Ex-workers struggle for closure a year after Leeds Tetley’s brewery closed

MEMORIES OF AN INSTITUTION: Former Tetley Brewery workers Dennis Billings, Richard Sanderson, Dave 'Ziggy' Ibbotson, Ken Brown, Shirley Eastwood, John Chippendale, Chris Best and Paul Theobald at the site for the first anniversary since it closed down.
MEMORIES OF AN INSTITUTION: Former Tetley Brewery workers Dennis Billings, Richard Sanderson, Dave 'Ziggy' Ibbotson, Ken Brown, Shirley Eastwood, John Chippendale, Chris Best and Paul Theobald at the site for the first anniversary since it closed down.
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As the taps at the famous Tetley Brewery dried up, the tears of its dedicated workers began to flow on June 17 last year.

Now one year on, the Yorkshiremen and women who dedicated their working lives to preserving the legacy of Joshua Tetley are beginning to reflect on the loss of the firm to Leeds.

Having employed thousands of the city’s residents over 189 years, the brewery in Hunslet, Leeds, has left a gaping hole in many hearts.

Dave Ibbetson, known to his workmates as Ziggy, was one of the 179 brewery staff and contract workers to be made redundant last year, having worked there for 34 years.

The 54-year-old former brew house worker, from Belle Isle, said: “I never stop thinking about it – I think about the brewery all the time.

“I used to just admire the people, who generations before that had made it that iconic brand, it was the world’s biggest cask ale seller and best ever.”

He said since his redundancy he hasn’t been able to get a job due to his love for the brand.

Chris Best, 67, from Beeston, worked at the brewery in transport for 44 years until his redundancy in 2003.

He said: “It has been my life, I have grown up with it and a lot of the values that I have came from that place when it was initially Joshua Tetley’s.”

Joshua Tetley, a maltster from Armley, bought William Sykes’s Hunslet brewery in 1822, and delivered its beer by horse and cart – a tradition that continued in part until 2006.

After generations of workers and billions of pints, Danish brewers Carlsberg bought 50 per cent of the brand in 1993.

Ken Brown, from Burley, was a planning engineer at the brewery until 2003 – he spent 28 years with the firm.

The 63 year old said: “I was gutted last year, it shows how much it meant to people, it was synonymous with Leeds.

“Carlsberg took the enthusiasm away from us.”

The closure of the site was announced in 2008, before production of beers moved elsewhere last year and bulldozers began ripping through 37 of the brewery buildings.

Former receptionist Shirley Eastwood, 80, from Shadwell, worked at the brewery for 35 years until 1996.

She said: “It was a joy to go to work – when you walked through that door the warmth of Tetley just wrapped itself around you.”

Just seven buildings and 114 Carlsberg telesales and marketing staff remain on the site.

The Tetley’s Headquarters building will become an art gallery, and an adjoining 1.2 acre park and 900-space temporary car park will be built this year.

Paul Theobald, 64, who worked in distribution at the brewery from 1969 to 1998, said: “I couldn’t believe that it could close, it was an institution when I first went there.”

Former marketing manager Richard Sanderson, 65, set up the Joshua Tetley Association for former workers who started at the brewery before 1993 – when Carlsberg got involved.

The Wakefield resident, who worked there for 30 years until 1999, said: “It’s just heartbreaking to see the site as it is.”

The association has around 660 members and will meet for its annual dinner at the Hilton, in Leeds, on October 5.

Call 07867 801180 for details.

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