Stones Brewery

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William Stones Ltd
Former type Brewery
Industry Alcoholic beverage
Predecessors Messrs. Watts & Stones
Founded 1868
Founders William Stones
Defunct

1968 (takeover by Bass)

1999 (brewery closed)
Headquarters Sheffield, England
Area served United Kingdom
Products Pale ale
Production output Brewery: 50,000 hectolitres (1992).[1]
Stones Bitter: 1.4 million hl across multiple breweries (1992);
100,000 hl (2012)[2]
Owners Molson Coors UK
Employees 57
Parent Molson Coors

Stones Brewery (William Stones Ltd) was a regional brewery founded in 1868 by William Stones in Sheffield, West Riding of Yorkshire, England and purchased by Bass Brewery in 1968. After its closure in 1999 its major brand, Stones Bitter, has continued to be produced by the Molson Coors Brewing Company.

William Stones had started brewing in 1847 in Sheffield with Joseph Watts. Following Watts' death in 1854 Stones continued brewing by himself. In 1868 he purchased the lease of the Neepsend Brewery, and renamed it the Cannon Brewery, and he continued to brew there until his death in 1894. Stones' success saw him die as one of the richest men in Sheffield, although he lived a modest life. The company was taken over by Bass in 1968, then in 2000 Bass sold its brewing operations to the Belgian brewer Interbrew who were ordered by the Competition Commission to sell the Stones brand. In 2002, the brand was purchased by the American Coors Brewing Company, who merged to become Molson Coors in 2005.

Stones Bitter was brewed at the Cannon Brewery from 1948 and was popular with Sheffield's steel workers. Stones Bitter was originally available across the south of Yorkshire, Derbyshire and Nottinghamshire, with distribution extended to the rest of the north of England in 1977, and nationwide from 1979, accompanied by a considerable marketing push. Increasing demand saw it also brewed at other Bass breweries from the 1970s onwards. The beer's popularity reached its apex in 1992 when it was the country's highest selling bitter, selling over a million barrels.[3] The beer has been lauded in certain quarters as "one of Sheffield's most famous exports". After the Cannon's closure production was continued elsewhere. Keg Stones Bitter (3.7 per cent alcohol by volume) is brewed by Molson Coors at their brewery in Tadcaster, North Yorkshire and the canned product is brewed at their Burton upon Trent brewery.

Stones notably sponsored the Rugby Football League Championship and its successor the Rugby Super League from 1986 until 1997. A well known series of television advertisements for the brand, starring Tony Barton and Michael Angelis, became the longest running bitter advertisements in the country, running from 1983 until 1991. Since the withdrawal of the majority of marketing support by Bass in 1997 in favour of the Worthington ale brand, the beer has experienced a marked decline in sales volumes, although it remains among the twenty highest selling ale brands in the United Kingdom.

History[edit]

Origins (1847–1900)[edit]

In 1847 Joseph Watts (of Dewsbury) and William Stones began brewing together at the Cannon Brewery in Sheffield's Shalesmoor district near Kelham Island.[4] The name may have come from the nearby foundry that cast gun barrels.[5] In 1852 they acquired their first tied house, the Kelham Tavern. Watts died in May 1854 aged 46, and two years later Stones purchased his share of the business from his former partner's brother.[6] In 1868 Stones took over the lease of the Shepherd, Green & Hatfield brewery in the Neepsend district, which had been founded as the Neepsend Brewery in 1838.[7] He renamed it the Cannon Brewery after his original premises.[8] In 1880 Stones built two malthouses in Worksop.[9][10] Stones died in 1894, and he left the brewery to his cashier, James Haynes, and Richard Wigfull, a corn miller, as tenants in common.[11] William Stones became a limited company in 1895 with £275,000 of capital (£27,715,541 in 2014 adjusted for inflation)[12] and had by this time grown to become one of the largest businesses in Sheffield, with a tied estate of 84 pubs primarily in its home city and Chesterfield.[13][14][15] Distribution was extended to Huddersfield in 1896.[16]

Consolidation (1901–1966)[edit]

In February 1912 Stones acquired the fourteen tied houses of Chambers’ Brunswick Brewery in Sheffield. In 1919 The Crown Inn opposite the Cannon Brewery was purchased and rebuilt to serve as the brewery tap. In March 1954 William Stones partnered with Tennant Brothers to acquire the Sheffield Free Brewery, closing the brewery and dividing the estate between themselves.[17] In September that same year the company purchased Mappin's Brewery of Rotherham, shutting the brewery down the following year.[18] The takeover added around 100 public houses to their tied estate, to make a total of 300. As a result, Stones had the second largest tied estate in Sheffield after Tennant's.

In 1959 William Stones paid £100,000 (£2,029,940 in 2014 adjusted for inflation)[12] for Ward & Sons of Swinton, a family-run local bottler of beer and mineral water.[19] The Ward bottling plant was capable of filling and labelling 8,000 bottles an hour, which was more productive than Stones' existing plant.[20] The acquisition allowed Stones to bottle national beers such as Bass and Guinness for itself, rather than relying on contractors.[21][22] Also in that year a reciprocal deal was reached with Whitbread, whereby William Stones supplied draught bitter to the 33 houses of the former Scarsdale Brewing Company of Chesterfield, in return for stocking Whitbread's Mackeson Stout in their own tied estate.[22][23] In 1960 the company was awarded the rights to bottle the Norwegian Ringnes lager brand for the region.[24] All bottling had transferred to Swinton by 1961, allowing Stones to close its own bottling plant, giving it room to redevelop its Sheffield site.[25] In 1962 a deal was reached with United Breweries to sell Carling Black Label lager in Stones tied houses in exchange for supplying Stones products to United's Sheffield area public houses.[26] In 1965 the company was valued at £5 million, rising to £7.2 million by 1967 (£114,023,783 in 2014 adjusted for inflation)[12] as takeover rumours mounted.[27][28] In 1966 William Stones launched its first brewery conditioned beer, Stones Imperial.[29]

Multinational ownership (1967–1999)[edit]

The Cannon Brewery was rebuilt in 1962.

By 1967 Bass had built up a 14 per cent stake in the company, and in 1968 they purchased William Stones for £9 million (£136,186,934 in 2014 adjusted for inflation)[12][30] The friendly takeover was financed by an exchange of stock.[31][32] The company had a tied estate of 257 public houses and 70 off-licences, located mainly in the south of Yorkshire, Nottinghamshire and Derbyshire, as well as a substantial free trade business.[33][34] Bass retained production of the popular Stones Bitter, but largely replaced the remaining 20 per cent of Stones' sales with its own nationally available brands, such as Worthington E, and Stones' cider supplier was switched from H. P. Bulmer to Bass' own Taunton mill.[35] As a Bass subsidiary, William Stones was given a fair amount of autonomy.[36] The takeover also saw the Swinton bottling plant and the brewery's Worksop maltings closed down.[9] In 1970 Bass suggested that the Cannon Brewery might be shut down, but the continuing popularity of Stones Bitter as well as technical and industrial relations problems at the supposed replacement Runcorn plant in Cheshire ensured the brewery's survival.[37][38] With Bass' national distribution network, Stones Bitter began to be sold across the entire United Kingdom from 1979, and was intended as a mass-produced equivalent to Bass's regional ales.[39]

By 1982 16 per cent of Yorkshire's public houses were tied to Stones.[40] In 1996 a deal was reached to supply Stones Bitter as a guest beer to all Hardys & Hansons pubs in the Sheffield and Chesterfield area.[23] Bass closed the Cannon Brewery in April 1999 with the loss of 57 jobs.[41] Bass blamed the closure on the steep decline in sales of cask conditioned beers (nationally there had been a 14 per cent decline in sales of cask beer over the previous 12 months) which the brewery produced.[42] The brewer realised £1 million in efficiency savings by closing the brewery.[3] The Campaign for Real Ale blamed the brewery's closure on Bass' failure to promote their cask conditioned products.[43] As well as Stones Bitter the Cannon brewed the small scale Bass Special, Bass Light and Bass Mild brands from the mid-1990s as declining Stones volumes left the brewery with spare capacity.[44] Bass Light and Bass Mild had been sold in the Sheffield area as Stones Mild and Stones Dark Mild respectively.

Bass moved production of Stones to its Burton upon Trent and Tadcaster breweries. In 2000 Bass sold its brewing interests, including their breweries and the Stones brand to the Belgian brewer Interbrew. Interbrew contracted the production of cask conditioned Stones to Marston's in Burton. Competition concerns forced Interbrew to sell off certain brands in December 2001, including Stones Bitter, which was bought by the American Coors Brewing Company (later Molson Coors). Molson Coors currently produce keg Stones Bitter at their brewery in Tadcaster, and the canned version at their Burton brewery. The cask product was initially contract brewed at the Highgate Brewery in Walsall, West Midlands, before moving to Everards of Leicester in 2005.[45][46] The cask product ceased production in June 2012.

Stones Bitter has suffered a decline in sales since the closure, and a member of the Bass board of directors that took the decision to close the brewery has admitted that, given the subsequent resurgence in golden ales and local provenance in beer, the decision to close the brewery was the wrong one.[3] Retrospectively, he argues that Bass should have backed Stones over Worthington.[3]

William Stones[edit]

William Stones was born in Sheffield on 29 December 1826. His parents were Eliza and Joseph, both cabinet case makers. By 1870 Stones was living in Sheffield's Lowfield area.[47] Stones purchased a "spacious" terraced house in 1883, although he had been renting the property for several years prior to this.[48] Stones died aged 68 on 14 November 1894, having devoted his whole life to brewing.[49] He was a bachelor, and one of the richest men in Sheffield, leaving over £150,000 in his will (£14,902,753 in 2014 adjusted for inflation)[12].[14][19][50] He left his wealth to his sister, friends and various charitable concerns.[19] Stones is said to have earned his success through clever marketing and a consistently good product.[51]

Cannon Brewery[edit]

The former office building is in the foreground.

Situated in Neepsend, Shepherd, Green & Hatfield were the first to brew at the site in 1838 at what was then a respectable residential district. By 1895 the brewery was equipped with "an expensive plant...excellent stores and cellars, spacious covered and open yards, offices, stabling [and] workshops."[52] The marketing and sales offices on the brewery site were completed in 1958.[53] A new £500,000 five storey brewhouse was operational by 1962, and was one of the most up to date in the country.[26][54] An on-site public house was opened in the basement of the brewery in 1964, initially named The Underground, but later renamed The Pig and Whistle; it was used by brewery workers and visitors.[55] At its peak the brewery produced 50,000 hectolitres of cask conditioned Stones each year.[1] The office building was sold off in 1985. In 1992 a visitor's centre building was opened. In 1995 the brewery was used as a shooting location for the film When Saturday Comes. The office building is occupied by an accountancy firm, however the remainder of the site is currently unoccupied and derelict.

Beers[edit]

Stones Bitter[edit]

Pump clip for Nice Try, a seasonal special using the Stones brand name.
Main article: Stones Bitter

Stones Bitter is a bitter beer first brewed in 1948 at the Cannon Brewery. It was designed for the steelworkers of Sheffield's Lower Don Valley. Bass extended its distribution to include the north of England in 1977, before extending distribution nationwide in 1979. Its popularity during the 1970s and 1980s in its heartland saw it described as "more of a religion than a beer." By 1992 Stones was the UK's highest selling bitter, with a million barrels sold annually.[3] That same year the ABV of Stones was reduced from 4.1 per cent to 3.9 per cent ABV, and then to 3.7 per cent in 1999. The cask conditioned Stones was restored to 4.1 per cent ABV in 2006, before being discontinued in 2012. A famous major television campaign ran nationally from 1983 until 1991 with the tagline: "(Wherever you may wander) there's no taste like Stones" and starred Tony Barton and Michael Angelis.[56] By 1987 it had become the UK's longest running bitter campaign of all time.[57] Stones also sponsored the Rugby Football League Championship from 1986 to 1995 and its successor the Rugby Super League from 1996–7.[58][59]

Other beers[edit]

As with many breweries, occasional special brews were commissioned upon commemorative dates and retirement of long-serving employees. In 1991 a special bottled beer was produced when Sheffield Wednesday reached the finals of the Football League Cup.[60] 2,000 bottles of Stones Centenary Ale were produced in 1995, celebrating 100 years of rugby league. This was followed by the 1996 cask conditioned Stones Super League Bitter (4.8 per cent ABV) celebrating Stones' sponsorship of the League, and the 1998 bottled Stones Commemorative Ale which marked the scheduled closure of the brewery.[60] In summer 2007, Everards brewed a one-off cask conditioned Stones Pure Gold (4.1 per cent ABV) golden ale, and in 2011 four cask conditioned sports themed Stones branded ales were made available throughout the first half of the year, brewed at William Worthington's Brewery in Burton upon Trent.[61]

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b "Hesket-new-Market brewery appoints new manager". Cumberland and Westmorland Herald. 25 May 2002. Retrieved 18 May 2012. 
  2. ^ Alcoholic Drinks: Euromonitor from trade sources/national statistics (2012)
  3. ^ a b c d e "Brewing from the heart". Morning Advertiser. 3 January 2013. Retrieved 18 October 2012. 
  4. ^ Sheffield & Rotherham Independent. 3 July 1847. 
  5. ^ Barnard, Alfred (1889). The Noted Breweries of Great Britain and Ireland. ASIN B00088J9BU. 
  6. ^ "Births, Deaths, Marriages and Obituaries". Sheffield & Rotherham Independent. 13 May 1854. 
  7. ^ "Multiple Advertisements and Notices". The Sheffield Independent, and Yorkshire and Derbyshire Advertiser. 11 August 1838. 
  8. ^ "Multiple Advertisements and Notices". Sheffield & Rotherham Independent. 6 February 1868. 
  9. ^ a b Nottinghamshire County Council. "Worksop Industry". worksopheritagetrail.org.uk. Retrieved 25 November 2011. 
  10. ^ Sheffield & Rotherham Independent. 3 August 1895. 
  11. ^ "Births, Deaths, Marriages and Obituaries". Morning Post. 8 April 1895. 
  12. ^ a b c d e UK CPI inflation numbers based on data available from Gregory Clark (2014), "What Were the British Earnings and Prices Then? (New Series)" MeasuringWorth.
  13. ^ "Brewery History Society Yorkshire South Sheffield – Neepsend, Rutland Road Stones' Brewery (former) William Stones Ltd". breweryhistory.com. 2011. Retrieved 25 November 2011. 
  14. ^ a b The Times. 3 August 1895. 
  15. ^ Sheffield & Rotherham Independent. 31 August 1900. 
  16. ^ Lamb, Douglas (1996). A Pub on Every Corner. Hallamshire Publications. ISBN 978-1874718550. 
  17. ^ Lesley Richmond, Alison Turton (1990). The Brewing industry: a guide to historical records. Manchester University Press. p. 323. ISBN 978-0-7190-3032-1. Retrieved 28 November 2011. 
  18. ^ Lesley Richmond, Alison Turton (1990). The Brewing industry: a guide to historical records. Manchester University Press. p. 227. ISBN 978-0-7190-3032-1. Retrieved 28 November 2011. 
  19. ^ a b c Avis, Anthony (1997). The Brewing Industry 1950-1990: Reflective Essays 1950-1990. A. Avis. p. 62. ISBN 978-0-9523666-2-1. Retrieved 19 March 2013. 
  20. ^ "The final process of bottling beer, Ward & Sons bottling plant, Swinton, South Yorkshire, 1960. Artist: Michael Walters". Heritage-images.com. Retrieved 18 May 2012. 
  21. ^ "City News In Brief". The Times. 31 March 1959. 
  22. ^ a b "William Stones Limited". Financial Times. 14 December 1959. 
  23. ^ a b "Chesterfield CAMRA magazine, 1996". Chesterfieldcamra.org.uk. Retrieved 18 May 2012. 
  24. ^ "William Stones Limited". Financial Times. 25 November 1960. 
  25. ^ "William Stones Limited". Financial Times. 1 December 1961. 
  26. ^ a b "William Stones Limited". Financial Times. 23 November 1962. 
  27. ^ The Times. 4 October 1965. 
  28. ^ "The protectors and the protected". The Economist. 2 December 1967. 
  29. ^ "William Stones Limited". Financial Times. 24 November 1966. 
  30. ^ "The protectors and the protected." Economist [London, England] 2 December 1967: 991+. The Economist Historical Archive 1843–2006. Web. 19 August 2011.
  31. ^ "£9m bid for brewery". The Times. 19 December 1967. 
  32. ^ Finance Magazine (Finance Pub. Corp) 86: 66. 1968. 
  33. ^ "William Stones Selling out to Bass for £9m". Financial Times. 19 December 1967. 
  34. ^ "Brewery History Society Yorkshire South Sheffield – Neepsend, Rutland Road Stones' Brewery (former) William Stones Ltd". Breweryhistory.com. Retrieved 18 May 2012. 
  35. ^ Keith Gooding (15 May 1969). "Britain's Thirst for Variety in Beer". Financial Times. 
  36. ^ Keith Gooding (1 January 1969). "Bass Charrington Limited". Financial Times. 
  37. ^ Vrontis, Demetris. "Bass Plc An Assessment, Evaluation and Recommendations for Their Strategic Approach In Entering Foreign Beer Markets (Demetris Vrontis) – Academia.edu". Unic.academia.edu. Retrieved 18 May 2012. 
  38. ^ The Times. 9 April 1970. 
  39. ^ Hawkins, "A History of Bass Charrington," p. 211
  40. ^ Institute of Practitioners in Advertising: IPA Effectiveness Awards. 1982. 
  41. ^ The Guardian. 4 November 1997. 
  42. ^ The Journal (Newcastle). 4 November 1997. 
  43. ^ "Brewery accused over twin closure plan". Western Daily Press. 4 November 1997. 
  44. ^ "Report – Bass, Cannon Brewery, Sheffield – April 2011 – UK Urban Exploration Forums". 28dayslater.co.uk. Retrieved 18 May 2012. 
  45. ^ "End of an era at brewery". Grimsby Evening Telegraph. 15 December 1998. 
  46. ^ "Herts CAMRA Newsletter 2008" (PDF). Retrieved 18 May 2012. 
  47. ^ "List of Nominations for the Town Council". Sheffield & Rotherham Independent. 29 October 1870. 
  48. ^ "Births, Deaths, Marriages and Obituaries". Sheffield & Rotherham Independent. 14 April 1899. 
  49. ^ Anthony Avis (August 1997). The brewing industry 1950-1990: reflective essays 1950-1990. A.Avis. ISBN 978-0-9523666-2-1. Retrieved 26 June 2012. 
  50. ^ Sheffield & Rotherham Independent. 16 June 1900. 
  51. ^ Alfred Barnard, The Noted Breweries of Great Britain and Ireland, ASIN: B00088J9BU
  52. ^ The Sheffield & Rotherham Independent (Sheffield, England). 3 August 1895. 
  53. ^ "William Stones Limited". Financial Times. 15 December 1958. 
  54. ^ International Brewers' Journal. W. Reed. 1962. p. 246. Retrieved 19 March 2013. 
  55. ^ "William Stones Limited". Financial Times. 19 November 1964. 
  56. ^ Published on Wednesday 3 September 2003 12:57 (3 September 2003). "Tony will Corrie on regardless – Lifestyle – The Visitor". Thevisitor.co.uk. Retrieved 18 May 2012. 
  57. ^ "New Campaigns". Campaign Magazine. 1987. 
  58. ^ "Rugby League: League secures a new sponsor in pounds 400,000 deal". The Times. 11 April 1986. 
  59. ^ The Observer. 11 April 1986. 
  60. ^ a b "Abbc Bottles List – Bass". Mpeterson.co.uk. Retrieved 18 May 2012. 
  61. ^ "Molson Coors launches 16 cask ales – General News – Morning Advertiser". Morningadvertiser.co.uk. Retrieved 18 May 2012. 

Further reading[edit]

  • Avis, Anthony (1997). The Brewing Industry 1950-1990: Reflective Essays. ISBN 978-0-9523666-2-1.
  • Lamb, Douglas (1996). A Pub on Every Corner. Hallamshire Publications. ISBN 978-1874718550.
  • Richmond, Lesley & Turton, Alison (1990). The Brewing Industry: A Guide To Historical Records. Manchester University Press. ISBN 978-0-7190-3032-1.