Toast to the pioneer brewers

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DRIVING from Halifax towards Hipperholme and sitting in the usual tea-time traffic queue from Lower Brear I noticed that demolition work was taking place on what was the old Hipperholme Steam Brewery.

The history of brewing in our area is well documented particularly in an extensive piece of research ‘Emergence of the Common Brewer’ for the Halifax Antiquarian Society in 1981 by P. W. Robinson.

During the 1950s the area we now know as Calderdale had four breweries but some 50 years earlier there were 25. Brewing has been going on a lot longer than that. For example in 1352 Agnes Tyngill was fined 4d (1½p in modern money) for brewing and selling.

In 1790 there is evidence that Stocks Brewery of Shibden Head was trading successfully but 30 years earlier in Brighouse Hanson and Thomas Theodore Ormerod family were already running a thriving brewery.

A turning point in the brewing trade came in 1830 when the duty payable on beer was abolished. This saw the introduction of the Beerhouse Act which lit the blue touch paper for the proliferation of drinking premises following a two guinea payment which allowed the retail sale of beer without any restriction from the licensing justices. More houses selling beer meant more brewers.

One of these new brewers was Messrs Brear and Brown, a partnership that was formed by a former employee of the Richard Whitaker Brewery, and a hay and straw merchant who traded in Halifax.

William Brear and Thomas Brown founded their brewery in 1877 and in no time at all the company was doing very nicely. Once the business had been formed a new brewery was built, complete with all the modern equipment of the day.

The property remained almost intact until a disatrous fire in 1988 when it was one of the last remaining and fine examples of a 19th century tower brewer and maltings

Business had prospered for Brear and Brown which in 1894 saw the business become a limited company. But, by 1900 the sale of beer was in a decline and all the breweries found trading becoming more difficult.

The business also had a wine and spirit retail outlet in Northgate, Halifax in 1905 but by now the brewing business experiencing serious difficulties.

During the First World War trade hit a real downturn and in 1916 Brear and Brown’s went into liquidation. The company was however, considered worth saving and was bought by Waller and Son Ltd of Bradford, who out bid another well known brewer of that period T. Ramsden and Son Ltd, of Halifax.

Waller’s acted quickly in making the company more profitable by selling off 22 of Brear and Brown’s tied houses in Halifax to that other well known brewer Richard Whitaker.

Waller’s maximised its brewing output by transferring the Bradford based Trafalgar Brewery operations to Hipperholme. In 1925 Waller’s changed its name to Waller’s Bradford Brewery Ltd.

The company was bought out in 1935 by Melbourne Ales, the Leeds and Wakefield Brewery firm. This saw the brewing side of the company come to an end on the Hipperholme site, although they did continue to use the Maltings building.

During the 1960s and 70s the premises were used by Bass North until 1973 when it moved out. The fire in 1988 caused extensive damage but part of the building including the tower continued to be used by Dyson Insulation. That was until 2007, when the building stood empty.

In late 2007 a planning application was submitted and in February 2008 was it passed for the site to be cleared, and a new development of 14 houses was approved. Outline planning permission was also passed for retention of the tower for office accommodation.

In 2010 another plan was passed for a development of 43 houses on the whole site by the Sanctuary Housing Association, but on this plan the remaining brewing tower will be demolished.

Let us hope that the developers retain at least a memory of the old Hipperholme Steam Brewery by incorporating the new street name into the development’s site’s historical past.

n This week’s featured photograph is a rare image looking across the valley towards Hipperholme showing the huge mill buildings and brewery tower.