Lion Brewery is roaring success

An old shot of the Lion Brewery - which was built in 1892.
An old shot of the Lion Brewery - which was built in 1892.

Blood, sweat and tears went into building a Hartlepool landmark in 1892 - yet it barely made headlines in the Mail.

Indeed, though the paper carried stories of accidents which occurred during the creation of Lion Brewery, the actual opening appears to have been low key.

A busy scene at Durham Street, where a trolleybus is parked outside St Hilda's Hall and a Camerons Brewery lorry is unloading barrels of beer to the Cosmopolitan pub.

A busy scene at Durham Street, where a trolleybus is parked outside St Hilda's Hall and a Camerons Brewery lorry is unloading barrels of beer to the Cosmopolitan pub.

Thankfully, new book The History of the Lion Brewery, by Marie-Louise McKay, sheds far more light on the firm - from its early years to the present day.

“Throughout its long history the Lion has witnessed many changes. There have been threats and uncertainties, as well as celebrations and success,” she said.

“That the Lion Brewery is still standing, while other regional breweries have disappeared, is a testament to the loyal and dedicated workforce.”

The firm’s origins date to 1835, when William Waldon set up a brewery at New Stranton, In 1852 he built a new modern complex - but died two years later.

William’s son, also called William, took over the brewery after he came of age and, in 1865, engaged the services of a clerk called John William Cameron.

Cameron went on to sign a 21-year lease on Lion following William’s death in 1872 and, after buying up nearby land, set about building a new brewery in 1892.

“The old one was inadequate to the task of coping with the firm’s ever increasing business,” an 1893 brochure reveals. “The new premises may claim to be a perfect model of what a well-appointed brewery should be.”

Several accidents occurred during construction, including a bricklayer who fell 40ft and a scaffolder who broke his leg.

But, once completed, the two-acre red-brick site close to Stranton Church was described as “a very handsome block”.

The future was, however, by no means certain - until Cameron managed to buy out the lease, plus land and brewery, from the Waldon trustees on July 29,1893.

“Included in the sale were 15 of the original 16 licensed properties previously leased from the Waldons, as well as the Waldon family home,” said Marie.

“The entire site, buildings and business now belonged to John William Cameron and, on November 26, 1894, he incorporated them all into a Limited Company.”

Expansion soon followed - with the business of Nixey, Coleclough and Baxter, of the Brunswick Brewery, acquired in December 1894 - together with 61 pubs.

Just a month later, in January 1895, the firm of M&J Rickinson, a wine and spirit merchant based in Church Street, was also snapped up by Cameron.

“In the 30 years since he had entered the Lion Brewery, he had made it into a great and thriving business,” Hartlepool historian Robert Wood later noted.