Wolverhampton & Dudley Breweries Ltd.
This company was based at the Park Brewery, the home of Banks's beer. The origins of the Park Brewery at Wolverhampton go back to the mid-1870s. However, one of the founders, Thomas Banks, had established a maltings during the 1840s further out of the town at Newbridge near Tettenhall. It would appear that he first specialised as a chemist and had a shop in Darlington Street in the early 1840s.
The census of 1851 records Thomas Banks as a druggist and maltster living at Eagle Terrace on the Tettenhall Road. He employed three men in the business. He married Penn-born Frances Harris in 1834 and the couple had four children. It may have been their son Henry who first branched into brewing beer. He was later recorded as a brewer and maltster. Younger son John Banks was also documented as a brewer. Another son Thomas seemed to concentrate on the retail side of the trade and was a licensed victualler.
Served by an excellent artesian well, the Park Brewery was established at Chapel Ash in 1875 by Thomas Banks, along with his son Henry and two employees. The brewery was relatively successful but fairly modest in scale. However, growth did occur and by the early 1880s Henry Banks was recorded as a brewer and maltster employing 13 men. Henry, it would seem, was the driving force behind the company as his father had retired by this time.
In attempting to grow the business and in order to secure outlets for any increase in brewing capacity, it is possible that the company stretched itself too far. It was reported that, by the end of the 1880s, the company had large debts. Despite the fact that the firm was producing its own malt, one of the creditors was to the maltster George Thompson of the Dudley and Victoria Breweries. Apparently, he extended credit to the Park Brewery but this was secured against the business at Chapel Ash. Almost inevitably this led to George Thompson taking control of the company.
George Thompson had already exhibited great business acumen in his handling of the brewery at Dudley. Perhaps he was hard-nosed. He certainly seemed to have an eye for a going concern that was floundering and he was able to steer the companies back on track. In 1889-90 he merged three businesses to take all of them forward. And so, in the Spring of 1890 Wolverhampton and Dudley Breweries Ltd. was formed as a public company from an amalgamation of three local brewing businesses:- Banks's of Park Brewery, George Thompson and Sons of Dudley, and Charles Colonel Smith of the Fox Brewery in Wolverhampton.
The prospectus publicised that the three breweries had 193 outlets for their beers. It is interesting to note that it is the Banks's beers that have endured rather than those produced at the other breweries, a testament to the labour and endeavour of the Banks family.
Edwin John Thompson succeeded his father at the helm of the company. The Park Brewery was expanded in order to concentrate production on one site. The growth of the company's tied estate came as a result of acquiring other breweries. The North Worcestershire Breweries Ltd. at Stourbridge was acquired in 1910. John Rolinson & Son Ltd. at Netherton was also bought when that company fell into difficulties. In 1913 Bucknall's Brewery, trading as the Kidderminster Brewery Co. Ltd. was taken over. Another Worcestershire brewery to be bought out was that of Robert Allen & Co. Ltd. at the Barbourne Brewery in Worcester who were acquired in 1928.
In terms of local rivals and public houses within the Black Country, the company's most significant brewery purchase came in 1942, when it acquired Julia Hanson & Sons Ltd. of Dudley. Not only did this bring the popular Hanson's beers under the company's portfolio, it vastly increased the estate of Black Country pubs. At one time around 85 per cent of the company's tied houses were within a 20 mile radius of the Park Brewery.
Like many large regional breweries, Wolverhampton and Dudley Breweries Ltd. expanded into other products during the 1960's, particularly with the distribution of Romanoff vodka and licensing the Harp lager brand which, during the 1970s, was introduced to the counters of most of the company's tied houses. With lager sales catching on, the company added Kronenbourg to their portfolio of products.
The company grew to become one of the largest independent regional brewers. Floated on the stock exchange in 1964, by 1990, under the leadership of David Thompson, W&DB controlled 800 tied houses, the most recent of which were bought from Watney Mann.
Other breweries were acquired, notably Mansfield and Cameron's. The prized purchase was that of Marston, Thompson and Evershed of Burton-on-Trent, acquired for £292 million in February 1999 with an estate of 918 pubs. By the end of the millennium W&DB were controlling 2,300 pubs making it the largest regional brewer in the country. However, in 2001 the whole group was thrown into confusion when Pubmaster made a £453m hostile bid to takeover the company. Shareholders had to vote on this and the brewery only just about held on to its position. It was still bad news for some when rationalisation was forced - the Mansfield Brewery was closed and production was shifted to Wolverhampton in 2001. Cameron's was sold to Castle Eden in April 2002. In 2005 the company acquired Jennings Brewery and two years later they also acquired the Ringwood Brewery.
In 2007 the company changed to Marston's plc.
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Related Newspaper Articles
"Wolverhampton & Dudley Breweries has bought a chain of pubs for more than £43 million. The brewing and pubs giant has acquired
Celtic, which has 70 community pubs based mainly in South Wales, including 21 in southern England. Ralph Findlay, chief executive of the Wolverhampton-based Banks's
brewer, said: "The acquisition represents good value for our share-holders. Celtic has a good quality estate which complements our existing business both
operationally and geographically." Wolverhampton & Dudley Breweries has paid a total of £43.6 million for Celtic, of which around three-quarters is
freehold, comprising 63 tenanted outlets and seven managed houses. At the end of December, Celtic's earnings before tax were more than £4 million, and it is
anticipated that the deal will generate annual savings of £200,000. The Celtic head office, which employs around a dozen people in Southampton, is to close by the
end of April, with the business transferred into the W&DB group."
"Banks's Buys £43 million Pubs Chain"
Express and Star : March 20th 2006 Page 1.
"Banks's brewer Marston's has bought out yet another pubs chain - the second deal to be announced in just 24 hours. The Black
Country-based pubs and brewing giant revealed at its annual meeting today that it had bought Sovereign Inns, a group of 33 pubs in Yorkshire, Nottinghamshire and
Lincolnshire, for £19.4 million. Only yesterday Marston's - which has just changed its trading name from Wolverhampton & Dudley Breweries - snapped
up the 135-strong Eldridge Pope pubs estate in the south of England for £155 million. Today's meeting heard that Marston's Inns and Taverns new-build
programme was progressing well, with six new pub openings in Brighton, London, Hertfordshire, Cheshire, Nuneaton and Bristol. The group, which has its headquarters in
Chapel Ash, Wolverhampton, said it had acquired a total of 39 tenanted or leased pubs, including the Sovereign Inns chain. Chief executive Ralph Findlay said the
preparations for the pending smoking ban this summer were "well advanced" in both Marston's Inns & Taverns [managed] and Marston's Pub Company
[leased and tenanted] divisions." The ban will apply in Wales from April and England from July, by which time we will have invested approximately £20
million in outside areas, mainly in pub gardens and patios - facilities which are available in around 90 per cent of our pubs," he said. Marston's good start
to the new financial year had continued over the Christmas and New Year trading period, with like-for-like sales in Marston's Inns & Taverns seven per
cent ahead of last year in the 16 weeks to January this year. Like-for-like sales were 9.1 per cent ahead of last year in the eight weeks to November 25 last year,
and in the following eight weeks to January 20 this year were 5.2 per cent ahead. Strong growth in food sales had contributed to this healthy performance. In Marston's
Pub Company trading had remained good and was ahead of last year. Marston's Beer Company, the brewing arm of the business, had achieved strong volume and market share
growth in premium ale against a weak beer market overall, with total beer volumes marginally below last year. Mr. Findlay said the group still planned to return around
£100 million to shareholders, as well as being in the market for further acquisitions "should suitable opportunities arise."
"Marston's buys another pubs chain"
by Simon Penfold in Express and Star : March 20th 2007 Page 5.
"Hundreds of traditional West Midlands pubs are to be sold off because of the looming smoking ban, it was revealed today. Banks's brewer
Marston's, the former Wolverhampton & Dudley Breweries, is selling around 280 of its smaller boozers for up to £70 million. And Punch Taverns is to put up to
1,000 of its pubs up for sale because of fears of falling trade when smoking in public becomes illegal. The closures will hit smaller tenanted pubs, often in town and city
centres where there is no room for the development of smoking shelters in gardens. The pubs face closure unless another company is willing to take them on. It is understood
Wolverhampton-based Marston's, which has a national estate of around 2,500 pubs, wants to shed pubs that may become unprofitable once the smoking ban starts. Both
it and Punch Taverns, which owns around 9,300 sites, today refused to comment or confirm which pubs would be hit. The Marston's sell-off comes after a pub-buying
spree over the past year or so. In January it spent £19.4 million on Sovereign Inns' 33 pubs in Yorkshire, Nottinghamshire and Lincolnshire, and £155 million
on the 135-strong Eldridge Pope pubs estate in the south of England. The group is spending around £20 million on outside smoking areas. such as pub gardens and
patios, ready for the ban. This is due to start in Wales in April, spreading to England in July. The pub sale is understood to have been placed in the hands of accountants
and financial advisers Pricewaterhouse-Coopers and an asking price of between £50 million and £70 million has been put on the 280 pubs. It is thought that
they may attract the interest of companies such as Admiral Taverns, Inndeed or London Town, as well as from private equity groups. Admiral Taverns is also mooted to be a
prime suitor for the Punch pubs. The group bought 769 so-called "bottom-end sites" from Enterprise Inns last August for £318 million and is said to
specialise in smaller community pubs. Pub trade analyst James Ainley said: "Thriving locals will continue to thrive but it's the pubs which don't have a
very strong local community business or a strong food offering and are relying on a traditional more drinking, smoking customer base are the ones that could suffer."
"Hundreds of Pubs to be sold by Banks's"
Express and Star : March 22nd 2007 Page 5.
"Hanson's Mild is to be axed, ending a brewing tradition that dates back more than a century. First brewed in Dudley more than 100
years ago, the traditional dark mild has been brewed at Wolverhampton's Park Brewery since the closure of the Hanson brewery in 1991. But today it was revealed
that Marston's has now written to Black Country pubs warning them it will cease brewing Hanson's Mild in April. "It follows the loss of Hanson's
Bitter 12 years ago and ends a Black Country tradition started by the widow Julia Hanson more than 125 years ago. It is understood that the core of the problem is
the comparatively small amount of Hanson's Mild that is sold - most of it goes to pubs in and around Dudley. Marston's has blamed quality problems for
its decision to axe the beer. Real Ale group CAMRA has responded by launching an online petition as part a campaign to save the beer. It has ordered barrels of
Hanson's Mild for its upcoming national conference to be held at the Civic and Wulfrun Halls in Wolverhampton. And Marston's chief executive Ralph Findlay,
guest speaker at the conference, is to be presented with the petition at the event. Hanson's Mild was first brewed at the Saracen's Head in Stone Street,
Dudley, in the 1870s. The pub's present landlord, Michael Wright, said the final few barrels of the mild he had in the cellars would be the last pints served of
the traditional beer. "I'm really sad to see it go because it's a traditional Black Country drink that old men in the Black Country love," Mr. Wright
said: "The company seems to be losing its local touch with people by scrapping the brand to give it more of a national appeal. "It wouldn't surprise
me in the next few years if they move out of Wolverhampton altogether. It's taking the brand further out of the area and it is a blow for local brewers."
"End of Banks' Mild"
Express and Star : March 20th 2006 Page 1.