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Tony Halstead traces the growth of Thwaites from humble beginnings to one of the best-known names in British brewing The Daniel Thwaites story...

Tony Halstead traces the growth of Thwaites from humble beginnings to one of the best-known names in British brewing

The Daniel Thwaites story started at the turn of the 19th century, when, about 1806, local businessmen Edward Duckworth and William Clayton began the search for a new partner to manage their brewery business, at Eanam in Blackburn, Lancashire.

The duo turned to local excise officer Daniel Thwaites as a likely, energetic candidate, resulting in Daniel joining the business in 1807, which is now the recognised date for the official founding of the company.

The brewery was housed in a row of cottages near the Leeds-Liverpool canal, only a stone's throw from the site where Thwaites' huge Star Brewery now stands.

In a northern industrial environment, where beer drinking was very much the social order of the day, the brewery soon began to prosper, with Daniel Thwaites playing an increasingly influential role in its fortunes.

The canny Daniel took his interests in the company seriously and his links to the brewery business were strengthened when he married Betty, the daughter of partner Edward Duckworth, inheriting his share on his death in 1822.

Two years later William Clayton sold his remaining share interests to Daniel, leaving the Thwaites family as sole owners of the brewery.

Daniel and Betty Thwaites went on to have four sons

and eight daughters, and Daniel Thwaites II and brothers John and Thomas inherited the brewery on their father's death in 1843.

When John and Thomas left the company, Daniel II became sole owner and it was from this point that the brewery began its steady expansion to ultimately become the dominant fixture on today's Blackburn skyline, the town's biggest private employer and the north of England's largest independent brewery.

Daniel Thwaites II became an industrial magnate in Blackburn and beyond, expanding the brewery and investing in public houses. He even became the town's MP for five years between 1875 and 1880.

After his death in 1888 his only daughter Elma Thwaites inherited the company along with her husband Robert Armstrong Yerburgh.

Elma and Robert were to preside over a period of massive change and expansion of the company, laying the foundation for the growth of the brewery into the powerhouse it is today.

The couple guided the company through the trials and tribulations of two world wars but the conflicts proved no obstacle to the steady growth of Thwaites, which expanded through acquisition of rival brewers and drinks companies.

It was Elma Yerburgh who proved the driving force in the partnership - not content to play a distant management role, she adopted a real hands-on approach to the day-to-day running of the company.

Elma died in 1946 leaving just one trusted colleague, Albert Whittle, to manage the brewery while her grandson, John, remained on war duty.

After buying the Bury Brewing Company in 1946 and the Preston Brewery Company in 1966, the Eanam Brewery name was phased out and it was known as Daniel Thwaites, after the name of its original founder.

The biggest single development in the company's history came about in the 1960s when the Star Brewery, just off Blackburn town centre, was built.

This provided the springboard for Thwaites to develop the major presence it enjoys today in the town and the north-west. Elma Yerburgh's grandson, John, great-great-grandson of the original Daniel Thwaites, and John's wife, Ann, still retain the family influence on brewery affairs.

John Yerburgh held the post of company chairman for a long number of years, but in 2002 handed over the position to his wife.

Like many family predecessors, Ann has not been content to play a mere symbolic role and continues a hands-on family approach to the business.

Two hundred years after its formation Daniel Thwaites now operates a £160m-turnover business, brews and packages more than 350,000 barrels a year and runs a tied estate of 420 pubs.

The Thwaites story began in 1807 in a tiny brewhouse occupying a row of converted cottages. Now in 2007 it is one of the best-known names in British brewing and a company proud to retain its historic family traditions.

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