Camerons Brewery

Camerons Brewery
Private limited company with share capital
Industry Brewing
Founded 1865
Founder John William Cameron
Headquarters Hartlepool, England
Area served
United Kingdom
Key people
David Soley (Chairman and chief executive)
Products Beer
Production output
1 million hectolitre[1]
Revenue Decrease £54,304,200 (2013)[2]
Decrease £1,831,270 (2013)[2]
Profit Decrease -£406,233 (2013)[2]
Total assets Decrease £54,909,104 (2013)[2]
Number of employees
145 (2013)[2]

Camerons Brewery Ltd is an English brewing company founded in 1865 by John William Cameron in Hartlepool, County Durham. It is the largest independent brewer in the North East, with a brewery capacity of 1.5 million hectolitres (900,000 hl production in 2012) and a tied estate of 75 houses. It is one of the town's oldest industrial concerns, and has historically been one of the largest employers.[3]

After one hundred years of growth through brewery acquisitions, the company had an estate of 750 licensed premises throughout the North East and North Yorkshire by the 1960s. The company subsequently struggled as the economy of its trading heartland suffered, and as it underwent a succession of owners with little experience of running pubs and breweries. Camerons lost its independence to Ellerman Lines in 1974, followed by the Barclay Brothers in 1983 and Brent Walker in 1989. Brent Walker spun off the majority of the tied estate as a separate company called Pubmaster, which was acquired by Punch Taverns in 2003.

Camerons was purchased in 1992 by Wolverhampton & Dudley, which invested heavily in the brewery before selling the company to Castle Eden in 2002, who closed down their own brewery and moved all production to Camerons. The company now has a relatively small tied estate but the eleventh largest brewery in the country.[4] As a result, around 80 per cent of its business involves contract brewing for other companies, such as Heineken, who own 24 per cent of the company, and Carlsberg.[2]

Camerons is known across the United Kingdom for Strongarm, a distinctive ruby red bitter launched in 1955. Total production of Strongarm surpassed one billion pints in 2000. Across the North East it is also known for Castle Eden Ale and Trophy Special, both originally brewed at Castle Eden.


Early history

A 250-foot artesian well has been used for brewing on the site since at least 1572.[5] William Waldon (1805 - 1854), a farmer originally from Gainford, founded the Lion Brewery in the village of Stranton (subsequently a part of West Hartlepool) on land he bought from Ralph Walker for £300 in 1852.[6][7] After Waldon's death in 1854, the brewery passed to his widow, Jane. John William Cameron was enlisted to run the brewery from 1865. In 1872 he took on the brewery and its 16 public houses under a 21-year lease.[8] Henry Wilson, of the Phoenix Works in Stockton-on-Tees, built new brewery facilities for John Cameron in 1875.[9] Further land for expansion of the brewery was purchased in 1876.[7] Between 1885 and 1890 more land was bought and plans were made to build a new brewery.[7] The present brewery building was completed in 1892.[10] When the lease expired in 1893, Cameron purchased the brewery outright from the Waldons for £34,442, and Watson Cameron (John's brother) became managing director.[7]

Public listing and acquisition trail

In 1894 the company went public, valued at £345,000, and owned 119 public houses.[11] In 1895 Nixey, Coleclough & Baxter of the Brunswick Brewery in Hartlepool, was acquired, along with around 80 public houses.[7] The newly acquired brewery was closed in 1898, and Nixey and Baxter were both appointed to the Camerons board.[12][13]

In 1897, T E Chapman & Son of Sunderland was acquired with 83 public houses, and its managing director, Abel Chapman, joined the Cameron board of directors.[13] By this time, John Ellerman was vice chairman of Camerons.[13]

That same year, the Lion Brewery was further extended, to a 70 quarter capacity, capable of producing 130,000 barrels a year.[7][14] In 1899 Camerons began to bottle mineral water and the company continued to expand.[7] By this time 400 licensed premises were owned, including the majority of Hartlepool's public houses.[7][14] The company prospered, and by 1907 the share capital of the company was £350,000 with another £350,000 of capital in the form of mortgage debenture stock.[15]

In 1910, Heslop's Grange Brewery in Stockton was acquired along with 28 licensed houses.[7] John Ellerman was company chairman by 1913.[16] In 1915 the Lion Brewery was damaged by German shellfire.[14] In 1920 Watson Cameron died, and A. J. Morgan and H. J. Hewlett became joint managing directors of the company.[7] Morgan was in charge of organization and the offices, whilst Hewlett was in charge of brewing.[7] Robert Newton Ltd of Newcastle was acquired, with 35 licences, and Plews and Sons Ltd of Darlington, with 100 licensed premises.[7] In 1922, Watson's son, John Watson Cameron joined the company, and in 1935 he was made chairman and managing director.[7] By 1939, Cameron's owned 46 per cent of all public houses within the Borough of Hartlepool.[14]

In 1950, John Watson Cameron's wife, Lillian, was appointed to the board, responsible for the furnishings and decoration of Cameron's licensed houses.[7] In 1953, the Stranton bottling facility was opened.[7] In March 1955, Strongarm bitter was introduced, as the industrial workers of West Hartlepool demanded a stronger pint.[17]

In 1953, a controlling interest was acquired in John J Hunt, which owned the Ebor Brewery in York and Scarborough & Whitby Breweries along with 200 licensed public houses.[18] In 1956 J Fryer & Sons of Brompton-on-Swale was acquired.[12] In 1959 the West Auckland Brewery was acquired with 80 licensed public houses.[12] In 1961 Russell & Wrangham of Malton was acquired with 90 licensed public houses.[12] By 1967 the company had a market capitalization of £6.7 million, or £106 million in 2013 prices.[19] In 1971, John Watson Cameron retired as managing director, although he remained as executive chairman, and his son, John Martin Cameron, became managing director.[20] Camerons introduced its own "lager" brand, Icegold, in 1972.[21] Icegold was top fermented and actually a very pale ale rather than an authentic lager.[21]

Corporate ownership

In January 1974, Ellerman Lines acquired the 25 per cent stake in Camerons previously owned by Sir John Ellerman, 2nd Baronet, who had died.[22] Directors and Cameron family members held a 9 per cent stake and Bass Charrington held 10 per cent.[22]

In 1975, the company was acquired by Ellerman Lines for £14 million, in an attempt to diversify from its declining shipping business.[23] By this time Cameron's owned 500 pubs and 100 off-licences.[24]

In 1980, Hansa lager was launched, brewed under licence from Dortmunder Actien Brauerei.[21] Camerons spent £2 million to upgrade their brewing facilities in order to brew bottom fermented lager, in what CAMRA described as "the most ambitious [lager-brewing scheme] for a regional brewer yet".[21] The company had sales of £51 million in 1981, and 1 per cent of the British beer market.[21] Market share in the Tees Valley area was 25 per cent.[21]

In 1983, Ellerman Lines was acquired by the Barclay brothers for £45 million.[25] In 1984, the Barclays attempted to sell Camerons to Scottish & Newcastle for £44 million, but the brothers cancelled the negotiations when the government referred the deal to the Monopolies Commission.[26]

In 1985, Cameron's held five per cent of the UK beer market.[27] In 1985, the maltings building was demolished.[28] Alistair Arkley was appointed managing director in 1985.[29] Arkley split the pub and the brewing sides of the company into separate divisions, and divested the low-margin off-licence business.[29] In 1986, Cameron's acquired 90 pubs from Mansfield Brewery, including 78 northern pubs and clubs, most of which were former North Country Breweries outlets, for £13 million.[30] In 1988, the company expanded into the North West for the first time after it acquired 17 pubs in north Lancashire.[29]

In 1988, Camerons and Tolly Cobbold were sold to Brent Walker for £248 million.[31] Camerons controlled 480 licensed public houses and 270 hotels and off-licences.[12] In 1989, Camerons Brewery was described as one of the most efficient in the country, with a total annual capacity of over 500,000 barrels and production of 400,000.[32]

In 1991, the heavily-indebted Brent Walker sold the brewery and 51 pubs were sold to Wolverhampton & Dudley for £18.7 million, beating a rival offer from the management.[33] Brent Walker retained the bulk of the Cameron's estate, which it spun off as a Hartlepool-headquartered pubco called Pubmaster, which controlled 1,600 pubs and was sold to a syndicate of investment groups for £171.3 million in 1996.[34] Meanwhile, the soft drinks arm was spun off under a management buyout called Orchid Drinks, with brands including Purdey's and Amé (acquired by Britvic in 2000 for £67 million).[35][36]

W&D had acquired a company that was in a "sorry state".[37] Initially, brewery staff numbers were reduced from 360 to 120, and part of the brewery was mothballed, after W&D ended the contract brewing of Labatt lager at the plant.[38] However, W&D invested heavily in the brewery site and marketing, and the profitability of the brewery greatly improved.[39][40] By 1995 W&D had doubled the size of the Cameron pub estate they inherited to 101 pubs.[39] It was widely suggested by customers that the Camerons beers greatly improved after being acquired by W&D.[41][42]

In 1997, contract brewing returned to the plant, with a licence to brew Foster's lager.[43] By 1997, Cameron's market share in the North East had grown to 10 per cent, supplying pubs from Alnwick to Hull.[44] In 1998, £1 million was spent on a new filtration and fermentation system and a keg plant at the brewery.[45] In 1999, a further £500,000 was invested in the previously mothballed areas of the brewery to bring it to its full capacity of 400,000 barrels after it won a series of contracts to brew Harp Lager, Heineken and Kronenbourg.[46]

Total production of Strongarm surpassed one billion pints in 2000.[47] The 2002 Good Beer Guide remarked that the Strongarm was "Now substantially improved and with consistent character".[48]


Castle Eden Brewery, owned by David Soley, took over Camerons in April 2002 for £35 million, moving all operations to Hartlepool and closing down the Castle Eden plant.[40] The Kronenbourg 1664 contract was renewed by Scottish & Newcastle in December 2002.[49] In 2003, £500,000 was spent to build a new bottling line and an on-site microbrewery, The Lion's Den.[50] In 2008, Cameron's spent £4 million expanding its capacity from 375,000 barrels to around 800,000 barrels.[51] This followed the agreement of a contract with Scottish & Newcastle to supply Kronenbourg 1664, Foster's and John Smith's bitter until 2019. Previously the brewery had only produced Kronenbourg 1664.[51]

In 2013, Camerons acquired the Hexham-based Head of Steam craft beer chain, including seven outlets, in a deal financially backed by Carlsberg.[52]

In 2015, Gold Bullion joined Strongarm as a year-round beer.[53]


In 2011, the brewery had a capacity of over 1.5 million hectolitres (over 1 million barrels) per annum.[54] Production in 2012 was 900,000 hectolitres, with around 40,000 hl in own brand sales.[55] The bulk of the brewery's own production is cask conditioned ale but it also sells bottled and keg ales.[56] The company's most famous beer is Strongarm, a 4% abv bitter introduced in 1955, and other regular beers are IPA, Bullion Gold and Trophy Special.[40] Strongarm is made with 18 per cent crystal malt, which contributes significantly to its distinctive ruby red colour and its roasted, malty flavour.[40]

The barley comes from Yorkshire and Scotland.[57] Camerons uses up to five different yeast strains for its various brands.[50]

Its arrangements with brewing companies include contracts to produce Foster's, Kronenbourg 1664, John Smith's Magnet, Tetley Imperial, and the keg versions of Tetley Mild and Tetley Dark Mild.

The company owns 75 public houses.[58]

The Lion Brewery

The brewery building is called the Lion Brewery, and the company offers tours of the brewery.[59] Camerons Brewery in Hartlepool has two wells, one of them 250 feet deep.[60] Most of the brewery was built in 1890 when the company had aspirations to supply the whole of the North East.[61] There are still a few reminders of lavish opulence; the floor and walls of the brewhouse are furnished with Italian marble that cost £7,000 in 1970.[61]

In 2011, the brewery had a capacity of over 1.5 million hectolitres per annum.[54] It is the eleventh largest brewery in the UK.[4] It has twelve Yorkshire Squares for brewing ale.[4]

In 2013, the brewery building was used as a filming location in the "Prodigal Son" episode of Vera.[62]

A £700,000 visitor's centre was opened next to the brewery in 2004, in the former Stranton Arms public house.

Advertising and sponsorship

In 1996, a £500,000 television and radio campaign saw Cameron's Strongarm advertised across Yorkshire and the Midlands for the first time.[63]

Cameron's was one of the first breweries to sponsor football kits, with Middlesbrough FC from 1984–86 and Hartlepool United from 1985-1990 and 1993-2000.[64][65][66]

In 2014, Cameron's began sponsoring BriSCA F1 driver John Downson Jnr, from Thornley. Dowsy, as he is often referred to, is a North East stockcar racer who races under the number 94. John has previously raced BriSCA F2s, where he was the 2012 pole sitter in the BriSCA Formula 2 Stock Cars World Championship race at Barford Raceway, before making the switch to the more powerful V8 powered formula, the BriSCA F1s later in the year. John is the first driver from the area to feature in a BriSCA Formula 1 Stock Cars World Championship title race for almost 20 years, finishing 10th in 2013, narrowly avoiding qualifying for the event in 2014.


  1. Brewery backs jubilee festival - Local - Hartlepool Mail
  2. 1 2 3 4 5 6 Financial statement of Camerons Brewery Limited in Cleveland
  3. Hartlepool fights to keep ale and hearty Martyn Haisall Northern Industrial Correspondent. The Guardian 4 May 1991: 14.
  4. 1 2 3 Contract Brewing | Camerons Brewery
  5. Brewery plans to buy up to 200 pubs (From The Northern Echo)
  6. Nikolaus Pevsner, Elizabeth Williamson (1983), County Durham, p. 317
  7. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 Camerons Brewery History | Camerons Brewery
  8. Lesley Richmond; Alison Turton (1990). The Brewing Industry: A Guide to Historical Records. Manchester University Press. p. 92. ISBN 978-0-7190-3032-1.
  9. Lynn F. Pearson (1999), British breweries: an architectural history, p. 197
  10. "Cheers and booze". Evening Gazette. 17 January 2012.
  11. "Advertisements & Notices." Northern Echo [Darlington, England] 30 Nov. 1894: n.p. 19th Century British Newspapers. Web. 16 Apr. 2014.
  12. 1 2 3 4 5 Lesley Richmond, Alison Turton, The Brewing industry: a guide to historical records, retrieved 2013-09-17
  13. 1 2 3 "Multiple Advertisements and Notices." Standard [London, England] 6 Dec. 1897: 9. 19th Century British Newspapers. Web. 16 Apr. 2014.
  14. 1 2 3 4
  15. The Investors' Review, 8, 1907, p. 62
  16. "J. W. Cameron And Company (Limited)." Times [London, England] 12 Dec. 1913: 18. The Times Digital Archive, 1785-2008. Web. 16 Apr. 2014.
  17. "Company Meeting". The Times. 9 January 1956.
  18. "News in Brief". The Times. 11 September 1953.
  19. "The protectors and the protected." Economist 2 Dec. 1967
  20. Tributes to former brewery boss - Hartlepool Mail
  21. 1 2 3 4 5 6 Harris, Paul. "Hansa lager: How advertising helped a small regional brewer to establish a strong lager brand in spite of intense promotional activity by national brewing giants". Institute of Practitioners in Advertising: IPA Effectiveness Awards, 1982.
  22. 1 2 "Ellerman Lines buy 25 pc stake in brewers". The Times. 18 January 1974.
  23. Ellerman making £14M bid The Guardian (1959-2003) [London (UK)] 31 July 1975: 12.
  24. Ellerman lines up £5.7M for Tolly Michael Baws Financial Staff. The Guardian (1959-2003) [London (UK)] 09 Aug 1977: 13.
  25. The Guardian (London) November 4, 1986 Too shy for the secretive twins / Analysis of Gulf Resources bid for Imperial Continental Gas Association BYLINE: By GEOFFREY GIBBS
  26. Ellerman hangs on to Cameron Gibbs, Geoffrey. The Guardian (1959-2003) [London (UK)] 06 Sep 1984: 20.
  27. "Newcastle and Brown's ale". The Economist. 6 April 1985.
  28. Hartlepool History Then & Now
  29. 1 2 3 Scrase, Richard (26 May 1988). "Home Brew". Commercial Motor. Retrieved 6 November 2013.
  30. "Mansfield pub sale". The Times. 5 June 1986.
  31. The Times (London) December 24, 1988, Saturday Mystery buyer stalks Ultramar; Stock Market BYLINE: MICHAEL CLARK and GEOFFREY FOSTER
  32. The Sunday Times (London) June 4, 1989, Sunday Time is called for Tolly; City BYLINE: JEFF RANDALL
  33. The Times December 19, 1991, Thursday Brent to sell pubs and brewery BYLINE: By Matthew Bond
  34. The Guardian (London) November 8, 1996 BRENT SELLS PUBMASTER TO SYNDICATE BYLINE: Dominic Walsh SECTION: THE GUARDIAN CITY PAGE; Pg. 22
  35. Bunhill: Aqua Libra - Business - News - The Independent
  36. "Britvic buys Orchid Drinks". The Independent. 11 July 2000.
  37. "Safeguarding the Lion's Pride". The Northern Echo. 5 February 1999.
  38. Shepherd, John (5 December 1992). "Profits get lift at Midlands brewer". The Independent.
  39. 1 2 Tapping, Colin (27 May 1995). "Strongarm tactics prove profitable for Camerons". The Northern Echo.
  40. 1 2 3 4 - all you need to know about beer
  41. Mapplebeck, Will (28 August 2000). "Uncertainty hangs over Camerons Lion". THE JOURNAL (Newcastle, UK).
  42. "Best deal brewer is in a glass of its own". The Northern Echo. 4 October 1995.
  43. THE JOURNAL (Newcastle, UK) November 28, 1997, Friday Edition 1 Camerons' Pours Sparkling Profits Brew For W
  44. The Northern Echo November 28, 1997 LION-HEARTED WORKERS BOOST SALES AT W&D BYLINE: Anthony Seymour
  45. "Minister's Toasts Brewery's Upgrade". The Northern Echo. 5 September 1998.
  47. Dant, Gareth (31 March 2000). "Camerons shows its pride in the jewel of the town". The Northern Echo.
  48. Unwin, Bruce (30 October 2001). "Strongarm tactics pay off as old favourite named top beer". The Northern Echo.
  49. Article: Lager deal gives Camerons more fizz. | AccessMyLibrary - Promoting library advocacy Archived 21 September 2013 at the Wayback Machine.
  50. 1 2 THE JOURNAL (Newcastle, UK) June 21, 2003, Saturday Edition 1 Viewing tidy delights of The Lion's Den BYLINE: By Alastair Gilmore, The Journal
  51. 1 2 Camerons beating the failing market. - Free Online Library
  52. Brown, Michael (4 December 2013). "The Head of Steam pub chain is sold to Camerons Brewery". The Chronicle.
  53. "Hartlepool's Camerons brewery celebrates 150 years with new beers". Hartlepool Mail. 9 January 2015. Retrieved 14 January 2015.
  54. 1 2 Welcome to: Archived 20 June 2012 at the Wayback Machine.
  55. Building the brand
  56. Karen McLauchlan (19 April 2010), Teesside firms make top 100 league table, Evening Gazette
  57. Camerons Brewery | DrinkBritain
  58. Hartlepool brewery buys up Newcastle pubs including The Head of Steam and The Cluny - Hartlepool Mail
  59. "Visitor Centre". Hartlepool: Camerons. Retrieved 2013-09-17.
  60. Depths of flavour THE JOURNAL, 23 September 2005
  61. 1 2 Cameron's Lion King
  62. Price, Kelley (17 January 2013). "Hartlepool brewery starring in episode of Vera". Gazette Live. Retrieved 10 September 2014.
  63. "£500,000 bitter ads launched". The Northern Echo. 16 November 1996.
  64. Gillett, A., Tennent, K., & Hutchinson, F. (2016). Beer and the Boro—A Perfect Match!. In Brewing, Beer and Pubs (pp. 303-320). Palgrave Macmillan UK.
  65. Middlesbrough - Historical Football Kits
  66. Hartlepool United - Historical Football Kits

Further reading

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