Progress Of The Limited Company...
The first decisions by the Board of the new company showed a determination to expand. The Directors entered into negotiations with Messrs. Cronshaw's, of Alexandra Brewery, Manchester, which resulted in the purchase by Groves & Whitnall of that firm, an agreement being signed on 8th September, 1899. The issued capital was then increased to £500.000 5% Preference Shares, and £360.000 Ordinary shares, and £295.000 additional 4% Debenture Stock was issued to rank pari passu with the original £550.000. Similar negotiations led shortly afterwards to the purchase of a group of licensed properties from a Mr. William Dockray. Mr. W.S. Cronshaw was retained as Manager of Alexandra Brewery and nine months later was offered, and accepted, a seat of the Board. A son of Mr. William Dockray subsequently entered the service and remained until 1947, when he retired from the position of second brewer.
Only a few months later, in February, 1900, a tender of £16.175 was accepted for the building of new offices and bottling works. These were the fine premises which stood at the Salford end of Regent Bridge, until they were totally destroyed in the Manchester Blitz of 22nd-23rd December, 1940, during the Second World War. It would have cost many times that amount to replace this handsome building by a modern and more austere structure.
In addition to these larger negotiations, the Company or the previous partnership expended between the years 1898 and 1900 upwards of £120.00 in the purchase of new properties. Again between 1900 and 1904, new properties were purchased to the value of approximately £100.000. In the year 1901 a further issue of Debenture Stock of £200.000 was made to help to finance the rapid expansion of the business. Courageous expansion. indeed, but justified by the later prosperity of Groves & Whitnall Limited. A low point of the period was the Beer epidemic of 1900, A large outbreak of poisoning by inorganic arsenic, among beer drinkers, was detected in the north of England, Among the sources of arsenic contributing to the contamination of beer. In one case the beer was found to have been supplied by Groves & Whitnall, full details of the article and conclusions can be found in the article from the Times Newspaper dated 10th January, 1900.
The financial history of the company during the next fifteen years up to the period of the First World War is one of measured progress and consolidation. It was during this time, especially from 1905 onwards, that the policy of gradually building up reserves was adopted and consistently followed, which then formed so solid a basis for the Companies finances.
After the fall of Mr. Balfour's Conservative Government in the "land-slide" election of 1906 breweries in general passed through a time of great difficulty, as the new Liberal Government introduced legislation which seriously curtailed their trade. Threats of increased taxation, and even of confiscation, alarmed investors in the brewery securities. Many threw their holdings on the market at any price.
The greatest breweries in the country were affected. It was at one time seriously suggested that Groves and Whitnall should write down its Ordinary Shares from £10 to £2 and the £10 preference Shares to £6. Fortunately wiser counsel prevailed and the company was able to weather the storm. The Directors report for the year 1907 refers to "the unsettled outlook caused by the predatory proposals of the Government" The report for 1909 refers to "the penal enactments threatened by the Budget" and the 1910 report to "the onerous burdens placed on the already over taxed industry" Also the long established custom of giving the "long pull" of the beer was something of a burden. The public were not satisfied they received a good "overmeasure" This pernicious practice, however, was discontinued in 1910.
The 1911 recovery in trade thus enabled the Directors to recommend a dividend of 3%, a modest rate continued until 1916. During these years the brewery gradually changed over from horse transport to motor vehicles, and in 1912 part of the main stables were demolished and garages were built in their place. Many of the older employees regretted the passing of our great fleet of horse-drawn vehicles, which made a gallant display, especially on the May Day turn out. The company's horses were justly famous and won many prizes at shows, although the brewery transport had now been completely mechanized horse drawn lorries were still used for the lighter loads of bottled beers, and can boast even today of the excellent teams.
Although the Company, like many other breweries, was losing a number of its smaller houses under the Licensing Compensation Scheme, it was acquiring new licences when the opportunity offered. Amongst these may be mentioned "The George & Dragon" Altrincham, purchased 1907 and "The Salisbury Hotel" Salford, purchase of tenants goodwill in 1913.
During the years 1900 to 1914 several changes took place in the Board of Directors. In 1902, Mr. C.H. Leigh resigned his Directorship in order to give his full time to the management of Globe Works, which he helped to found seventeen years before. In 1908, Mr. W. Peer Groves, eldest son of J.G. Groves, was elected to the Board. In 1913, Mr. C.H. Leigh was invited to rejoin the Board. In the same year Mr. William Gilbert Worthington became a Director. Mr. George Whitehead, by that time the Company's Secretary, was appointed a Director later in the same year.
Mr. J.G. Groves, our first chairman, died in 1914, six weeks before the outbreak of the First World War. His younger brother, Colonel J.E.G Groves, was elected on 11th October of the same year to fill his place as Chairman and Managing Director.
Above: Mr. J.G. Groves, 1854-1914