Tetley's: Leeds brewery's last days on film

A YOUNG film-maker is aiming to ensure future generations know how Leeds lost one of its most iconic institutions - Tetley's brewery.

Peter Lazenby reports.

Johnathan Clough may have been torn from his Yorkshire roots when he was a mere infant, but it takes more than a 250-mile move to the south coast to knock his origins out of him.

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For the first two years of life, his home was a house in a street behind Harry Ramsden's at Guiseley, and you can hardly get more Yorkshire than that.

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Although his dad's work meant that the family had to move to Eastbourne, he made regular visits back to the Broad Acres to visit his gran and his cousins.

His elder brother later chose Leeds for his university education, and three years ago, Johnathan followed suit. Now 21, he is in his third year of a course at the Northern Film School at Leeds Metropolitan University.

For his third year project, he is taking on his most ambitious challenge – a film about the devastating effect of the impending closure of Tetley's brewery on Leeds and Yorkshire.

"I'd discovered from the Yorkshire Evening Post in 2008 that Tetley's was to close," he said. "I wanted my project to be something that was based on the North.

"I wanted it to come from my Northern roots.

"As it is due to close this year, I thought, there is nothing more current, more Northern, that I could do my documentary on."

The documentary will look at the effects of the closure on the 170 remaining brewery workers who face losing their jobs, the views of people in the communities near the brewery, and of Tetley drinkers.

"Since the day the closure was announced many thousands of people, locally and internationally, have been fighting to save this iconic part of Leeds history," Johnathan said. "Now, shortly before the gates close for the last time, what effect will this have on the workers and local businesses of Leeds?"

Johnathan also plans to look at the rich history of the brewery, which was bought by Joshua Tetley in 1822 for 400.

Joshua saw it as a logical expansion for the family firm into which he had followed his father and grandfather, who were both maltsters in Armley from at least 1740.

After an initial struggle, the brewery thrived, with the building of new maltings, cellars, hop store and fermenting room. When Joshua died in 1859, he handed over a growing business to his son, Francis William.

In 1890, Tetley's opened its first public house, the Duke William in nearby Bowman Lane, followed by The Fleece at Farsley, and in 1892 the brewery began supplying bottled beer.

The brewery and the Tetley family became integral parts of the industrial and civic life of Leeds.

In the First World War, Tetley's raised a whole company of soldiers from among its employees.

With the arrival of the 20th century, Tetley's owned 57 "tied" houses.

The Tetley estate expanded throughout the 20th century, with the takeover of rival breweries and pub chains, and at its peak Tetley's employed thousands of workers and owned more than 1,000 pubs.

Tetley lost its independence in 1961 when it was taken over by Allied breweries, creating what was the biggest brewing conglomerate in the world at the time.

Expansion at the Hunslet site continued during the 1980s, with the addition of a computerised packaging plant, and a new ale and lager brewhouse. Tetley's was producing 200 million pints of beer a week.

In the 1990s Tetley's became part of the Danish brewing giant Carlsberg.

There were repeated rumours, always unfounded, that Carlsberg, with brewing capacity at Northampton and elsewhere, would close the Hunslet brewery – unfounded until November 5, 2008, when Carlsberg said the brewery would close within three years.

The announcement led to a campaign which spread from Leeds to nationwide and into Parliament.

Tetley's has been made a cause celebre by the Campaign for Real Ale, Britain's biggest consumer pressure group, with 80,000 members.

And although the campaign goes on, closure is now approaching.

Jonathan plans to capture the closure and its effects on film.

"Being born in Leeds and having many family connections with Leeds and its industry, this is something that I am very passionate about," he said.

"I think it is greatly important to record the story about the workers and the impact the closure will have on their lives. I do not want to create a simple reportage on the closure itself. This is a subject that is very sensitive to many people.

"There are many people who want their voices to be heard.

"I want to create a timeless memory of moment in the history of Leeds."

Greg Carter of Growth Street Photo: Lana Kropyvna

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