Home » Historical Figures » It’s Mr Tetley’s Birthday

It’s Mr Tetley’s Birthday

Leeds Libraries will be at The Tetley on Saturday 18 July for the free event, Joshua Tetley’s Birthday Party – so be sure to come and say hello and find out more about our special collections and library services.

In 1822, a 44-year-old Joshua Tetley signed an agreement with Mr William Sykes, Common Brewer, to take over his brewery at Salem-Place, Hunslet Lane, Leeds. While large successful breweries flourished in London, there was nothing of the sort in the North of England and Tetley felt there was an opportunity to be had, even though others in the trade may not have been doing so well. Joshua Tetley obviously had the right idea because almost 200 years later Tetley is one of the best known brewing names in the country, and iconic in Yorkshire.

A Tetley's timeline, taken from our Local History stock

A Tetley’s timeline, taken from our Local History stock

Coming from a long line of Maltsters, Joshua Tetley would have been no stranger to the beer brewing process and only chose the best candidates to partner up with for his first brew. After a slow but steady start, Tetley’s beer became more well known and an exciting opportunity to expand came with the Beer House Act of 1830, which made it legal for anyone paying a fee to sell beer from his own premises without permission from the Justices. This gave Tetley the chance to put more of his beer into the newly opened beerhouses of Leeds, the staff of which were unlikely to have the right experience or equipment to brew.

In the Nineteenth Century, the brewing of beer did not seem to be particularly experimental; brewers would rather stick to the simple well known process. However, Alfred Barnard’s 1889 book Noted Breweries of Great Britain and Ireland implied that Tetley’s were trying exciting new brews in an ‘experimental plant’, a dedicated room in the existing brewhouse. With ambitious moves such as this, Tetley’s had become a very successful and profitable business by the 1880s with around 500 staff and an increase in profits year upon year.

In 1889 Tetley’s profits took a dip, this being primarily because of other breweries buying public houses and selling their own beer. Tetley eventually gave in to the trend that was drying up their market and bought the first Tetley pub, the Duke William, in 1890, and shortly after the Fleece in Farsley which is still a pub today. With a large number of pubs ‘tied’ to the Tetley brewery and business on the up again, in 1931 the iconic Tetley Headquarters in Leeds was erected; and by the 1960s, after a takeover of Leeds’ Melbourne Brewery, Tetley’s became Leeds’ largest brewery, employing a thousand people.

The Huntsman, Tetley's staff magazine

The Huntsman, Tetley’s staff magazine

Tetley’s became the world’s largest producer of casks ales in the 1980s and was then taken over by Carslberg in 1998. However Tetley’s still remains an iconic part of Leeds history with the 1930s headquarters still standing, now used as a heritage and contemporary arts and learning space. Leeds Libraries hold an exciting collection of books and ephemera on Tetley’s brewery, including The Huntsman (above), Tetley’s staff magazine from the 1960s-80s, prints, postcards and information on the famous Tetley shire horses, the ‘Gentle Giants’, along with various agreements and inventories.

See our photograph archive Leodis for historical photographs of Tetley pubs, plaques and events over the years, and visit the Tetley website for more information about this Saturday’s festival.

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