In the 1950’s and 60’s, many of Britain’s traditional regional breweries were being taken over by larger national brewery businesses. Many of the smaller family breweries that were spread across country were forced into submission as the larger firms stripped assets from the smaller companies in attempt to monopolise the industry.
In 1960 Watneys took over Phipps Northampton Brewery Company, Although assurances had been offered it soon became apparent that the intention was to do away with ‘old fashioned brewing’ and centralise production and pub chains within giant London based businesses selling only Watney and Mann Products.
Soon after it was announced that the Phipps site would be closed,
demolished and sold on to Carlsberg who would re-build as a larger factory.
Bill had tirelessly attempted to reason with the management and unbeknown to Watney, Bill had also began to “liberate” pieces of equipment from the soon to close Phipps brewery. The workforce colluded with him in this endeavour; his plans were an open secret among the men but hidden from higher management.
Bill lived in Litchborough and enlisted his friend Frank to help him built this new-fangled microbrewery system using old Phipps kit; and some improvised items from old washing machines and caravan gas burners. It presented a Heath Robinson face to the world but eventually worked well, although not before Bill blew the roof off the barn at one point!
In late 1974, a month or so after Phipps brewery was torn down to make way for the lorry park of the new Carlsberg plant, Bill began brewing a beer called Northamptonshire Bitter, closely related to Phipps IPA of course. Bill named his mini brewery as he initially called it, “Litchborough Brewery”, the world’s first microbrewery!
Many years have since pasted since Litchborough Brewery revolutionised the craft beer industry and over the years ownership of the brewery has changed several times and Litchborough Brewery has traded under many different brand names.