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date: 22 September 2023

Tetley, Joshuafree


Tetley, Joshuafree

  • R. G. Wilson

Tetley, Joshua (1778–1859), brewer, was born at Armley Lodge, near Leeds, Yorkshire, on 20 July 1778, the third surviving son of William Tetley (1749–1834) and his wife, Elizabeth, née Rimington (1751/2–1788). William, a second-generation maltster, was caught in the aftermath of the financial crisis of 1797 and declared bankrupt in February 1800. But he and four of his sons, trading in London as well as in Leeds, and operating as wine and spirit merchants and producers of fortified English fruit wines besides continuing their malting business in Armley, made a good recovery in the 1800s.

On 12 March 1808 Joshua Tetley married Hannah (1784–1857), the daughter of Francis Carbutt, a Leeds linen and cloth merchant. The Carbutts were rather better connected than the Tetleys; her brother Francis, also a cloth merchant, was mayor of Leeds in 1847. In 1814 Joshua with his wife and five young children, all girls, moved into a house in Park Square, then the most fashionable address in Leeds. Eight years later, at the age of forty-three, he rented and went to live at the Salem Place brewery on the south bank of the River Aire opposite the Leeds coal staithe.

There were, in 1822, some half-dozen common breweries in Leeds. All were small, their existence often short-lived. Together their output accounted for no more than 12 per cent of beer produced in the rapidly growing town. Brewing by publicans on their own premises was dominant. Certainly the Salem Place brewery, founded in 1792, was a small affair. Joshua paid only £409 for its fixtures, fittings, and the goodwill of the business; its rateable value was a mere £22. But Joshua evidently prospered, selling malt and flour as well as beer. The Beer Act of 1830 seems to have transformed his prospects. Few of the hundreds of beerhouse keepers in Leeds and its surrounding district who took out the two guineas a year licence had either the know-how or the equipment to brew on their own premises, and therefore common brewers like Joshua Tetley were able to take advantage of the changing beer market.

By 1839, when Joshua Tetley took his only son Francis William Tetley [see below] into partnership with him, the brewery was returning profits close to £3000 a year. Joshua moved from the brewery house beside the river to a more salubrious residence, Belmont House at Little Woodhouse, Leeds. Two years later he reckoned his wealth to be £33,842. From the late 1840s he began to take a lesser role in the management of the brewery (it employed thirty-two men in 1848), retiring from the partnership in 1858. Two years earlier he had moved to a large house in the country at Hampsthwaite near Harrogate, Yorkshire, where he died on 26 August 1859. He was buried in Hampsthwaite churchyard. At his death his will was sworn under £50,000, although in the previous year his interest in the brewery, valued at £42,393 in his last full account of 1853, had passed to Francis William Tetley.

Joshua Tetley had clearly created a flourishing business by the 1840s. Its fortunes were further transformed in the following decade by Francis William Tetley (1817–1883), who was born in Leeds on 24 October 1817 and who, on 6 October 1847, married Isabella Maxwell (b. 1826/7), daughter of Arthur Ryder. Handsome tribute was later paid to his vision and drive, which produced a remarkable growth in the brewery's sales. He achieved this in three ways. First, like its pioneers the big firms of Bass and Allsopps in Burton upon Trent, he grasped the advantages of delivery by rail and setting up an agency system. Figures show that in 1854, of sales of 35,590 barrels (a large turnover for a country brewery) 56 per cent was transported by rail. Four years later almost a third of these were made from its four biggest agencies, in London, Liverpool, Manchester, and York. Second, to keep pace with this growth, he built a greatly extended brewery in 1852 and again in 1864–6 to the designs of the architect George Corson. Third, he took a highly competent new partner, his brother-in-law Charles Ryder (1821–1902), into the firm. A Londoner who had represented a large tea importing concern in Canton for several years, Ryder was meticulous both in his management and in his accountancy.

The firm went from strength to strength, enjoying fully the boom in beer consumption which ran for two decades from the mid-1850s. Leeds itself expanded rapidly, providing a burgeoning free-trade market for beer on Tetley's doorstep. They rose to the occasion. Both the comments of their commercial rivals and the—admittedly somewhat partial—reports of early brewing consultants testify to the excellence of their entire range of beers, including good pale ales, the premium beer of mid-Victorian Britain. In 1875 Tetleys brewed an impressive 171,500 barrels, making it much the largest brewery in the north of England.

Unlike his parents, who produced a single male heir and seven daughters, Francis William Tetley had not the same worries about male continuity. Fourteen children, seven sons and seven daughters, blessed the marriage over the following twenty-five years. Yet from the early 1860s Tetley suffered poor health. With the onset of severe illness in 1875 he severed his active connection with the brewery. His winters were spent in Egypt or Cannes. Eventually he retired to Bournemouth, although he retained the house, Foxhill, Weetwood, near Leeds, which George Corson had built for him in 1862. He died in Bournemouth on 22 January 1883, leaving an estate approaching £300,000. Considering that he did not have extensive landholdings, and that the firm did not own a single public house, it was an impressive fortune.

The eldest of Francis William's six surviving sons, Charles Francis Tetley (1848–1934), was born at Foxhill, Weetwood, near Leeds, on 24 October 1848. Unlike his father and grandfather, about whose education no details are known, he and two of his brothers (who went on to be employed in the firm as company secretary and head brewer respectively) attended Leeds grammar school and Harrow. In 1868 he went on to Trinity College, Cambridge, where he graduated in 1872 with honours in the classical tripos. After spending a year learning the trade at two southern breweries he joined the Tetley firm in 1873. On 2 June 1875 he married Alice Margaret (b. 1852/3), daughter of John William Atkinson, a Leeds solicitor; they had three sons and a daughter.

Charles Francis Tetley was made a partner in the brewery in 1877, and became chairman of the incorporated company in 1902. He was the first member of the business to play a significant part in Leeds politics, being elected to Leeds city council as a Conservative in 1895 and serving as lord mayor two years afterwards. In 1926 he was made a freeman of the city. He was prominent, as were later members of the Tetley family, in many aspects of the city's life, especially its fledgeling university. For fifty years a member of its governing body, he made benefactions to the University of Leeds, and was awarded an honorary doctorate in 1922. He was also for fifty years a churchwarden of St Michael's, Headingley. He died at Foxhill on 25 January 1934 and was buried at Lawnswood cemetery. His son Charles Harold Tetley (1877–1959), also educated at Harrow and Trinity College, Cambridge, was chairman of the company from 1934 to 1953, pro-chancellor of the University of Leeds for twenty years from 1926, and donor of more than £100,000 to the university.

Combining public service and charitable effort, often with distinguished military records (three of the company's chairmen, including Charles Harold Tetley, were awarded the DSO), Tetley family directors maintained the firm's position as arguably the north country's leading brewery. Owning no public houses until the summer of 1890, but with the benefit of debenture share issues after Tetley became a limited private company seven years later, a large tied-house estate was built up by 1914. Profits of the well-managed firm remained buoyant. Employment—there were more than 600 employees at the outbreak of the First World War—was guaranteed to loyal members of the workforce for generations. Tetley had become as synonymous with Leeds as Bass with Burton.


  • C. Lackey, Quality pays: the story of Joshua Tetley & Son (1985)
  • J. Chartres and K. Honeyman, eds., Leeds city business, 1893–1993 (1993)
  • A. Barnard, The noted breweries of Great Britain and Ireland, 4 vols. (1889–91)
  • T. R. Gourvish and R. G. Wilson, The British brewing industry, 1830–1980 (1994)
  • A century of progress (1923)
  • Tetley MSS, W. Yorks. AS
  • m. cert. [F. W. Tetley]
  • m. cert. [C. F. Tetley]
  • census returns, 1851
  • Brewers' Journal (15 Feb 1934), 99
  • The Times (26 Jan 1934)


  • Carlsberg-Tetley, Leeds
  • W. Yorks AS


  • photograph, 1860 (Francis William Tetley), repro. in Lackey, Quality pays, 50
  • J. Gilbert, colour crayon drawing, repro. in Lackey, Quality pays, following p. 32
  • F. Tatham, colour crayon drawing, repro. in Lackey, Quality pays, following p. 48
  • portrait, Carlsberg-Tetley, Leeds

Wealth at Death

under £50,000: probate, 11 Oct 1859, CGPLA Eng. & Wales

£290,180 14s. 5d.—Francis William Tetley: probate, 6 March 1883, CGPLA Eng. & Wales

£564,582 8s. 3d.—Charles Francis Tetley: probate, 10 May 1934, CGPLA Eng. & Wales

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J. Venn & J. A. Venn, , 2 pts in 10 vols. (1922–54); repr. in 2 vols. (1974–8)
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West Yorkshire Archive Service