September 1906 and was buried at St. Luke's Church on Four Ways in Cradley Heath.
The sale of the White Horse Inn after Daniel Batham's death shows that he had made a success of publican, property owner and proprietor of a developing brewery. The auction notice included other properties he had acquired in the local area. He also helped his eldest son Daniel to acquire the King William in Cole Street at Netherton.
Daniel Batham had married in July 1896 to Myra Detheridge. The daughter of a blacksmith, she hailed from Tipton. The official history by John Richards states that Daniel and Myra moved into the King William Inn after his father acquired the pub in 1904. This was no doubt the year in which the building was acquired, but the 1901 census shows that Daniel and Myra were running the place before this date. In 1901 Daniel was recorded as licensed victualler and brewer. The couple were assisted by Phoebe Detheridge, Myra's younger sister.
Daniel Batham brewed ales at the King William, though why the house was not supplied by the brewery at the White Horse is a puzzle. This was being operated by his brother Caleb who, following his marriage to Elizabeth Lee in 1907, made the short commute from their house at No.49 Cradley Road.
The Batham family were seemingly intertwined with the Attwoods. The White Horse Inn was once owned by the Attwood family, Harry Attwood kept the King William for a period, and Daniel Batham acquired the Vine Inn on The Delph which was owned by Caroline Fox née Attwood. This was in 1905 and gradually the brewing operation was transferred from the King William to the Vine Inn, particulary after rebuilding the pub and construction of a purpose-built small tower brewery.
Looking back, it would have made sense to consolidate the brewing at the Vine and retain the houses owned by the family. However, when Daniel senior died the family sold the White Horse Inn to Hezekiah Dunn. The chainmaker had been living next to the pub for many years and was a beneficiary in the will of Daniel senior. Following Myra Batham's death in 1920, Daniel sold the King William to Hanson's of Dudley and went into a period of retirement at the family home in Blakedown. The business, trading as Daniel Batham, was continued by the next generation, Arthur Joseph and Caleb William Batham.
During the inter-war years the company bought and sold houses in a curious manner. The trading name of Daniel Batham & Son emerged when Arthur Joseph Batham and his son, Daniel Jr., acquired the Royal Oak at Lye in 1923. However, this was sold seven years later. In 1926 the Bird-in-Hand at Oldswinford was acquired and, for a period, was run by Daniel Batham who came out of retirement. Also in 1926 the Brickmakers' Arms on the border of Lye and Amblecote was purchased. Both of these pubs would later be sold off due to a family dispute in which Daniel Batham raised the finances to buy out his brother Caleb's interest in the firm.
A third house was added to the estate in 1926 when the firm leased the Spread Eagle Inn at Brierley Hill. The company relinquished its interest in this building just after the Second World War. In 1931 the Fountain Inn at Quarry Bank was acquired but was sold two years later. The aforementioned Railway Tavern at Cradley Heath was operated by the brewery from 1932 but later transferred to Wolverhampton & Dudley Breweries Ltd.. Just before the war the family leased the Hare and Hounds at Broadwaters in Kidderminster. Acquiring the freehold in 1950, this pub remained within the estate for much longer. Indeed, I drank Batham's beer in this pub during the early 1990s. However, the Delph Brewery continued to buy and sell properties such as the Elephant and Castle at Quarry Bank. The firm even bought back the White Horse Inn before selling it to Wolverhampton & Dudley Breweries Ltd. in 1949.
As mentioned, a dispute between Daniel and Caleb Batham led to the sale of many of their pubs to larger breweries. However, the company was back into pub acquisitions again in the following decade when houses such as the Royal Exchange and Lamp Tavern were added to the estate. It was in 1951 that the really significant move was made. The Swan Inn at Chaddesley Corbett, which was acquired by the Trustees of King Henry VIII in 1927, was leased to Batham's on 27th July 1951. At that time the brewery only brewed traditional Black Country Mild. The locals of Chaddesley Corbett however were used to a paler drink and would have been up in arms were it not for the company introducing their first bitter to satisfy the palates of the North Worcestershire folk. And so Batham's Bitter was born. It took a long time but it was voted Champion Beer of Britain by CAMRA in 1991.
I am getting carried away with the public-houses and not talking about the people running the brewery. In the 1920s the firm was headed by Arthur Joseph, grandson of Daniel Batham and Charlotte Billingham. Born in 1897, he was injured in the First World War. The family history states that he served with the South Staffordshire Regiment, though there is a military record of Arthur Joseph Batham of Brierley Hill suffering a disability whilst with the East Yorkshire Regiment.
Following the war, Arthur was trained in brewing by Ross McKenzie, head brewer at Spreckley's at Barbourne in Worcester. He married his second cousin Doris Batham at Stourbridge in April 1925. Doris had previously worked as a teacher but seemingly took to the licensed trade like a duck to water. In 1939 she was recorded as a licensed house manager at the Vine Inn whilst Arthur was listed as brewer. Caleb Batham was still involved with the brewery and lived next next to the pub.
During the Second World War Arthur Batham discussed a merger with Joe Davies of the Wheelwright's Arms Brewery. The Netherton company operated around a dozen public-houses but made the decision to sell to Mitchell's and Butler's.
Daniel Bertram Batham, son of Arthur and Doris, joined the firm in 1951. Following his education at King Edward's Grammar School in Stourbridge, he studied Pure Science at the University of Edinburgh and, as a post-graduate, spent another 12 months at the Brewing School of Birmingham University. The application of science to the art of brewing at The Delph would have been a sight to behold for brewster Charlotte Billingham who had produced ales in the back yard of a lodging house in Cradley Heath.
The company almost amalgamated with Holden's during the 1950s but remained independent. The merger was mooted in order to reduce production costs with production being concentrated at Woodsetton.
In the 21st century the company is run by brothers Matthew and Tim, sons of Daniel Batham and Dorothy Turner. Under their stewardship, the brewery is in its fifth generation of family ownership, though the sixth generation are working at the brewery.
After 40 years service, head brewer Ken Smith retired in 2007. He was succeeded by Quarry Bank-born Martin Birch who started his brewing career with Watney's in 1978. He studied for his Diploma of Management Studies at Kingston Business School, and in 1984 passed his Master Brewer Examinations for the Institute of Brewing. Martin later became Head Brewer at Hanson's and then held several senior management positions with Wolverhampton & Dudley Breweries Ltd. Prior to joining Batham's he travelled throughout the UK in his role for Unilever as a Technical Consultant within the brewing industry. Despite all this travelling, Martin remained in the Black Country. When he took over as head brewer he remarked "I still have to pinch myself when I think how lucky I am to be brewing Batham's beer. It must be every local man's dream!" Personally, I think it was a great fit and that Matthew and Tim found the perfect candidate for the job.
Beers of Daniel Batham and Son Ltd.
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Related Newspaper Articles
"A Brierley Hill brewery toasted a moment in history as it celebrated the homecoming of the famous Bean. Family-run Batham's, of
Delph Road, which has been producing beers locally for five generations, propelled itself into the modern world when it brought its first Bean lorry back in 1928, while
others were still using horses and carts. But now the brewery is reliving history as it welcomed back a 1931 vehicle and held a celebratory homecoming event at Dudley's
Lamp Tavern pub. Bean trucks had been produced in the Black Country since 1919, but it is believed there are now only three that remain in existence. So when the historical
model went to auction in Dorset last year, brothers Matthew and Timothy Batham raced down to snap it up. Since the auction the Bean has been fully restored and is to
become a promotional aid for Batham's, destined for all sorts of events. Batham's director Matthew Batham said: "It has been fascinating recreating a
part of Batham's long history, and transforming the old Bean back into the beautiful vehicle it has become again." The Bean had previously led an exciting life
making numerous television appearances, but after being owned by British Rail in the 1980s and painted a forlorn brown, Stourbridge restorers S. W. Sheppard got to work
bringing it back to its former glory. A viewing garage has been created at The Lamp Tavern where enthusiasts can go and take a peek at the newly-transformed
"Brewery bosses toast the return of the Bean"
Stourbridge News : April 30th 2010.
I am not sure of the current situation in the brewery but, in December 2002, the company allowed me to traipse around the building which was closed to the public because of safety regulations. There was little room to move around and to provide brewery tours would have required moving stuff around and installing safety stairs and barriers. I suspect that it is the same these days so, to provide you with an insight of the production site, I am including a short gallery of photographs taken during my personal tour. I have placed the images in some sort of order that makes sense - in that the gallery starts at the top and out through the brewery doors with the brewery dray. If any image is all steamed up or looking messy it is because they were brewing and busy grafting.