Hello. My grandfather, father and several uncles and aunts worked in the brewing trade here in the North East. There have always been beer bottle labels in our family, but I was never really interested. My grandchildren, who like something called real ale, introduced me to your website and through their help and the rest of the family, have put together some labels from the breweries and bottling companies that have been part of our family for over a hundred years. Grandfather started work at Nimmo’s in Castle Eden before the first world war. It is a business centre now.
After the war, grandfather worked at Fenwick’s Brewery, which we think was part of George Younger and Sons of Alloa. Even in the 1950s when I started to drink, there was a lot of Scottish beers to be found in Newcastle. Of course, we didn’t think about what we were drinking; my grandchildren are always telling me off about that.
Aunt Lucy had a pub in the centre of Gateshead called the Grey Nags Head. When I say she had a pub, it may be that she just worked there, nobody is very clear, we are not even sure whose Aunt she was. There is still a pub called that in Gateshead. We think it must have sold Newcastle beers, because we have found quite of lot of labels with Grey Nag notes on them. My grandchildren have remarked how there seemed to be a lot of bottled Mild Ale.
None of us were sure about this one. The only clue is that it was brewed in Scotland and we think that George Younger owned Fenwick’s Brewery and bottled lots of different beers there. Grandfather worked in the bottling department so he could have picked this up there. These are the things we don’t know. Who were Chan, Weng & Co? Did George Younger brew it? Were the ports on the Tyne and Wear used to export beers?
My father worked for quite a few companies in the North East. He was lucky to find work when he left school, there was a lot of unemployment, but his father managed to find him a position at Wood and Watson’s bottling works in Durham. All he did at first was the heavy lifting, barrels, casks, crates of empties, the lot. After a while he was allowed to go with the drivers on deliveries. I expect some other new recruit got the lifting jobs. Wood and Watson had a contract to bottle for quite a lot of Scottish brewers for sending all over the North East and sometimes further away. They did a lot for James Deuchar after the Monkwearmouth Brewery closed in 1930.
One of the bottlers my father worked for must have had an arrangement or a contract with breweries on the other side of the Pennines in what used to be Cumberland and Westmorland. I can remember him talking about the journeys in the winter because there was often snow and ice to navigate on the A66 and then in the hills around Penrith and Keswick. The trip he used to dread in the winter was to Cleator Moor, not far from Whitehaven, and only accessible by narrow, winding roads.
My sister worked at the offices of the Tadcaster Tower Brewery Co in Darlington before the merger with Hammonds United. She met her husband there, he was one of those who looked after the bottling line. I always used to visit when I was home on leave because we could all share their beer allowance.
Our family have always spent time together. Regular days out on the train or bus and when we could afford it, maybe a week in a guest house. The children always preferred the seaside, so the Yorkshire coast resorts were popular destinations. The adults wanted to go to Whitby, and the young ones liked Scarborough best. I guess the adults got their choice once in a while. My grandchildren say they prefer Magaluf.
There have been several people in our family; father, uncles and great uncles who worked at the Leazes Brewery in Newcastle. It was a bit like a family. If they ever needed more workers, either permanent or temporary, they always asked the workforce if other family members wanted a job. It worked well because no-one would recommend anyone who might not be reliable or hard-working. It got so that there could be 5 or 6 people from one family there. It was a shame when William Younger took Reid’s over and even worse when it became part of Scottish and Newcastle. A bit like trying to merge Newcastle United and Sunderland.
There has been a bit of a conflict about what we use for this last post. My grandchildren were very keen to put in something from the microbreweries that they like so much, but I thought it was better to put in the history part of this family. Even though they have done everything to do with the computer and I worried that they would just go it alone, I finally won the argument. So why this label from all those that we found scattered across about different parts of the family. There was a strong family connection with Ye Olde Fleece in Gateshead; Aunt Lucy worked there and it is certain that someone from that side of the family was either a manger or tenant there. It was at one time an Ind Coope pub. There was also a bottling stores in Newcastle for Ind Coope and it may be that these labels came from there, before going for export. It may be that we all just like the design.