1990s: The Tetley Archive

This week, our #LeedsArchives80 campaign focusses on the 1990s and we’re taking a closer look at one of our largest business collections, Joshua Tetley & Son Ltd.  Throughout the 1990s five huge deposits of Tetley’s archives were brought to the archives and were added to the already vast collection which had been deposited in 1975 and throughout the 1980s.  Perhaps one of our more memorable deposits, a batch was delivered on a cart, being pulled by one of the famous Tetley’s Shire horses!  More recently, and in a van, rather than on horseback, further batches of archives were transferred in 2011 as the main site was being closed.

Tetleys Archive Delivery

Tetley’s has long been associated with brewing in Leeds. In fact, it all started back in 1822 when Joshua Tetley took over William Skyes’ brewery in Salem place with the idea to brew his own beer as well as selling malt.  He soon established the brewery and developed a vast operation throughout the 19th century.  Bottled beer was sold in great quantities after the First World War and by 1950 Tetley’s owned more than 400 licensed houses.


The archive, held at the Leeds office of the West Yorkshire Archive Service, is fantastically detailed and whilst it relates mainly to the history of Tetley’s Beer at the Brewery in Leeds it also includes records of other companies that were incorporated into Tetley’s over the years such as Whitaker and Company Ltd, Leeds and Wakefield Breweries Ltd and Allied Breweries Ltd to name just a few. It’s a substantial archive too, with 400 large boxes full of records, including:

  • Staff records
  • Production and sales records
  • Brewing journals, brewing books and reports of experimental brews
  • Photographs of the brewing process and public houses
  • Promotional material



The archive spans the whole life of the company, from creation in the early 19th century, right through to when the final brew was made in 2011 so it’s essential viewing for anyone researching the history of brewing.  It’s also a must for anyone interested in the First World War because the collection includes the records of the 7th West Riding of Yorkshire Rifles Volunteers formed in 1860.  The Tetley brewery played an important role in the creation of the ‘Leeds Rifles’ as they provided many men, as well as commanding officers and honorary colonels.  Of the 613 men working for Tetley’s at the outbreak of the First World War 261 joined the services.  Of those, 25 were sadly killed and 55 were wounded.  Tetley’s also suffered the loss of 20 of their shire horses during the war.  Loved by everyone, the Shire horses were a symbol of the brewery and played an integral part in the daily running of the company.  Deliveries were not their only job, they were also used in adverts and promotional material, and regularly visited horse shows, winning many trophies over the years.


2018 is a year of many anniversaries and this collection helps us to both celebrate and remember.  We remember all those, including the staff from Tetley’s, who served in the First World War 100 years ago; we celebrate the 80th year of Leeds Archives and the collections, like Joshua Tetley & Son Ltd, that we preserve; and say a happy 5th birthday to the opening of The Tetley, the contemporary art centre located in the gorgeous art deco headquarters of the former Tetley Brewery.  If you’d like more information on the Tetley archive or any of our other business collections please drop us a line at leeds@wyjs.org.uk.  Cheers!