Fire and Water

This battered wooden case, once used by the Lichfield Aerated Water Co, was recently rescued from a garden bonfire in the village of Selston, Nottinghamshire by Michael Leivers.

The crate must date from the early 1930s as the Lichfield Aerated Water Co was set up in 1931, as a subsidary of Samuel Allsopp & Sons Brewery which had taken over the Lichfield Brewery and its 182 public houses in 1930, before merging with Burton neighbours Ind Coope Ltd in 1934 to become Ind Coope and Allsopp Ltd. (1) On 1st December 1935, the Aerated Water Co was taken over by Burrows and Sturgess, a Derby firm who also produced SPA Grape Fruit, SPA Ginger Ale and SPA Iron Brew alongside soda and tonic water. Burrows and Sturgess moved the business from the old Lichfield Brewery on St John Street to a new factory based at the former maltings on the Birmingham Rd, but kept on the existing manager, a Mr Bourne(2). As part of the take over deal, Burrows and Sturgess were able to supply their products to a large number of premises owned by the newly formed Ind Coope and Allsopp Ltd.

The Derby Telegraph Bygones page features the memories of several people who once worked for Burrows and Sturgess, including a Mr Tipper who was a driver’s mate in the 1950s. Mr Tipper recalls driving to the Lichfield Depot in an AEC Mammoth Major which they would load up with metal, two dozen bottle crates, stacked six high and six wide. At the depot, these would be unloaded and replaced with the empties which were then taken back to Derby to be refilled. There’s a photo here on the Staffordshire Past Track website showing a steam wagon making deliveries for Henson’s Aerated Waters in the 1920s in Burton-on-Trent – would Michael’s wooden crate and its contents have been transported in a similar way?

Thanks so much to Michael for sending me the photo. It’s a great reminder of a long disappeared part of Lichfield’s industrial past and I’m so glad it has been saved from being reduced to a pile of ashes and given a new lease of life as a coffee table. I wonder what other uses it may have had during its eighty or so years? Michael thinks it was being disposed of as part of a house clearance. It’s a bit sad that some people don’t look a bit deeper to see the value in things like this. There’s a lot to be said for ordinary, everyday objects.   Of course, it would be great to hear from anyone who knows more about the short-lived Lichfield Aerated Water Co, or its successor Burrows and Sturgess.


(1) The VCH has it as a subsidary of Ind Coope and Allsopp, but as this merger between the two didn’t happen until 1935, The Lichfield Aerated Water co would, at least initially, have been a subsidary of Allsopp only. I think.

(2) Does this mean the fomer maltings originally belonging to the City Brewery, but most recently Wolverhampton & Dudley breweries and now being converted into residential accomodation?


The Brewing Industry: A Guide to Historical Records edited by Lesley Richmond, Alison Turton

Lichfield: Economic history’, A History of the County of Stafford: Volume 14: Lichfield(1990), pp. 109-131

4 thoughts on “Fire and Water

  1. Fascinating. This is how I read it.

    The dates are not a coincidence. On “Black Tuesday”, 29/Oct/1929, the Wall Street Stock Exchange crashes, triggering the great depression which lasted for ten years. Think of it as the 2008 credit crunch on steroids. Things were much worse because many banks granted overdrafts to speculators, secured against the value of their investment portfolios.

    The UK brewing industry would have been hit very hard with pub sales falling as unemployment rose. One solution was to become more efficient (more profitable) by becoming bigger. Another was to sell off parts of the business to specialists who could run them better. The expansion of the railway system improved distribution, created competition and forced mergers.

    Against this background your blog post makes a lot of sense:
    (1) In 1930 Samuel Allsopp & Sons buys the Lichfield Brewery.
    (2) Trying to weather the recession they branch into soft drinks in 1931 and set up the Lichfield Aerated Water Co.
    (3) The great depression keeps getting worse and the brewers of Burton are forced into a series of mergers to survive.
    (4) In 1935 Samuel Allsopp & Sons merged with Ind Coope Ltd. I think your post says 1934.
    (5) Ind Coope and Allsopp is all about scale (effiency) in brewing, so they set about selling off the non-core businesses. The Lichfield Aerated Water Co gets sold off to Burrows and Sturgess, a soft drinks specialist. The maltings are either sold of or closed. Instead of buying in grain, brewers would buy malt from specialist malting firms. Malting firms could be independent operations or joint ventures between brewers.


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