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.

3 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:
    (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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