4. Bristol United Breweries LTD

 

The following history of Bristol United Breweries Ltd was written by former director A R (Roy) Boucher in the early 1960s, and survives in manuscript form at the Courage archives with the reference CA/M/16. Roy Boucher later became the chairman of Courage (Western) Ltd and his history is very much a director's view of the company's growth.

A fanciful artist's impression of the Bristol United Breweries site in Lewins Mead, c.1910.
© Courage archives ref: CB/P/1

 

The BUB around the turn of the century.
© Courage archives ref: CB/P/2

 

The Bristol United Breweries Ltd

A R Boucher O.B.E

The Bristol United Breweries Ltd were incorporated in 1889 about a year after the incorporation of their present parent company the Bristol Brewery Georges & Co Ltd. Indeed it is believed that it was the conversion of the old established brewing firm of Georges & Co into a public limited company which inspired three local brewery firms

and one local brewery company to form BUB, which then took over their respective businesses. The firms and the company concerned were: Bowley & Bristow (St Pauls Brewery); J H Lockley & Son (Lewins Mead Brewery); Bishop & Butt Ltd (Redcliff); and M Reynolds & Co (Bedminster). The original board of directors of BUB was:

A W Summers (Chairman)

H H Bishop

J H Lockley

M Reynolds (Managing)

Wm Bowley

and R J Villiers

Most of the above were connected with the original businesses but Mr Summers was a notable exception. He was a mineral water manufacturer who possessed various other interests in Bristol and had something of a reputation for commercial ability. He was a director of Lloyd's Bank and became one of the bank's Vice Chairmen and was for many years a Director of the Bristol Waterworks Company. Mr Bishop on leaving the board of BUB became Manager of the Stroud Brewery Co Ltd.

It may be remarked that up to their acquisition by Georges in 1956 BUB Limited had had only two Chairmen in the 67 years of their independent existence. Mr Summers retained office until his retirement in 1925 when he was succeeded by Mr G H Boucher. The original prospectus was issued on 26th July 1889 and met with a favourable reception by the public. It seems that in those days some newspapers were not over scrupulous as to how they obtained business and one London newspaper, long since extinct, whose request for the advertisement of the prospectus had been refused published a highly critical commentary upon it headed "A Queer Beer Prospectus". The criticisms this contained were while verbose, not in the least insubstantial, and do not appear to have disturbed either the public or the promoters.

To the Managing Director Mr Reynolds and the first Secretary Mr Ingram, must be attributed much of the credit for the successful establishment of the business. Unfortunately the Company was not to have the benefit of their services for long, as Mr Reynolds was drowned while bathing at Woolacombe in 1889 and Mr Ingram retired as Secretary in 1904 after a long illness, dying shortly afterwards.

In 1897 the BUB acquired the shares of Daniel Sykes & Co Ltd, proprietors of the Redcliff Brewery. The assets of this Company were transferred to the BUB and its liquidation completed in 1903. D Sykes & Co Ltd had also been incorporated in 1889. Their directors at the time of acquisition were:

Messrs C R Hancock (Chairman)

Alfred Deedes

Hugh T Coles

William Dealtry

and Arthur T Evans

There was apparently no undertaking on the part of BUB that any of these gentlemen should be appointed to the Board of the BUB, but Mr Hancock was in fact invited to take a seat on the Board, and did so in 1898. He was by profession a Solicitor and he and his late partner Mr Charles Bevan had been associated with the Sykes family for some years. His son-in-law and Partner, Mr G H Boucher, became in 1911 a Director of the BUB after Mr Hancock's death in 1910. In the light of the recent amalgamation which has taken place between the BUB and Georges, it is interesting to note that a distant family connection existed between Mr Hancock and the George family, in that Mrs C R Hancock was a first cousin of Mrs C E A George. Mr C E A George was the Chairman of Georges from to . Messrs Deedes and Coles were Managers of local branches of Stuckeys Bank. Mr Dealtry was the brother-in-law of Mr Daniel Sykes and Mr Evans was associated with Messrs Rigby and Evans, wine merchants of Bristol.

Mr J T Fell who became well known in the brewing industry as the Secretary of the BUB and who held office from 1912 to 1940 and who died in 1946 after retirement, was a former Managing Clerk of Mr Hancock's.

The old records of the BUB are unfortunately now very scanty owing to the damage and disorganisation occasioned to the Lewins Mead Brewery by the German air attacks in 1940. Nevertheless such as exist contain constant reference to the value of the work performed by the BUB's original auditors, both in connection with the formation and running of the Company. At first sight it is surprising to read that at the Annual General Meeting held in 1902 the Partner responsible indicated that his firm did not seek re-election. The matter however becomes more clear when one reads that this gentleman in 1903 participated with various teetotal interests in presenting a memorial to the local Justices containing severe restrictions upon the licensed trade. One is obliged to admire the honesty of the man who declined valuable employment which he considered to be contrary to the dictates of his conscience and it is pleasant to reflect that with their amalgamation with Georges, the BUB's old link with this firm has in a sense been restored as the latter are now Auditors of Georges.

From 1900 to 1925 the history of the BUB is not marked by incidents of special interest. In company with the rest of the trade they participated in he quest for additional licensed houses in the early years of the century. Both they and their future parent company, the latter under the chairmanship of Mr C E A George, took prominent parts in the struggle against the repressive measures threatened in the period terminating with the Lloyd George administration of 1910. Similarly both companies encountered and overcame the many problems which arose as a result of the first world war.

1925, however, was an important year in the BUB's history; in that year, as previously stated, Mr Summers retired from office having been chairman for 36 years; he died later in the same year. In that year also the BUB acquired a controlling interest in the Oakhill Brewery Co Ltd by acquiring all the ordinary shares in this concern. These ordinary shares were then largely owned by members of the Hobhouse and Spencer families and as a result of the acquisition Mr R A Hobhouse (later Sir Reginald Hobhouse bart.) and Lt Col H G Spencer, his brother-in-law, joined the board of the BUB and remained directors until their deaths in 1947 and 1953 respectively. Mr H C Hobhouse the youngest son of Sir R A Hobhouse succeeded his father as a director of BUB Ltd on his death, and was later the Managing Director of the Oakhill Brewery Co and of the Charlton Brewery Co Ltd, control of which was acquired in 1937.

In 1925 also, negotiations were commenced for the ordinary shares of Dunlop Mackie & Co Ltd, wine and spirit merchants of Bristol, and this acquisition was completed in 1926. Mr Ivie Mackie Dunlop became a director of the BUB in 1928 and he died in 1934. In the case of both the Oakhill Brewery Co Ltd and Dunlop Mackie & Co Ltd the preference shares remained publicly held after the acquisition and the same position obtains today, except that in the interim an appreciable number of these shares have been acquired by the BUB.

It is of interest to mention that in connection with the acquisition of the Oakhill Brewery Co Ltd and in marked contradistinction to the secrecy which attended the negotiations for the amalgamation of the BUB with Georges, a "leak" took place and information was given to a local newspaper six months before it should have been announced. The ordinary shares of the Charlton Brewery Co Ltd were acquired by the BUB in 1937. This company's brewery and maltings are at Shepton Mallet and as in the case of the Oakhill Brewery Co Ltd, most of its licensed houses are in the County of Somerset. For the most part the ordinary shares were held by members of the Berryman and Burnell families and as a result of the acquisition Mr C E Burnell joined the board of the BUB. Both he and Sir Frederick Berryman remained directors of the Charlton Brewery Co Ltd. Sirrederick Berryman died in 1952.

Mr Walter Chesham joined the company in 1940 with a view to succeeding Mr J T Fell, who in addition to acting as Secretary, had also been Manager of the BUB for many years prior to his retirement in 1940. Mr Chesham became Managing Director of the BUB in 1943. Mr A R Boucher, the son of Mr G H Boucher and the grandson of Mr C R Hancock, joined the board of the BUB in 1947.

Throughout the BUB's existence rumours often arose of impending amalgamation with some other brewery company. It was invariably difficult to detect the source of these rumours, but on no single occasion had they any solid foundation, and on more than one occasion the Chairman made public disavowals of their truth. In point of fact the only occasions prior to 1956 when negotiations actually took place were in about 1904 and in 1929, when approaches were received from Georges. Little is known of the earlier approach but the later one came to nothing at a very early stage, and on this occasion no rumours arose. Early in 1955 however, a private approach was made to Mr A R Boucher by Mr A C Hadley, the Chairman of Georges, and the former was invited to ascertain whether in principle his colleagues would favour amalgamation on fair terms. It was not until the autumn of that year that Mr A R Boucher was able to reply affirmatively, and in the interests of secrecy discussions took place between Mr A C Hadley and Mr C H Young, another director of Georges, and Mr W Chesham and Mr A R Boucher, at he home of the latter. The secret was very well kept; the parties indeed did not even entrust clerical work to confidential clerks in the normal way, and the drafting of the transfer terms was effected and copied in manuscript by the members of one board or the other. No whisper of the impending amalgamation had been given until the formal announcement was made in February 1956. A full announcement of the terms was made on the 13th March 1956. At the time of the amalgamation the Directors of the BUB were:

Messrs. G H Boucher (Chairman)

C E Burnell (died 1958)

W Chesham (died 1956)

A R Boucher

H C Hobhouse

L F Davies (of Davies & Son, Chartered Surveyor)

Mr G H Boucher and Mr Burnell, in view of their advanced ages, had previously had retirement in mind and both retired from the board of the BUB, but at the request of Mr George Mr C E Burnell consented to remain as Chairman of the Charlton Brewery Co, with which his family had been so long associated. Mr H C Hobhouse also retired from the board of the BUB, but remained Managing Director of the Oakhill Brewery Co and the Charlton Brewery Co, his responsibility for the management of these concerns being increased on account of the latter being entrusted with the administration of various houses belonging to Georges in the area of these two companies.

Messrs W Chesham, A R Boucher and L F Davies remained as directors of the BUB and Mr Chesham, Mr A R Boucher and Mr H C Hobhouse became Directors of Georges. Unfortunately Mr Chesham was taken seriously ill during the closing stages of the negotiations for amalgamation and was unable to participate in bringing it to finality. He died in November 1956.

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