The original Nottingham Brewery was situated at 52-56 Mansfield Road, Nottingham where York House (the former home of BBC Radio Nottingham), now stands. The origins of the brewery can be traced back to at least 1847 when James Long was listed as an East India and Pale Ale Brewer on the site. He sold the business in 1875 and after passing through several ownerships it was purchased in 1879 by Edward Wheeler Field.
The brewery became a registered company in 1887 at which time it was recorded as owning many public houses of which several are still standing including the Sun Inn, Gotham; the Great Northern, Langley Mill; Sir Charles Napier, Nottingham; Old Silk Mill, Derby; Vernon Hotel, Basford; Highbury Vale, Bulwell (now living accommodation); and, of course, The Plough, Radford.
In 1887 the premises were completely rebuilt to make it one of the best equipped breweries in the country. Wm. Bradford of Carlton Chambers in London designed the handsome new building in a Grecian style. Overall the site occupied 21,000 sq. ft.
In 1900 the Wellow Brewery Company of Messrs. Lewis and Barker was acquired, along with 19 tied houses. This was located on Wellowgate in Grimsby and it continued to operate until it was closed in 1944. After this date the site appears to have operated as a depot for the company as indicated on a bottle label we have uncovered.
Nottingham Brewery soon established itself as the City's main brewery, serving fine ales to local residents from its expanding estate of public houses. It also gained world-wide acclaim for transporting its gold medal winning India Pale Ale to troops of the British Empire across the globe. Two brand names were used and became well known both inside the city and further afield; they were "Maltanop" and "Rock Ales".
Nottingham is built on sandstone and beneath the city is honeycomb of caves. The early inhabitants of Nottingham, "the snots" (hence "Snottingham") originally inhabited these caves. The Caves of Nottingham tourist attraction in the Broad Marsh Shopping Centre provides more information and chance to explore some of the caves.
Beneath the actual brewery immense sandstone cellars were used as an excellent storage location for beers as the temperature never rose above an ideal 56 degrees Fahrenheit – this is where the name "Rock Ales" originated.
When the Great Central railway was completed in the late 1890’s it ran in a deep cutting behind the brewery into the then new Victoria Station. In 1894 a long tunnel was built to enable the brewery to link their network of caves directly to their own sidings in the station. This facilitated the direct transfer of casks and crates of bottles onto rail wagons, placing Nottingham Brewery at the hub of the country's booming rail network and distributing their beers far and wide.
The brewery continued to flourish through the first half of the twentieth century but was sadly sold to Tennant Brothers Ltd. of the Exchange Brewery, Sheffield in 1944 along with 150 pubs. Bottling ceased in 1948, and brewing was moth-balled in May 1952, then on June 15 1956 the Nottingham Brewery Company was formally wound up.
Soon after Tennants had closed the brewery it was bought by Whitbread who brewed their own brands there. The Mackeson name was advertised on the brewery tower, until that site was sold to developers in 1960 and demolished. Ironically Tennants were swallowed up by Whitbread in 1962, although their Exchange Brewery on Bridge Street in Sheffield survived into the eighties.
A concrete monstrosity of an office block now stands on the former Nottingham Brewery site, although the cellars beneath still remain, however the magnificent brewery tap, the Rose of England, is still standing, right next to York House.
It was built in 1899 by the celebrated Nottingham architect Watson Fothergill. It replaced an earlier brewery tap, Filo da Puta, named after the 1815 St. Ledger winner which when translated means "son of a whore"!
The 1960s marked the onset of the demise of the smaller regional breweries to make way for the bland keg products forced upon the populace by the marketing men of the mega brewers.
But all things turn circle and Whitbread themselves became the target of a buy-out by an even bigger fish, Interbrew of Belgium. This left the name and brands of the Nottingham Brewery available once again so local brewers Philip Darby and Niven Balfour saw the ideal chance to give the city its brewing name back and by delving deep into the archives, have resurrected some of the fine brews that gave Nottingham 'BEER TO BE PROUD OF'.