Thwaites Brewery

Last updated
Daniel Thwaites plc
Headquarters Blackburn, Lancashire, England
Key people
Daniel Thwaites founder
Anne Yerburgh chairman
ProductsFood and beverage
Revenue£162.7m (2007) [1]

Thwaites Brewery is a regional brewery owned by founded in 1807 by Daniel Thwaites in Blackburn, Lancashire, England. The firm still operates from its original town centre site, although the original brewery was demolished in 2019, [2] and part of its beer business was sold to Marston's in March 2015. [3] Today, Thwaites still produces beer but it in much smaller quantities as it only sells to its own estate of pubs, inns and hotels. In 1999, the Mitchell brewery in Lancaster closed down, and was bought in part by Thwaites. Lancaster Bomber has since been available from Thwaites public houses after being acquired in the takeover. Lancaster Bomber is now brewed by Marston's, as is Wainwright, the other top-selling Thwaite's beer. [4]


The company has over 270 pubs, mainly in the North of England but reaching from the North Lakes area down to Solihull & Leicestershire. It also has six four-star Hotels & Spas and eight Inns of Characters

The brewery invested heavily in pasteurised keg beers, especially those powered by nitro in the 1990s. [5] However, it is now working to increase the market for its cask beers. [6] Thwaites unveiled a new craft brewery in December 2011 named "Crafty Dan". [7]


Thwaites brewery in Blackburn town centre. ThwaitesBrewery.jpg
Thwaites brewery in Blackburn town centre.


Local brewer and pub retailer Daniel Thwaites has been based in Lancashire since 1807.

Born in 1777, Daniel Thwaites first began brewing in Blackburn in 1807 when he joined the 'Eanam Brewery' in partnership with local businessmen, Edward Duckworth and William Clayton. At the age of 31, Daniel married Edward's daughter Betty, who later inherited her father's share of the company following his death in 1822.

The Brewery became the sole property of 'Thwaites' in 1824, when William Clayton sold his remaining share of the company to Daniel.

Daniel and Betty Thwaites went on to have twelve children, four sons and eight daughters. Daniel Thwaites Jnr was born in 1817, the sixth of their twelve children. Daniel Thwaites Jnr and his brothers John and Thomas later inherited the brewery following the death of their father, Daniel Thwaites Snr, in 1843.

The decade of the 1850s was one of growth for the brewery and increasing prosperity for the Thwaites partners. Thomas left the partnership and in 1858, following the earlier death of his mother and the retirement of his other brother, John, Daniel Thwaites Jnr became the sole owner of the brewery. One year later, he married Eliza Amelia Gregory and they had a son, Edward, who died in infancy and daughter, Elma Amy Thwaites.

The Plough at Eaves, a Thwaites pub. The Plough at Eaves2.jpg
The Plough at Eaves, a Thwaites pub.

The official announcement of the dissolution of the partnership published in the London Gazette on 25 February 1859 stated that it was by mutual consent. Daniel, who ran the brewery with the help of manager Joseph Smith and property adviser Henry Gornall had now been a partner for fifteen years. During this period he expanded the firm and shown himself to be an astute, ambitious and experienced brewer.

Meanwhile, following the purchase of the Snig Brook Brewery in 1863, the brewery continued to prosper and develop in size. During this period, Eanam Brewery expanded production to provide 100,000 barrels a year by 1878. The business also had to adapt to various pieces of legislation, introduced by Gladstone's Liberal government. The 1869 Wine and Beer House Act gave licensing power back to the magistrates and was intended as a measure of control over the more unsavoury beer shops. It was followed by the Intoxicating Liquor Licensing Act of 1872, which introduced higher licence fees, licensing inspectors, reduced opening hours, restrictions on the sale of spirits to those 'apparently under the age of 16' and increased penalties for licensing offences.

The drink issue was of great importance to Daniel, not only as a brewer but also as a Conservative politician. He went on to become the MP for Blackburn from 1875 until 1880 and became well known nationally. Locally, he was described as a good landlord who owned some of the best public houses in Blackburn.

Having become a wealthy man, Daniel Thwaites Jnr died in 1888, leaving his only daughter Elma Thwaites and her husband Robert Yerburgh to inherit the brewery.

Expansion into the 20th century

By 1897 Thwaites had grown enough to become a Limited company but the real expansion came after the First World War. In 1923, Thwaites bought the James Pickup Wines & Spirits Company and then Henry Shaw & Co, which owned the New Brewery in Salford. In 1925 Thwaites began bottling its beers and in 1927 they bought the Fountain Free Brewery.

In 1946 Elma Yerburgh died leaving trusted colleague Albert Whittle to look after the brewery whilst her grandson, John was away at war. In 1946 and 1956 respectively, the brewery purchased the Bury Brewing Company and the Preston Brewery Company and in 1966 the Eanam Brewery was extended and renamed Daniel Thwaites 'The Star Brewery'.

During the 1960s Thwaites public houses were in abundance across the town and Daniel Thwaites' ales had become popular throughout East Lancashire. 1966 saw the opening of the new £5.5m Brewery and brewhouse followed in 1972 by a new £3m bottling plant, considered to be 'the last word in bottling complexes.' Huge numbers of people and group tours came to see the brave new world of brewing at the new Star Brewery.

The '70s and '80s saw the purchase of Yates & Jackson of Lancaster and Thwaites winning the first of its two Champion Beer of Britain awards, bringing national recognition to the family brewer.

Throughout this time, John Yerburgh, Elma Yerburgh's grandson, was the Brewery's chairman and he saw his great great Grandfather's business grow and flourish to become a well-respected regional brewer.

In 2002, John's wife, Mrs Ann Yerburgh, became the Brewery chairman and her passion for brewing award-winning beers in Blackburn remains as strong as for the Thwaites forefathers back in 1807. John died in June 2014. [8]

In 2017, Thwaites was granted planning permission to build a new brewery, stables and head office in Mellor, around 5 miles from its current location in Blackburn. [9]

Shire horses

The sound that was continuously heard in Blackburn throughout the 19th century was the clattering of horses hooves along the cobbled streets. The majority of these were work horses. Stable lads would lead the Thwaites horses out of the stables in Syke Street, across the road (until the end of the 19th century when the stables moved to the brewery site) and into the brewery yard where they waited patiently for their carts and drays to be loaded with the day's deliveries. These 'gentle giants' were to become a familiar sight in Blackburn for many years. In the 1920s however, most breweries decided to put their shire horses 'out to grass' and switch to motor transport. In 1927, the last of the Thwaites shire horses were led out of the brewery for the last time.

By the 1950s the shire horse had practically ceased to exist. But in 1957 an enterprising young manager called David Kay of Thwaites' soft drinks department wanted to bring the Shire dray horses back. Two years later, in 1959, he got his wish and was allowed to introduce two dray horses to the brewery's local route. He was convinced that the dray horses would not only attract good publicity for Thwaites but would be financially advantageous against the backdrop of rising fuel costs. On May Day in 1960 the first two shire horses were led out of the smart new Thwaites stables. The return of horse transport was a great success and the people of Blackburn soon grew used to sharing the magnificent brewery horses with the rest of the country.

In 2016, Thwaites acquired a third horse that has been named Gunner to celebrate 13 Guns, a beer produced by the company.

Recent history

2010 marked fifty years of the reintroduction of horse-drawn deliveries after they ended in the 1920s. Over the years, the fame of the Shires has spread throughout the country, embodying the traditional values integral to Daniel Thwaites' heritage. To celebrate the anniversary, a commemorative sculpture featuring three of the multi-award-winning Shire horses in a unicorn configuration was commissioned.

The Daniel Thwaites stables have enjoyed great success over the last 50 years. In a nine-year period, the Shires have won the world-renowned National Championship seven times, which is the ultimate achievement and recognition for a Shire horse and its team.

Further success has been enjoyed at the Royal Show which the Shires have won five times in the pairs. They won the pairs, singles and team events at the Great Yorkshire Show and have enjoyed further wins at every major county show throughout the UK. The stables team includes Head Horse Keeper, Charles Beardmore who has been in the position for an impressive 40 years. 2010 also marked the 25th Anniversary of the Shire Horses' return being honoured by the Mayor of Blackburn in 1985 for their commitment to the town of Blackburn as ambassadors. This was the first time ever that such an honour had been awarded to horses.

Picture of a present-day Thwaites pub, with the new Thwaites logo Present Day Thwaites Pub.jpg
Picture of a present-day Thwaites pub, with the new Thwaites logo

Thwaites started with ten public houses in 1807. Based at the Star Brewery in Blackburn, Thwaites now owns an estate of around 270 pubs, a small but growing group of characterful coaching inns known as Thwaites Inns of Character and six four-star full service regional hotels and spas, which traded under the Shire Hotels banner until 2016 when they were brought under the Thwaites brand. [10]

In addition, Thwaites supplies a full range of drinks to many independently owned pubs, clubs and restaurants in the North of England and beyond and a wide range of bottled beers to most major supermarkets.

Having reached a historic milestone in 2007 - celebrating 200 years of brewing excellence, Thwaites announced that it continued to look forward to a future that will continue to build upon the ideals and beliefs born 200 years ago when Daniel Thwaites first began the northern brewery. However, there were many turbulent changes in following years (qv)

The family tradition continues to this present day. Ann Yerburgh is Chairman, son-in-law Richard Bailey is Chief Executive Officer and Arabella Yerburgh is a Non-Exec Director.

In 2011 Thwaites announced plans to build a new state-of-the-art brewery. The move, which is anticipated to take place in three to four years time will improve the brewers operational efficiency and signals Thwaites' continued commitment to brewing quality ales.

At the end of 2011, Thwaites installed a new 200k craft brewery within the Star Brewery in Blackburn named 'Crafty Dan'. Featuring three new fermenters, Crafty Dan enables Thwaites to create up to three new beers a week as well as one off brews to mark special events. In 2016, as part of a drive to bring all parts of the business under a single brand, it was renamed Thwaites brewery.

In January 2012, Thwaites agreed to purchase the free trade interests of Hydes Brewery.

In January 2014, the company made the wrong kind of national headlines. Thwaites' proposed closure of its Star Brewery and 60 brewing redundancies led to staff temporarily switching off the H, I and E in the company's brewery sign to spell "Twats". [11] Thwaites' inability to select an alternative site for its brewery and to conclude a deal to sell its site to Sainsbury's received criticism in many areas including the local press and brewing industry. [12] The Tandleman blog suggested that apart from the beers produced in the renowned Crafty Dan craft brewery, Thwaites would contract out production of its beers permanently to other breweries. [13]

This proved prescient; the core beers were contracted out to Marston's and the latter company bought the top two (Wainwright's and Lancaster Bomber) and the bulk of Thwaites' beer business in March 2015 for £25.1m. Marstons will continue to supply Thwaites pubs with beer under a long-term contract whilst Thwaites will continue to produce (much reduced) volumes for its own pubs by retaining its microbrewery facility. [14]

Cask ales

Thwaites produce a wide range of cask ales including the core range and limited edition Signature Ale range which was launched in 2011. 2012 saw the introduction of the Quarterly Favourites range featuring the four most popular beers from the 2011 Signature Ale range.

The following four core beers have been brewed by Marston's since 2014. In March 2015 Marston's bought all rights to Wainwright and Lancaster Bomber and a short-term licence to use the Thwaite's brand. [14]

Owned by Marston's. Formerly sold under the Thwaites brand by Marstons but Thwaites branding discontinued 2016
Owned by Thwaite's. Contract brewed by Marston's


Beer awards

European Beer Star Award 2011
International Beer Challenge 2011
Design Effectiveness Awards 2012

Pub awards

Great British Pub Awards 2011

Business awards

Lancashire Telegraph Awards 2011
AA Hospitality Awards 2016–17

Lancashire County Cricket Club sponsorship

Thwaites Wainwright has been the official sponsor of Lancashire County Cricket Club since 2005. [17]

The traditional brewery logo. ThwaitesLogo.jpg
The traditional brewery logo.
Modern logo used until 2011. Thwaites old logo.gif
Modern logo used until 2011.

The Thwaites logo has undergone several changes since the brewery's foundation. The traditional logo was simplified to a gold and red emblem featuring the shire horses on the top and remained in use until May 2011.

The newly adopted logo is based on vintage designs from the 19th century, but for the first time in the brewery's history, the famous shire horses which have been part of the emblem for almost 200 years have been dropped from its design. [18]

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