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date: 05 March 2021

Deuchar, Jamesfree

(1849–1927)
  • Ian Donnachie

Deuchar, James (1849–1927), brewer, was born on 30 August 1849 in Guthrie, Forfar, Scotland, the son of David Deuchar, farmer, and his wife, Jane Wilson. Nothing is known of his early life until, as a young man, he moved to Tyneside with his three older brothers, Alexander, George, and Robert. Deuchar began as a publican at the Argyle Hotel, High Street, Gateshead, and in 1868, with his brother George, joined a partnership with John and James Meikle as wine, spirit, ale, and porter merchants at the Half Moon inn in Newcastle. In 1870 the firm diversified when Deuchar and Meikle purchased the Arthurs Hill brewery, Westgate Road, Newcastle. From a modest start the venture grew until it had taken over a number of other public houses on Tyneside.

In 1872 Deuchar became the licensee of the Ridley Arms, in Pilgrim Street, Newcastle, and in 1874 he became its owner. He married Lizzie Henderson (d. 1926), on 19 October 1875, in Birmingham; they had four daughters and three sons, one of whom, James Wilson Deuchar, succeeded his father as chairman of the firm. During 1875, extensions and alterations at the rear of the brewery were carried out, with further improvements being made in 1882. Deuchar rapidly built up a prosperous trade, and, benefiting from the 'brewery boom' of that decade, expanded his business to such an extent that in 1888 he was able to purchase the Monkwearmouth brewery and maltings of J. J. and W. H. Allison in Sunderland, at the same time acquiring more public houses. In 1893 the plant at the Ridley Arms was dismantled and brewing operations were concentrated in Sunderland.

The firm adopted limited liability in July 1894 when the company's assets were valued at £227,000. The capital was restructured two years later. The authorized share capital was £350,000, but only £100,000 in debentures were sold to the public, all of the ordinary shares being retained by the Deuchar family. The assets of the company at that time were given in the prospectus as £616,000, including forty-five freehold hotels and public houses (among these, several hotels in Newcastle, Sunderland, and Tynemouth) and thirty-one leasehold pubs. Profits in the three years to 1898 had averaged over £30,000. Deuchar became chairman and managing director; his brother Robert was another of the directors. Robert had followed his younger brother into the industry by purchasing the Sandyford Stone brewery, in Newcastle. His own company of Robert Deuchar Ltd, registered in 1897, also built up a substantial trade on Tyneside and Wearside.

While strong ale was always the mainstay of the Tyneside beer market, there was growing demand for pale ales of the kind brewed in Edinburgh and Burton upon Trent, and in 1900 this led Deuchar to acquire the Lochside brewery of William Ross & Co., Montrose. Despite this company's distance from Newcastle, it continued to do considerable trade in Scottish pale ale in that city, and maintained a large warehouse on Quayside by the Tyne, to which beer from north of the border was shipped in the firm's own steamships, Lochside and Lochside II. Later, in 1922, the Union mills in Montrose were purchased for use as maltings. Partly to secure his own barley supplies, Deuchar began to farm extensively and to acquire land at Middleton and Ilderton in Northumberland (a total of 7000 acres), and at Stichill, near Kelso, Roxburghshire (an estate of 6000 acres). He was more enterprising than others in his Scottish ventures, which enabled him to import Scottish ales into the Tyne area, and to make inroads into the Scottish market itself.

From modest beginnings in the licensed trade Deuchar had, by the time of his death, built up an extensive portfolio of 150 public houses and hotels, including some of the best in Newcastle, supplied by his own breweries. Even after the end of the boom in 1902, when many breweries were struggling, the business continued to prosper, and was paying dividends of 12 per cent and upwards during most of the period before 1914. Such returns were far exceeded in the decade after 1918, when the firm declared dividends ranging from 20 to 40 per cent.

Deuchar died at Stichill House, near Kelso, on 12 December 1927. He left an estate of over £1,200,000, a substantial sum for the time, and some measure of his acumen in the volatile business of brewing. The firm he founded was eventually taken over by Newcastle Breweries Ltd in 1956.

Sources

  • D. J. Rowe, ‘Deuchar, James’, DBB
  • B. Bennison, ‘Concentration in the brewing industry of Northumberland and Durham, 1890–1914’, Northern History, 30 (1994), 161–78
  • I. Donnachie, A history of the brewing industry in Scotland (1979)
  • B. Bennison, Brewers and bottlers of Newcastle upon Tyne: from 1850 to the present day (1995)
  • Newcastle Daily Chronicle (1894)
  • Newcastle Daily Chronicle (1898)
  • Stock Exchange Official Intelligence
  • Newcastle Daily Journal (1927)
  • private information (2004)
  • d. cert.

Archives

  • Durham RO, records of James Deuchar Breweries

Wealth at Death

£1,331,716 8s. 5d.: resworn probate, CGPLA Eng. & Wales

University of Glasgow, Archives and Business Records Centre
D. J. Jeremy, ed., , 5 vols. (1984–6)
Durham Record Office