GALLERY: Women Working in Pubs and Breweries, from the Archives

It’s International Women’s Day which seems like a good reason to share this collection of pictures of women working in breweries and pub we’ve been bookmarking in old brewery magazines.

There’s an edi­to­r­i­al choice being made here, of course: to find these pic­tures of cool women doing cool stuff we had to wade through a lot of pho­tos of sec­re­taries sit­ting on men’s laps, booth babes, hop queens, cheese maid­ens, and biki­ni com­pe­ti­tions. Don’t think from what you see below that Whit­bread, Wat­ney’s or any of these oth­er firms were bas­tions of fem­i­nism.

You’ll also note that the pic­tures back up what we said in the post we wrote on women in British beer a few years ago: there’s not much evi­dence of female brew­ers in the post-war peri­od, women being gen­er­al­ly con­fined to admin­is­tra­tive func­tions, bot­tling lines and lab­o­ra­to­ries. In fact, why not start in the lab?

Women working in a laboratory.
Angela Davies (fore­ground) makes up slides while Mavis Bradley checks beer sam­ples at the Guin­ness keg­ging plant in Run­corn, c.1971.
Women in evening dress.
Staff from the Whit­bread lab­o­ra­to­ry: Mrs M Collin, Mrs J.V. Crisp, (F. Briden), Mrs A. Caf­fell, Miss B. Lever and Miss A. Stew­ard, at the 1954 sports and social club din­ner.
A young woman in a laboratory.
Miss L. Hutchins exam­in­ing yeast cul­tures at Wat­ney’s Stag Brew­ery, c.1955.

There’s a whole sto­ry wrapped up in this next pic­ture: Miss A. Ames joined the staff at Whit­bread­’s Nor­wich depot in 1920, fol­low­ing her father who was a fore­man there. She was a mem­ber of the bot­tling gang and then, dur­ing World War II, stepped up to become ‘fore­woman’, fire­watch­ing and sleep­ing in the shel­ter in the bot­tling depot. Then after the war, bot­tling ceased and she became a clean­er and tea lady.

A woman pours a cup of tea.

Women in work clothes smiling.
Women pos­ing beside the bot­tling machine at Mitchells & But­lers bot­tling depot, Birm­ing­ham, c.1950.
Social club.
A real­i­ty check from the Mitchells & But­lers social club, 1951.
A judo throw.
Gillian Hol­loway, a typ­ist in Wat­ney’s free trade depart­ment, prac­tised judo at the Butokuk­wai in Trow­bridge and had an orange belt.
But Mrs G. Dig­by went one bet­ter: she worked in the lab­o­ra­to­ry at Mor­gan’s in Nor­wich (a Wat­ney’s sub­sidiary) and lit­er­al­ly wrote the book on Judo for Women.
While Mrs R.E. Tar­ry, sec­re­tary to the tech­ni­cal direc­tor at Phipps in Northamp­ton, anoth­er Wat­ney’s takeover, pre­ferred fenc­ing.
The Duke of Edinburgh presenting Mrs Land with her trophy.
Mary Land, licensee of the Manor Inn at Grimethor­pe, won a nation­al darts com­pe­ti­tion in 1969 and was pre­sent­ed with her tro­phy by the Duke of Edin­burgh.
Ital­ian-born Antoinette Han­nant, land­la­dy of the Jol­ly Butch­ers, Nor­wich, sang blues, jazz, calyp­so and gospel for her cus­tomers, and also played the drums from time to time.
A woman plays the Hammond organ.
While Doreen Chad­wick, land­la­dy of the Mag­net Hotel, Old­ham, played Ham­mond organ between gigs on BBC radio.
A group of (mostly) women behind the bar at a pub.
Flo­rence Gosling (cen­tre) ran the New The­atre Hotel near Grana­da Stu­dios in Man­ches­ter, with her team of most­ly women serv­ing drinks to every­one from Mar­lene Diet­rich to the cast of Coro­na­tion Street.
A woman behind the beer pumps.
Mrs Mer­cedes Grif­fith of the New Inn, War­wick, who filled her pub with antiques, raced cars and hors­es before she entered the pub trade. She also boast­ed of hav­ing dri­ven a steam train after stow­ing away.
A posed photograph of a woman behind the bar at a pub.
Ethel Ush­er ran Wat­sons Wine Vaults in Ban­bury, where she host­ed and pro­mot­ed box­ing and wrestling match­es.
An elderly woman pulling a pint of beer.
Emma Cluer, licensee of the Hatch­et and Bill, Yax­ley from 1909, still work­ing behind the bar at 85 in 1966: “If I could live my life over again, I would live it in a pub.”
An old woman with a garland of hops round her neck.
At the 1955 Whit­bread Hop Fes­ti­val Annie Gor­man is pre­sent­ed with a gar­land of hops to mark her 69 years of hop pick­ing.

4 thoughts on “GALLERY: Women Working in Pubs and Breweries, from the Archives”

  1. An offi­cial pho­tog­ra­ph­er includ­ed women work­ing man­u­al­ly in Ten­nen­t’s Well­park Brew­ery in Glas­gow among “war work” pic­tures tak­en in 1916.

  2. Real­ly good. Men* do need remind­ing from time to time** that women are peo­ple with ordi­nary lives.

    *A man writes.
    **Pos­si­bly even more often than once a year – but let’s not go over­board, eh?

  3. Cou­ple of things that I don’t think you’ve men­tioned pre­vi­ous­ly – apolo­gies if you have:

    1. Wolver­hamp­ton and Dud­ley Brew­eries are obvi­ous­ly best know (before tak­ing over Marstons) for Banks’s, the Wolver­hamp­ton side, but the oth­er, Dud­ley, part was Han­son’s, or more prop­er­ly Julia Han­son and Sons. Brewed until 1991, and was described in the GBG at some point in the 80s as the only brew­ery named after a woman. Han­son’s beers were close to iden­ti­cal to Banks’s, but I always slight­ly pre­ferred the Han­son’s Mild.

    2. Strug­gling to track down the brew­ery name, but there was a brew­ery in Devon or Corn­wall run by two women in the mid-80s (from mem­o­ry). The rea­son it sticks in my mind is that their flag­ship beer was Brown Willy, and so they were sub­ject to some crit­i­cism for using sex to sell beer, but the pump clip fea­tured the hill.

    3. “Mrs Mer­cedes Grif­fith” – well that’s a bit odd. Just a cou­ple of miles from War­wick is The Case Is Altered, a love­ly old pub that was run by a Mrs Mer­cedes Grif­fiths – in fact leg­end says that the pub got its name because of her actions: https://www.ourwarwickshire.org.uk/content/article/case-altered-pub-near-rowington
    (Crack­ing lit­tle coun­try pub with a bar bil­liards table. I rather pre­ferred it before it was extend­ed to give indoor toi­lets, but the old ones were pret­ty rank… as well as the pumps, there were always sev­er­al casks stil­laged behind the bar, and this was where I drank most of that Whit­bread Lemon beer, as well as their oth­er spe­cials at the time. I’m not aware of it ever being run by a man.)
    Seems aston­ish­ing that there should be two land­ladies with such sim­i­lar (and fair­ly unusu­al) names in such a small area.

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