A Noted Brewery

The Eshald Well brewery as pictured in The Noted Breweries of Great Britain and Ireland by Alfred Barnard.

Alfred Barnard was the secretary of Harper’s Weekly Gazette. Between 1885 and 1887 he visited every working whisky distillery in Great Britain and Ireland and published a 500 page book describing them. Later, between 1889 and 1891, he went to over 110 breweries and published The Noted Breweries of Great Britain and Ireland in four volumes. On his travels he stopped off in Woodlesford to visit Bentley’s. His account is reproduced below.




It was on the morning of a bright autumnal day that we set foot in Woodlesford, having made the short journey from Leeds by the Midland Railway. The villages of “Oulton-cum-Woodlesford,” to give them their full title, are situated in the midst of enchanting and picturesque surroundings, overlooking the banks of the river Aire. Oulton contains a fine church, built by the munificence John Blayds, Esq., the lord of the manor, at a cost of £12000, which is considered to be one of the most beautiful specimens of pointed architecture in the county.

Within five minutes walk of this church, and close to the station stands the Eshald Well Brewery, one of the most important buildings in the district. It is planted on the slopes of a steep hill, overlooking meadows and distant woodlands, and abuts on the beautifull-wooded rounds of Eshald House, one of the prettiest in the locality, formerly the residence of Mr. Henry Bentley, and now occupied by the vicar of the parish.

The Eshald Well Brewery, the subject of this sketch, was established early in the present century by Henry, the son of Mr. Timothy Bentley, the eminent brewer, of Huddersfield, and the inventor of the Yorkshire stone fermenting squares. He selected the spot on account of a celebrated well, situated in the centre of the property, and famed for its unfailing supply of the purest water.

It is from this spring that the brewery takes its name. Here Mr. Henry Bentley built a brewery, which, in those days, was considered a large one, and he soon established a reputation for the quality of his ales.

From time to time, as the business grew, the buildings were enlarged, and many additions made until the establishment had reached its present extensive proportions.

Owing to the death of one of the partners in 1880, the brewery was turned into a Limited Company, under the supreme management of Mr. C. F. Hoyle, who had for many years previous directed the affairs of the concern, and whose efforts the brewery chiefly owes its success.

The well, from which the brewery takes its name, is 150 feet deep, and yields an unfailing supply of the purest and finest water for brewing.

It is scarcely possible to describe the exterior of the brewery premises, consisting as they do of a picturesque group of stone buildings, massively constructed, covering seven and a half acres of ground. Suffice it to say, that they comprise an extensive brewhouse, six maltings, spacious cellars, numerous workshops, cooperages, and stables, which we now proceed to describe in detail.

Situated on the highest part of the hill, and overlooking the premises, is the office building, a handsome stone-built structure two storeys high, towards which, on leaving the railway station, we directed our steps. On entering, we found ourselves in a broad corridor paved with tiles, which divides the ground floor. On the right is the order office, and next the counting-house – a large well-fitted and furnished room, with desk accommodation for twelve clerks. Beyond it a strong room.

To the left is Mr Hoyle’s private room and office, both handsomely furnished, containing a library of books which includes a collection of works on brewing since 1866; also two purchasing counters, with testing appliances, and a patent weighing machine for malt, etc.

Next to this office (which we entered from the corridor) is the secretary’s office, and beyond, a stationery store-room. From the corridor rises a broad staircase leading to the apartments above, which comprise a noble board-room, a ledger and invoice office, an accountants room and a cashier’s private office, where there is a small lift connected with the strong room, for bringing up therefrom the heavy ledgers and account books.

After a pleasant chat with Mr. C. F. Hoyle, the manager, we were conducted over the premises by Mr. Harold Trinder, the head brewer. We commenced our tour by an inspection of the malthouses, which form no in-considerable portion of the company’s freehold property, and where they manufacture 400 quarters of malt per week. The first visited were the No 4 maltings, which face the main turnpike road, along which Dick Turpin rode on his way to York. They consist of a lofty and imposing block of stone buildings, 200 feet in length and 60 in breadth, and contain two growing floors, with a sixty-five quarter steep at the end of one of them.

The building described by Alfred Barnard as No 4 maltings. Later it became the Wine and Spirit department.

The floors are laid with blue quarries, and the windows closed in with ventilators. Above these is a malt store holding 5,000 quarters, and at the top a large hop warehouse. The kiln attached to the building has an open roof, surmounted by a cowl; and the logie beneath the drying floor contains several arched furnaces with open fires.

Connected with the malt store is a cleaning and screening room, serving all the the malthouses in the brewery. It contains the usual appliances for effectually cleaning the malt before it reaches the mill-rolls and communicates with the brewery opposite by a closed-in suspension bridge.

As we crossed it we saw, running to and fro, the little malt wagons which bring the malt from the different malthouses to be screened. When this operation has been performed, the malt is jacobed to the various malt stores in the brewery, ready for the grinding mills. Walking through the first floor of the brewhouse, we came to the top floor of the East Malting (a thirty-five-quarter house, in which are the malt stores, capable of holding 2,000 quarters.

To the right of the stores there is a large barley-screening loft of considerable size, filled up with double screens, and the newest grain separating and cleaning machinery. Beneath the malt stores is a spacious growing floor, and, on the south side, the malt kiln. This building is noticeable as being the original malting erected by Timothy Bentley, when the brewery was but a small concern.

Passing through the stores we reached the top storey of Nos 1 and 2 maltings; and here we must remind our readers that all the buildings stand on the side of a hill, forming terraces, hence the top floors of the lower range are on a level with the topmost storey but one of the preceding structure. The Nos 1 and 2 are the most important maltings of any, and are splendidly arranged for every process.

The floor, across which we walked, measures 160 feet by 130 feet, and forms a vast malt store, binned off with timber air-tight partitions, and holding upwards of 10,000 quarters of malt. Beneath are two splendid growing floors, with a stone steep, welting 105 quarters of barley, and attached to them are two kilns, fired like the others, and floored with Stowmarket tiles. We noticed in all the mattings that the ventilation was effected by the same kind of shutter windows, and the steeps emptied by sluice-traps leading into the main drainage pipes.

Alfred Barnard.

Returning to the brewhouse, we entered the malt receiving room, where there is a hopper, into which the malt is tipped when required for the mills. It is connected with an elevator, which conveys it to the top of the building, where it passes through a final screen and falls on to the mill-rolls, of which there are two sets, erected on a staging over the mash room. The malt is conveyed, by an Archimedean screw, from the mills to the grist cases over the mash tuns.

Following our guide, we ascended half a dozen steps to a room peculiarly built on to the wall, and having a galvanized roof. Here we were shown two boiling-backs, or heaters, holding respectively 150 and 200 barrels of mashing water, supplied from a reservoir forming the roof of the brewhouse tower.

Diverging to the left, we descended by a steep stair to the mashing floor, passing on our way the grist case gallery, where is is also the shafting and machinery connected with the mills, etc. The mash room, which measures about 50 feet square, contains two covered mash tuns, of sixty and forty quarters respectively, constructed of iron encased in wood, the space between being lagged with slag wool. There is a third tun on a gallery above, for porter brewing, of somewhat less capacity.

The covers of the mash tuns are fitted with movable slides, and have glass windows inserted therein, thus enabling the operator to see the process of mashing. Each contains a double set of mashing rakes, with revolving spargers over them, also gun-metal draining-plates at the bottom, and all are commanded by Steel’s mashing machines.

As the floor below is open to the yard, the grains are withdrawn by valve-traps direct from the tun into the farmers’ carts. The wort, after passing through a copper safe attached to each vessel, runs by gravitation direct to the coppers in the adjoining building on the hill-side, whither we followed it. On our way we passed the head brewer’s sampling room, containing refrigerators, thermometers, etc.; his principal office, however is situated on the ground floor.

Passing down several steps, beneath a wide archway, we came to the copper-house, containing four coppers encased in brick, and heated by fire, each holding 100 barrels, This building is undergoing considerable alterations, and is being enlarged to hold two larger coppers of the newest pattern. The daily hop is contiguous, being situated over the malt receiving room in the next building; and the hopback is on a level with the furnace fires.

From this last-mentioned vessel the wort is pumped up to the cooling room, occupying the top storey of the No. 1 fermenting house, and containing two open coolers, one measuring 60 feet by 20 feet, and the other 50 feet by 30 feet. Passing from thence on to a gallery, we observed two vertical refrigerators of the newest type, cooling together 100 barrels per hour, and one of Morton’s make cooling a similar quantity. All are fitted with the patent frames, so that they can be taken to pieces after each operation and cleaned. Leaving the refrigerator gallery behind us, we descended a staircase, and found ourselves on the floor of the fermenting house, a lofty, well-ventilated building, measuring 70 feet by 40 feet.

Here are to be seen ten slate fermenting squares, with latticed pathways between them, each fitted with copper rousing pumps, worked from shafting connected with the main engine. Crossing an outer room, where are hung numerous lengths of fire-hose, buckets, and other fire extinguishing appliances, we came to a long flight of stone steps, by which we descended to the fermenting room below, arched over with solid masonry 9 feet thick, It is upwards of 150 feet in length, and at the far end branches off again right and left to a distance of 60 feet. The whole place contains, besides other vessels, thirty-six slate fermenting squares, each holding twenty barrels, with rousing pumps. Leading out from this great place is another chamber, 45 feet square, called the union room, which contains a number of Burton unions; and next to it another fermenting square room, containing seventeen more of those massive slate vessels.

Conducted by our guide, we next passed down to the “finishing” house, 60 feet square, containing five racking squares, holding 300 barrels, from which the beer is drawn into casks, which are then elevated by a Jacob’s ladder to the various cellars spreading out eastward up the hill, beneath the brewhouse and subsidiary buildings.

They consist of, first, a series of twelve arches, 80 feet long, 40 feet broad, and 20 feet high; and secondly, a group of seven cellars extending beneath the great maltings.

At the time of our visit, the arches alone contained 5000 casks of ale, whilst the cellars will store 10000 more. The largest of these measures no less than 150 feet by 80 feet, and will easily store 6000 casks. A steam hoist delivers the barrels to the loading-out stage at the side of the railway.

On leaving these cellars we were conducted through another racking room, where there is an engine for driving cold air into the casks after the operation of washing them is completed. Arriving at the cask yard, we witnessed the operations of cleansing the barrels by steam machinery, so often described in these pages, and then, passing the steaming and drying sheds, we made our way to the cooperage, comprised in one of three courtyards at the back of the brewery. It is entirely surrounded by buildings, which contain artisans’ work- shops, stables, a barm house for the sale of yeast, and the coopers’ shops. These latter employ sixteen workmen, who both repair and make casks. The building containing the stables and forage lofts, is of handsome appearance, and contains thirty-four stalls, well ventilated and drained.

Proceeding to the second yard, we came to another fine stone building, 120 feet in length, more lofty than the stables, and somewhat picturesque in appearance, the roof being surmounted by a clock tower and turret bell. Inside the walls are the mechanics’ and joiners’ shops, saw-bench, etc., the machinery and appliances therein being driven by steampower. Bearing round to the right, a short distance up the slopes of the hill, we passed the blacksmiths’ shop, the loading-out stage for the local trade, and the shed for the traction engine which is used for taking beer to Leeds, Bradford, Selby, Castleford, and Normanton.

In a third yard, opening out on to a meadow of twelve and a-half acres, belonging to the Company, are numerous dray sheds, coal bunks, and a general store house.

Next, turning our faces southward, we made for the great yard, facing the turnpike road from Wakefield to York, where are the nags’ stables and coach houses, occupying a fine building of neat elevation, and next to which is the gate-house or lodge, occupied by the timekeeper, Sergeant James, late of the 1st York and Lancaster regiment. He is a pensioner, who particularly distinguished himself at the battle of El Teb; and just before our visit, this fine soldier had received a letter from the Royal Hospital at Chelsea, informing him that he would in the future receive an extra pension of sixpence a day; the grant having been duly made at the suggestion of Captain Lapham. This six pence a day is an important addition to a pension of 1s. 9d.; besides, it is only given to men who have distinguished themselves by gallant conduct; hence, the Sergeant’s pride and gratitude was pleasing to behold.

On the other side of the gateway there is a carters’ office and weighing house, and beyond them a boiler shed, containing three Lancashire boilers fitted with injecting fuel economisers, and all the latest improvements.

Leaving these behind us, we crossed the yard to the engine house, passing en route the painters’ and signboard shops, and the copper-hearth, etc.

The main engine is of twenty-five horse-power with a fly-wheel 40 feet in diameter, and has been in use for forty years. There is a smaller engine in the same room, for pumping the beer into the fermenting vessels; and, in another small engine house in the cask yard, a combined engine and pump, for delivering the wart from the hopbacks to the coolers. On the opposite side of the public road the Company have erected gasworks, for supplying their brewery and the neighbouring villages with gas.

At this point of our visit we were met by Mr. Trinder, whose duties had obliged him to leave us to the care of his assistant, who suggested an adjournment to the cellars, to sample the Company’s various brews. First we tasted the celebrated “Timothy,” the ancient speciality of this firm, a luscious, full-bodied, and nourishing drink; next in order came “College ale.” very similar in flavour and quality to old “Timothy;” and, finally, the Company’s East India pale ale, which to us was the more agreeable of the trio for daily consumption, it being bright, sparkling and refreshing, with a good flavour of the malt and hops about it.

The cellarman produced many other specimens of ale, beer and porter, among them the firm’s English Lager Beer, a light, aromatic drink, quite equal to the continental Lager, and equally sparkling.

Before leaving the brewhouse, we paid a visit to Mr. H. Trinder’s office and laboratory, both on the ground floor of the building. The latter is completely furnished and equipped with all the testing apparatus and appliances as are to be seen in the Burton breweries.

To the left of the main entrance to the brewhouse we noticed the railway sidings to the loading-out stage and malting, connected with a branch of the Midland; the canal, on which the Company have their own barges, runs at the back of the premises.

In progressing through the works, we were struck with the order and system prevailing in every department, and the care taken in the manipulation of the materials used in the brewing operations, and unhesitatingly state, that malt and hops only are used in the beer brewed in this establishment.

The Company’s trade lies principally in the locality, but they have extensive agencies in Manchester, and other large towns; and their trade is rapidly increasing every day. In 1850, the beer produced was 9,227 barrels; 1870, 36,000 barrels; and in 1889, nearly 100,000 barrels. Upwards of a hundred persons are employed on the premises, and the Company’s own workmen make all the vessels and vehicles, and carry out all the repairs.

As the express train was approaching, we were obliged to take a hurried leave of Mr. Hoyle and in three minutes found ourselves quickly travelling towards Leeds.