TitleS H Ward & Company Limited, Sheaf Brewery, Ecclesall Road, Sheffield
AdminHistoryS. H. Ward and Company Limited began life in 1837 as the brewhouse and business of William Roper and John Kirby at Effingham Street. Roper died in 1842 and his share of the business passed to Kirby who continued on his own until 1860 when he was joined in business with George Wright, a corn chandler from Lincoln. Together, as Kirby, Wright and Company, the pair worked at making the Sheaf Island Brewery on Effingham Street a prosperous enterprise. For almost a decade this proved fruitful. When financial difficulties beset the Company in 1868, Septimus Henry Ward, a gentleman from Surrey (1831-1905) entered into the business as a partner of George Wright. A year later, the partnership between Ward and Wright was dissolved and the company name was changed to Kirby, Ward and Company.

With Ward came a large input of cash and the business continued to expand. During February and March 1876 the breweries of Latham & Quihampton (Albion Brewery) and Bradley & Company (Soho Brewery) were acquired. The Soho Brewery, on Ecclesall Road, was renamed the Sheaf Brewery and Ward made this brewery the base for the company. In 1890 the Eldon Street Brewery of Lofthouse & Bell was acquired with five licensed houses and in 1896 a further six houses were purchased. S. H Ward and Company registered as a limited liability company in February 1896. The same year saw £80,000, 4% First Mortgage Debenture offered for subscription. Additional stock of £20,000 was issued in 1899. During the first years of the twentieth century the sons of the founders (C. B. Ward, W. T. Wright and R. Wright) joined their fathers in the company. The Wright family remained associated with the firm for another two generations, until the retirement of Michael Wright in 1994.

Throughout the twentieth century the company continued to expand through acquiring new premises, shedding old ones, rebuilding dilapidated ones and constructing new public houses. The Second World War halted progress due to a shortage of raw materials and building materials. The blitz of December 1940 saw three incendiary bombs fall on the Brewery and four Wards beerhouses were destroyed. Four people died as a result, a statistic much mourned by the company chairman of the time, Mr Wilfred Wright. From the mid-1950’s the Brewery continued to grow and the first public house completed in the post war period was the ‘Anglers Rest’ at Handsworth. The ever changing market place required that the brewery maintain a diverse nature and as the 1970’s approached, it became clear that the structure of the brewery would have to change to accommodate these changes. In 1972 the brewery was taken over by Vaux & Associated Breweries Ltd. (The Vaux Group) of Sunderland, Tyne and Wear, although Wards continued to trade under its own name. In 1973 Mr G. A. Wright (who had joined the firm in 1921) died and in 1974 the Chairman, Mr Wilfred Wright passed away (he had served the company for 61 years).

In 1978, the Vaux Group acquired the Brewery of W. M. Darley at Thorne, Doncaster. This business was to be run as a branch of S. H. Ward & Co., Ltd., and also continued to trade under its own name until it was closed in 1986. From this date, Darleys ‘Thorne Best Bitter’ and ‘Dark Mild’ were to be produced by Wards Brewery.
Date1836 - 1996
CustodialHistoryThe managing director of the company placed some of the business records of S. H. Ward & Co., Ltd. in the custody of Sheffield City Archives in September 1980. In 1998 the Vaux Group announced their intention to close the Vaux Brewery in Sunderland and Wards Brewery in Sheffield. The management of both breweries drew up a buy-out package valued at £125,000,000 for the depots, breweries and 350 public houses of the group. This package was rejected and in 1999 both breweries were to close. The Sheaf Brewery, Ecclesall Road closed on 2nd July 1999, effectively ending a brewing tradition that had begun in Sheffield some two hundred and fifty years earlier with Thomas Elliot’s brewhouse at Scargill Croft. The remainders of the business records of S. H. Ward & Co., Ltd. were transferred to Sheffield Archives.

Within the latter deposit were records of Darleys Brewery and of the Vaux Group. These have been listed with the records of Wards Brewery to show the full evolution of the Company. The original list of records was compiled in 1983 (given the numbers WARD 1 - WARD 91) and this list has been integrated into the new list. Original numbers on the boards or spine of volumes within the collection have been noted in [square brackets]
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