Some history of Showell's Brewery Company Limited of Langley in the county of Worcestershire.

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This brewery was established by Walter Showell in the mid-19th century and by the end of the Victorian age he and his sons were at the head of a large regional brewery with a tied-estate of almost 200 public-houses. Not bad going for a man who started out from a modest background. Walter Showell was born in Birmingham in September 1832 and spent his formative years living with his aunt on Ashted Row. He initially pursued a career as a chemist and druggist and moved to Oldbury to work as an apprentice to Charles Tonge who had a chemist's shop in Birmingham Street. His change of career path came as a result of his marriage in 1854 to Sarah Hartill, the daughter of a master miller based in Oldbury.

With a background in chemistry, his association with a family working with malt perhaps inevitably led to a new career in brewing. He may have also had some financial backing from his father-in-law Joseph Hartill. He established a small brewery in Simpson Street, a short distance from the Dog and Pheasant. His recipes seemingly proved successful because the expansion of his brewing operation was swift. He accumulated enough capital to buy a large tract of land that included the Crosswells Spring. He constructed a new brewery on the site and started production at this larger plant in 1874.

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With a healthy growth of sales, continued expansion came in the mid-1880s when another brewery was built in order to increase production. The outlets for the beer were mainly in Birmingham, along with some houses dotted around the Black Country. The business was registered in March 1887, a time when control of the company was taken over by his son Charles.

Showell's acquired the Brewers' Investment Corporation Ltd. in 1894 which doubled the company's tied-estate in Birmingham to around eighty public-houses. The firm moved their head office to Great Charles Street and established a warehouse and stores just off Broad Street, the canal link between Birmingham and Oldbury, thus enabling the transportation of goods between the brewery and the supply depot.

Showell's Crosswells Ales
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The company acquired the Hockley Brewery in 1889 which was arguably logical in their regional expansion plans. However, they took over the Brookfield Brewery in Stockport which brought considerable risk as the firm were suddenly having to supply and service pubs in remote locations. Pubs in London, the south-west and the coast were acquired in the company's ambitious plans of expansion. Some of the board's grand plans however proved to be the firm's downfall and a downturn in the economic climate hit the company hard. They were forced to sell the brewery at Stockport and they also offloaded their London houses to Refell's Bexley Brewery.

Walter Showell died in 1901 at the family home of Stourton Hall near Kinver. Thirteen years later his sons sold the company to Allsopp's of Burton-on-Trent. The sale included 194 public-houses and 30 outdoors. The brewery was closed by Allsopp's and they subsequently supplied the tied-estate with their beers produced at Burton-on-Trent.

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Related Newspaper Articles

"The Coroner [Mr. Isaac Bradley] held an inquest at the Victoria Courts, on Monday, concerning the of John Hy. Webbe [42] dtato, brewer's manager, of 3 Stanmore Road, Edgbaston. which took place on Friday last. Mr. Ernest Evershed represented the family of the deceased. In reply to the Coroner, Mrs. Webbe, widow of the deceased, stated that her husband had been employed for over twenty years at Showell's Brewery. He was manager of the tied-houses, and the recent trouble in the company's management had greatly upset him. For some weeks he had suffered from insomnia, and had been medically attended. He went to business on the 13th inst., and continued doing so till Friday morning. He appeared worried, as he understood he was being superseded in his position by another man, and changes had to be made which he did not like making. Witness did not know that deceased carried a revolver, and he had never threatened his life. The note found on the body of the deceased, stating "don't take me home," was in her husband's writing. So far as she knew there was no of suggestion of irregularity against the deceased. Mr. Walter Showell informed the Coroner that there was nothing whatever against the deceased. Further evidence that the recent troubles in the company's affairs had upset deceased was given by his son. William Harold Webb, and Thomas William Brookes, clerk in the office; while another clerk, Henry Johnson, deposed that he had heard deceased wish he was dead. The Secretary of the Company also stated that a break-up of the deceased's health and mind was apparent. Mr. Walter Showell said he had been called in by the Advisory Committee to assist them, and a great deal of reconstruction was necessary. Deceased was among the old servants they were to anxious to keep, and he assured deceased that the arrangements made would not be to his detriment. Evidence was the given of the finding of the body in Farquhar Road, Edgbaston, by Albert Green, who was driving in a cart. A six-chambered revolver was lying by the side, and two cartridges had been discharged in his face, inflicting terrible wounds. The body was conveyed to the Ladywood Mortuary. Dr. Turner, who had made a post-mortem examination, deposed to finding a bullet in the skull, and there was also a small wound in the mouth. Death must have been instantaneous. The jury returned a verdict of "Suicide during temporary insanity." and expressed their sympathy with the widow and family of the deceased."
"Showell's Brewery : The Suicide Of A Manager"
Newcastle Guardian and Silverdale, Chesterton
and Audley Chronicle
February 27th 1904 Page 3

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