|Private limited company with share capital|
|Founder||John William Cameron|
|David Soley (Chairman and chief executive)|
|1 million hectolitre|
|Total assets||£54,909,104 (2013)|
Number of employees
Camerons Brewery Ltd is an English brewing company founded in 1865 by John William Cameron in Hartlepool, County Durham. It is the largest independent brewer in the North East, with a brewery capacity of 1.5 million hectolitres (900,000 hl production in 2012) and a tied estate of 75 houses. It is one of the town's oldest industrial concerns, and has historically been one of the largest employers.
After one hundred years of growth through brewery acquisitions, the company had an estate of 750 licensed premises throughout the North East and North Yorkshire by the 1960s. The company subsequently struggled as the economy of its trading heartland suffered, and as it underwent a succession of owners with little experience of running pubs and breweries. Camerons lost its independence to Ellerman Lines in 1974, followed by the Barclay Brothers in 1983 and Brent Walker in 1989. Brent Walker spun off the majority of the tied estate as a separate company called Pubmaster, which was acquired by Punch Taverns in 2003.
Camerons was purchased by Wolverhampton & Dudley in 1992, who invested heavily in the brewery before selling the company to Castle Eden in 2002, who closed down their own brewery and moved all production to Camerons. The company now has a relatively small tied estate but the eleventh largest brewery in the country. As a result, around 80 per cent of its business involves contract brewing for other companies, such as Heineken, who own 24 per cent of the company, and Carlsberg.
Camerons is known across the United Kingdom for Strongarm, a distinctive ruby red bitter launched in 1955. Total production of Strongarm surpassed one billion pints in 2000. Across the North East it is also known for Castle Eden Ale and Trophy Special, both originally brewed at Castle Eden.
A 250-foot artesian well has been used for brewing on the site since at least 1572. William Waldon (1805 - 1854), a farmer originally from Gainford, founded the Lion Brewery in the village of Stranton (subsequently a part of West Hartlepool) on land he bought from Ralph Walker for £300 in 1852. After Waldon's death in 1854, the brewery passed to his widow Jane. John William Cameron was enlisted to run the brewery from 1865. In 1872 he took on the brewery and its 16 public houses under a 21-year lease. Henry Wilson, of the Phoenix Works in Stockton-on-Tees, built new brewery facilities for John Cameron in 1875. Further land for expansion of the brewery was purchased in 1876. Between 1885 and 1890 more land was bought and plans were made to build a new brewery. The present brewery building was completed in 1892. When the lease expired in 1893, Cameron purchased the brewery outright from the Waldons for £34,442, and Watson Cameron (John's brother) became managing director.
Public listing and acquisition trail
In 1894 the company went public, valued at £345,000, and owned 119 public houses. In 1895 Nixey, Coleclough & Baxter of the Brunswick Brewery in Hartlepool, was acquired, along with around 80 public houses. The newly acquired brewery was closed in 1898, and Nixey and Baxter were both appointed to the Camerons board.
In 1897, T E Chapman & Son of Sunderland was acquired with 83 public houses, and its managing director, Abel Chapman, joined the Cameron board of directors. By this time, John Ellerman was vice chairman of Camerons.
That same year the Lion Brewery was further extended, to a 70 quarter capacity, capable of producing 130,000 barrels a year. In 1899 Camerons began to bottle mineral water and the company continued to expand. By this time 400 licensed premises were owned, including the majority of Hartlepool's public houses. The company prospered, and by 1907 the share capital of the company was £350,000 with another £350,000 of capital in the form of mortgage debenture stock.
In 1910 Heslop's Grange Brewery in Stockton was acquired along with 28 licensed houses. John Ellerman was company chairman by 1913. In 1915 the Lion Brewery was damaged by German shellfire. In 1920 Watson Cameron died, and A. J. Morgan and H. J. Hewlett became joint managing directors of the company. Morgan was in charge of organization and the offices, whilst Hewlett was in charge of brewing. Robert Newton Ltd of Newcastle was acquired, with 35 licenses, and Plews and Sons Ltd of Darlington, with 100 licensed premises. In 1922 Watson's son, John Watson Cameron joined the company, and in 1935 he was made chairman and managing director. By 1939, Cameron's owned 46 per cent of all public houses within the Borough of Hartlepool.
In 1950 John Watson Cameron's wife Lillian was appointed to the board, responsible for the furnishings and decoration of Cameron's licensed houses. In 1953 the Stranton bottling facility was opened. In March 1955 Strongarm bitter was introduced, as the industrial workers of West Hartlepool demanded a stronger pint.
In 1953 a controlling interest was acquired in John J Hunt, which owned the Ebor Brewery in York and Scarborough & Whitby Breweries along with 200 licensed public houses. In 1956 J Fryer & Sons of Brompton-on-Swale was acquired. In 1959 the West Auckland Brewery was acquired with 80 licensed public houses. In 1961 Russell & Wrangham of Malton was acquired with 90 licensed public houses. By 1967 the company had a market capitalization of £6.7 million, or £106 million in 2013 prices. In 1971, John Watson Cameron retired as managing director, although he remained as executive chairman, and his son, John Martin Cameron, became managing director. In 1972 the company introduced its own lager brand called Icegold. The product was top fermented and was actually a very pale ale rather than a lager.
In January 1974 Ellerman Lines acquired the 25 percent stake in Camerons previously owned by Sir John Ellerman, 2nd Baronet, who had died. Directors and Cameron family members held a 9 percent stake and Bass Charrington held 10 percent.
In 1975 the company was acquired by Ellerman Lines for £14 million, in an attempt to diversify from its declining shipping business. By this time Cameron's owned 500 pubs and 100 off licenses.
In 1980 Hansa lager was launched, brewed under licence from Dortmunder Actien Brauerei. Camerons spent £2 million to upgrade their brewing facilities in order to brew bottom fermented lager, in what CAMRA described as "the most ambitious [lager-brewing scheme] for a regional brewer yet". The company had sales of £51 million in 1981, and 1 per cent of the British beer market. Market share in the Tees Valley area was 25 per cent.
In 1983, Ellerman Lines was acquired by the Barclay brothers for £45 million. In 1984, the Barclays attempted to sell Camerons to Scottish & Newcastle for £44 million, but the brothers cancelled the negotiations when the government referred the deal to the Monopolies Commission.
In 1985 Cameron's held five per cent of the UK beer market. In 1985 the maltings building was demolished. Alistair Arkley was appointed managing director in 1985. Arkley split the pub and the brewing sides of the company into separate divisions, and divested the low margin off licence business. In 1986 Cameron's acquired 90 pubs from Mansfield Brewery, including 78 northern pubs and clubs, most of which were former North Country Breweries outlets, for £13 million. In 1988, the company expanded into the North West for the first time after it acquired 17 pubs in north Lancashire.
In 1988, Camerons and Tolly Cobbold were sold to Brent Walker for £248 million. Camerons controlled 480 licensed public houses and 270 hotels and off-licences. In 1989, Camerons Brewery was described as one of the most efficient in the country, with a total annual capacity of over 500,000 barrels and production of 400,000.
In 1991, the heavily-indebted Brent Walker sold the brewery and 51 pubs were sold to Wolverhampton & Dudley for £18.7 million, beating a rival offer from the management. Brent Walker retained the bulk of the Cameron's estate, which it spun off as a Hartlepool-headquartered pubco called Pubmaster, which controlled 1,600 pubs and was sold to a syndicate of investment groups for £171.3 million in 1996. Meanwhile the soft drinks arm was spun off under a management buyout called Orchid Drinks, with brands including Purdey's and Amé (acquired by Britvic in 2000 for £67 million).
W&D had acquired a company that was in a "sorry state". Initially, brewery staff numbers were reduced from 360 to 120, and part of the brewery was mothballed, after W&D ended the contract brewing of Labatt lager at the plant. However, W&D invested heavily in the brewery site and marketing, and the profitability of the brewery greatly improved. By 1995 W&D had doubled the size of the Cameron pub estate they inherited to 101 pubs. It was widely suggested by customers that the Camerons beers greatly improved after being acquired by W&D.
In 1997, contract brewing returned to the plant, with a licence to brew Foster's lager. By 1997, Cameron's market share in the North East had grown to 10 percent, supplying pubs from Alnwick to Hull. In 1998 £1 million was spent on a new filtration and fermentation system and a keg plant at the brewery. In 1999 a further £500,000 was invested in the previously mothballed areas of the brewery to bring it to its full capacity of 400,000 barrels after it won a series of contracts to brew Harp Lager, Heineken and Kronenbourg.
Castle Eden Brewery, owned by David Soley, took over Camerons in April 2002 for £35 million, moving all operations to Hartlepool and closing down the Castle Eden plant. The Kronenbourg 1664 contract was renewed by Scottish & Newcastle in December 2002. In 2003, £500,000 was spent to build a new bottling line and an on-site microbrewery, The Lion's Den. In 2008, Cameron's spent £4 million expanding its capacity from 375,000 barrels to around 800,000 barrels. This followed the agreement of a contract with Scottish & Newcastle to supply Kronenbourg 1664, Foster's and John Smith's bitter until 2019. Previously the brewery had only produced Kronenbourg 1664.
In 2015 it was announced that "Gold Bullion" would join Strongarm as a year-round beer.
In 2011, the brewery had a capacity of over 1.5 million hectolitres (over 1 million barrels) per annum. Production in 2012 was 900,000 hectolitres, with around 40,000 hl in own brand sales. The bulk of the brewery's own production is cask conditioned ale but it also sells bottled and keg ales. The company's most famous beer is Strongarm, a 4% abv bitter introduced in 1955, but the other regular beers are IPA, Bullion Gold and Trophy Special. Strongarm is made with 18 per cent crystal malt, which contributes significantly to its distinctive ruby red colour and its roasted, malty flavour.
The company owns 75 public houses.
The Lion Brewery
The brewery building is called the Lion Brewery, and the company offers tours of the brewery. Camerons Brewery in Hartlepool has two wells, one of them 250 feet deep. Most of the brewery was built in 1890 when the company had aspirations to supply the whole of the North East. There are still a few reminders of lavish opulence; the floor and walls of the brewhouse are furnished with Italian marble that cost £7,000 in 1970.
A £700,000 visitor's centre was opened next to the brewery in 2004, in the former Stranton Arms public house.
Advertising and sponsorship
In 1996, a £500,000 television and radio campaign saw Cameron's Strongarm advertised across Yorkshire and the Midlands for the first time.
In 2014, Cameron's began sponsoring BriSCA F1 driver John Downson Jnr, a local driver from Thornley. 'Dowsy' (as he is often referred to), is a North East stockcar racer who races under the number 94. John has previously raced BriSCA F2s, where he was the 2012 pole sitter in the BriSCA Formula 2 Stock Cars World Championship race at Barford Raceway, before making the switch to the more powerful V8 powered formula, the BriSCA F1s later in the year. John is the first driver from the area to feature in a BriSCA Formula 1 Stock Cars World Championship title race for almost 20 years, finishing 10th in 2013, narrowly avoiding qualifying for the event in 2014.
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