The remnants of the Tetley Brewery now consist of a contemporary art gallery and the current park development. However, the area has a rich history that connects the area to Yorkshire and Leeds.
The Tetley family has had strong links with the beer industry since as far back as 1740. Specifically in the Leeds area and around Armley. By 1848 the family had a brewery and solidified their operations in Leeds employing 32 men. At the time the site was mostly brewing porters and mild ales. In 1860 Tetley was the largest brewery in the north of England. By 1864 the company had ambitions to expand and build more. Tetley bought its first two pubs in 1890. From these only one survives today ‘the fleece’. The other pub ‘ the duke William’, situated in the Tetley’s yard, and demolished by Carlsberg in 2002. In 1931 the art deco styled Tetley headquarters finished construction. Which now serves as the site of the Tetley art gallery.
In 1954 an expansion of Tetley’s operations occurred. Achieved by the friendly takeover of the Gilmour brewery of Sheffield. Along with 500 pubs served exclusively by the Tetley brewery. Tetley became the Largest brewery in Leeds in 1960, after they announced a further friendly takeover of Leeds’ Melbourne brewery. With Melbourne approaching Tetley about the merger. the purchase of £3.5 million acquired The brewery and its 243 tied pubs. Later the same year Tetley merged once again this time with Walkers of Warrington to form Tetley Walker. Leading to them owning over a thousand tied pubs in Yorkshire alone, and a further two thousand around the country.
In 1961 Tetley merged with Ind Coope and Ansells to form the Allied Breweries. Which was at the time the World’s largest brewing conglomerate hiring over a thousand workers. Tetley constructed a new brew house in 1964. By the 1970’s Tetley owned half of Leeds’ pubs. During this time Tetley was Britain’s largest cask ale brewery, producing over a million barrels a year. In the 1980s Tetley benefitted from the increase in sale of cask ales. With a customer survey concluding that Tetley had achieved an almost irrational level of customer support, particularly in West Yorkshire. This occurred in part due to the traditional loyalties of the customers. However, also due to Tetley’s effective television campaigns.
In 1993 Carlsberg acquired a 50% stake in the company purchased from Allied Lyons. The Brewery decided to open a museum of brewing in Leeds. Situated in the modern day area of Brewery Wharf, the attraction proved very popular. However, redevelopment of the surrounding area led to its closure in 2000. Where its building now stands as a host to bars and restaurants.
By 1996 sales of Tetley bitter became overtaken by the sales of John Smith’s. The product has retained the number two ale position since. This is largely due to a downfall in Tetley’s marketing campaign largely becoming more ineffective overtime. From this in 1998, Tetley became fully taken over by Carlsberg. In 2004 the Tetley name subsequently dropped from Carlsberg-Tetley. In 2006 Tetley sold around 185 million pints of beer in pubs. This same year the horses used to make beer deliveries to pubs around Leeds retired from service. The Leeds Brewery announced its closure in 2008. With a Carlsberg spokesperson claiming “it is an old brewery and the one in Northampton is bigger and modern.”
The brewery is situated on the south bank of the river Aire near Crown Point and Clarence Dock. In 1906 the brewery stood on a fraction of its current site. Many of the old smaller streets of the area have disappeared under the brewery. With the old headquarters now being a gallery. The vast majority of the space will be a new green space. Known as Aire Park and will take up 2 hectares of land and support the regeneration of the south bank.
Tetley’s old brewing headquarters took on its new role in 2013 when it opened as The Tetley contemporary art gallery. The building transformed to house gallery spaces. With a learning studio, an artist residency studio, offices for creative business, a bar and restaurant, and function rooms for events. The gallery also maintains many of the features of the original building. Including wooden panelling, the directors boardroom, the passengers lift and staircase. Even a war memorial that commemorates the Tetley employees that served in the first world war.
Grab your exclusive designs from our T-Shirt store and show your pride in the glories of Yorkshire.