Raising a glass to the history of famous Hartlepool brewery

The original Red Lion brewery.
The original Red Lion brewery.

The history of Hartlepool’s Lion Brewery is revealed in a new book - and it all started with a young farmer called William Waldon.

Waldon hailed from Gainford, in County Durham, but moved his family to the hamlet of Newburn Rawe - later known as New Stranton - in 1835.

The Waldron family.

The Waldron family.

“Although the specific reason for their move is not recorded, it is a plausible assumption they had friends or family here,” said author Marie-Louise McKay.

“Waldon bought a house and mill attached to the Hope Inn, in a street later to be called Tennant Street, and set up a small brewery.

“That he would do this was particularly brave, in view of the fact there were already two breweries in the area - which was not even a square mile in size.”

As the population of Hartlepool grew rapidly, thanks to a new harbour and dock, so Waldon’s risky move paid off and his brewery was hailed as a success.

But, in 1847, the development of Stockton Railway left his home quite literally on the wrong side of the tracks - cut off from town by railway lines.

“Just two years later the Tennant Street brewery was up for sale and, by 1851, the Waldons were living at Greenbank in Stranton,” said Marie.

“They farmed 155 acres of land that William had purchased from Ralph Walker, of Middleton Grange. He had two daughters and three sons by this time.”

Waldon had not, however, given up on his brewing dreams and, in 1852, he purchased a plot of land - measuring 857 square yards - in the area.

And it was on this site - bounded by a barn and cowhouse to the north, as well as Stranton Street to the south - that he built The Lion Brewery.

“Although the bustling new town of West Hartlepool was within a stone’s throw, Stranton was still a picturesque little village at this time,” said Marie.

“Sadly, William died in 1854 - just two years after opening the brewery. His wife, Jane, took over the firm until their eldest son, William, came of age.

“William junior had ambitions to be a major brewing player. He arranged the building of several pubs in West Hartlepool, as well as the purchase of others.

“The family brewery prospered and, following the death of his mother Jane in 1860, William continued to run the business alone for the next five years.”

In 1865, however, one decision would change everything. When William needed a clerk, he took on former brewer John William Cameron, from Barnard Castle.

“It is not known whether Cameron assisted in the brewing operations, in addition to running the business side, but it is highly likely,” said Marie.

“What is known for definite is that when William suddenly died in 1872, there was no opposition to John taking on the lease of the brewery.”

* The History of the Lion Brewery costs £12 and is available from the Cameron Visitor Centre and Atkinson Print, Lower Church Street.