Something of a Manchester institution even today, despite ceasing to exist almost 50 years ago, Groves & Whitnall were at one time - towards the end of the 18th century - probably Manchester's favourite brewer. There is much to tell about their Regent Road Brewery, just over the River Irwell from Castlefield in the south west of the city centre. However, the wonderful website that meticulously records the long history of this proud firm does it more justice than we could - www.grovesandwhitnall.co.uk.
Groves & Whitnall Brewery, Regent Road Brewery. (c) www.grovesandwhitnall.co.uk.
So, very briefly, the excellently named William Grimble Groves and his mate Arthur William Whitnall were chemists and set up a vinegar works on Blantyre Street (where Jacksons Wharf is nowadays). William Peer Grimble Groves (the father) helped the two purchase the Bathe & Newbold Regent Street Brewery in 1868 for £9,000, and over the next 30 years the two built up the new Groves & Whitnall empire into a £1m company with 591 licensed houses. This was done mainly on the back of truly excellent ale after they employed king brewer Charles Henry Hill from the small Beaumont & Heathcote brewery in Chorlton-upon-Medlock. In fact, Hill was employed after Whitnall personally tasted all the available beers of Manchester and found Beaumont & Heathcote's the most outstanding!
Groves & Whitnall C Ale. (c) http://barclayperkins.blogspot.com.
They were proud of their ale at Groves & Whitnall's. Their bottled 'C Ale' is descibed as thus: "Burton itself cannot produce anything which, in its class, is superior to our Bitter Beer. Our famous 'C' ale is similar to the best Burton 'Mild'. Our strong Old ale or 'Barley Wine' stands pre-eminent and apart from all others, and our 'Special' Ale in bottle is fittingly described by its title" .
Groves & Whitnall Brewery, Regent Road. (c) www.grovesandwhitnall.co.uk.
The company floated publicly in 1899 and acquired Cronshaw's Alexandra Brewery. Whilst growth slowed due to the First World War when the company's fleet of delivery vehicles were commandeered for the war effort, the Regent Road Brewery was hit even worse in the Second World War. The brewery suffered terrible bomb damage which took years to recover from but further acquisitions in the 1950s saw Groves & Whitnall become an attractive proposition and they were bought by the larger Greenall Whitley Brewery in 1961. Just 10 years later and Greenall Whitley closed the Regent Road Brewery and the Groves & Whitnall name became largely consigned to history .
Groves & Whitnall Brewery, bomb damage in WWII. (c) www.grovesandwhitnall.co.uk.
The name lives on though, in the form of a few pubs in Manchester which still sport the Groves & Whitnall name. An example is the Chapel House in Dukinfield, east Manchester, which although now a Joseph Holt's house, proudly displays 'GROVES AND WHITNALL ALES AND STOUTS'. Lost Groves & Whitnall pubs of Manchester include the Oddfellows Arms, Welsh Harp, Royal Oak, Railway Inn and Rose & Crown.
Chapel House, Dukinfield, 2005. (c) breweryhistory.
More, much more at the website: www.grovesandwhitnall.co.uk.