1. : The Arrival
Morgan's brewery was taken over - in a joint
venture - by Messrs. Bullards and
S. & P. in
1961; the two firms then sharing some
400 to 450 pubs.
The brewery itself passed to Watney Mann of
London in August 1961. It was a close copy of
Greene King brewery in Bury St. Edmunds,
having the same architect : Mr. Jennings.
There was a Trading Agreement also written,
by which Watney's undertook to supply the
tied houses, of both Norwich breweries;
with certain proprietory products such as
(keg) Red Barrel & bottled Brown Ale.
These products were heavily advertised
nationally, with the result that they
diminished sales of the local brews.
As Watney Mann (ex-Morgan's) they brewed
from April 1962. As early as July 1962,
Bullard's reported that Watney's keg beers
accounted for 51% of all their sales of bitter.
This outcome had done rather more than
intended : in relieving the strain on their
Anchor brewery, in supplying their
'new' ex-Morgan's houses !!
(Likewise for S. & P. Pockthorpe brewery).
By 1963 (see Takeovers) the name
Watney Mann (East Anglia) was adopted.
2. : New For Old
In 1961, far from being an old set of buildings,
the Old Brewery was the
However, Watney's invested some 2.7 million
pounds in converting the premises, to produce
(largely) keg products, betw. 1968 and 1973.
This included a new half-million pound building
(March 1968) for a 'continuous fermenting plant'
on the old brewhouse site.
The other 2.2 million was spent on a new
and offices, completed in 1973.
Closures of Bullards and S. & P. breweries,
by 1970, directly relate.
3. : Takeovers
November 1963 had seen the
those 2 breweries; with worthless assurances
of the retention of their brewing functions.
The takeovers were greeted locally
with a sarcastic couplet :-
There came Three Wise Men
from the South -
Watney, Combe and Reid.
The tied-house pubs of the City breweries
were (soon or later) legally transferred.
Watney swiftly took over Bullards
in November 1963, along with 530
(over 800 in Norfolk?) tied pubs;
as they had secured over 15% of
the Company's shares by that time.
Later, in Feb. 1967, S. & P. had
their tied pubs (632 in all E. Anglia
in 1963) secured by Watney.
Hence - customers, as well as drinking
'tied' beer, did so in Watney's own pubs.
As usual, the building was controlled
(its usage, furnishing, decor etc.) by the
brewery; along with staff numbers or attitude.
Another system, imported by Watney's, had
no customer-appeal when their landlord (male
or female) was tardily replaced upon leaving.
The eventual newcomer was often a member
of (yes, male) staff : directly under the brewery.
They were classed as Watney representatives,
but always known as "Reps". It did not seem
that more than 1 current Rep was salaried,
regardless of how many normal licensees
had left pubs quite recently (and why !)
How does an abandoned pub work well daily,
with only a rare visit by the Rep; despite
the fact that he holds the licensee status
for every pub on his rota??.
The Lamb Inn was a very good Bullard example,
from as early as 1964 to 1977, showing
2 Reps in sequence.
See the detailed list.
Please read some details, with a
couple of typical serious cases,
if you have a tough constitution.
In between times, the death had occurred in
April 1965 of the long-serving Chairman
of Watney's, Simon Combe.
It was Combe's assurances that were not
respected; either in the matter of brewing,
nor regarding the culling of tied houses
which had come into Watney's posession.
On the other hand, Bullard's themselves
had fickle drinkers to contend with.
Continued . . .
A report to their Board in the 1960s stated
that the public had preference for bottled
Watney Brown Ale (1035 s.g.), because of
its sweet palate, over Bullard's Brown Ale
(1039 s.g.) Even though - at a shilling a bottle -
the Bullard's product was 3 old pence cheaper
(for a stronger brew) viz. 80% of the
4. : After The Takeovers
Both subsidiary Norwich breweries had closed
by January 1970. Therefore, from July,
King Street hands were producing keg
Norwich Bitter & Norwich Mild
alongside the notorious Red Barrel, and
the pathetic Starlight and Special Mild.
In 1976 Watney's re-named their brewery
"Norwich Brewery", under the mantle of
the Norwich Brewery Co. Ltd.
At this stage, the firm was already subordinate
to Grand Metropolitan Hotels
- who had
taken them over in June 1972
(along with Truman's Brewery).
The programme of the Great Britain Beer
Festival of 1977 revealed Fined Bitter was
already on sale in 150 London pubs -
heralding a change of heart.
The programme stated that :
The East Anglian beer desert is still
a blot on the Watney escutcheon and it
seems absurd that Fined Bitter - brewed
in Norwich [ See 1 below ] should be
available in London, but not in E. Anglia,
where real ale is needed.
After the total failure of their Starlight product,
in 1978 they launched the "new" (non-keg)
Norwich Castle Bitter.
Although it was not popular, by 1980 it was
by far the most common beer sold in the
25%-plus of Norfolk pubs who were actually
selling cask beer (i.e. Real Ale).
In 1981 arrived an imitation of Bullard's Mild.
Watney's main local competitor (Courage)
had succeeded in promoting John Smith's
Yorkshire Bitter, so they retaliated with
a version of Webster's Yorkshire Bitter.
This soon killed-off both Castle Bitter
and Bullard's Mild.
A final attempt in 1984 to curry favour with
Real Ale drinkers was an imitation of
Steward and Patteson's bitter.
5. : The End Game
After a review of its operations in Norwich and
elsewhere, and in the "light" of the nationwide
rise of lager drinkers, Grand Met. closed the
facility in King Street in April 1985, with the
loss of 155 jobs.
Watneys, as a company, was dissolved in 1979.
The 78 inherited pubs, still in Norwich in 1990,
included 3 listed as "Grand Met. Estates";
while the remainder used the odd title
Manns & Norwich, which had been
set-up in 1987.
In the same year (1987), despite assurances,
the 'new' firm abandoned the bogus S. & P.
bitter in favour of Ruddles Best.
6. : Acknowledgements etc.
Much of the material in this summary is
a publication of the
Centre of East Anglian Studies.
For the record :-
Watney Mann Ltd. was formed out of the 1958
merger between (a) Watney, Combe, Reid and
(b) Mann, Crossman & Paulin. Now 6 into one.
A retired Norfolk brewer recalls that Watney`s
had been a great brewery, but blames two
factors for its decline :-
He goes on to say that
- The marketing control freaks took over
and tried to impose their vision of beer
on the public.
- It all changed when they brought in a
Group Chief Chemist from Lyon`s Cakes!!
- a lot of ex-Watney brewers went on
to distinguished careers elsewhere in the
industry; also many micro-brewers have
benefited from their technical nous.
In turn, those brewers were released
from their corporate shackles.
Earlier, Red Barrel was produced at
Tamplin`s in Brighton, before its takeover.
This beer & Red Barrel Continental,
& Watney`s London Lager had all
been of good quality.