• Thu. Jun 13th, 2024

10 memorable photos of the 1990s when we lost Oxford’s Morrells Brewery


Aug 16, 2022

Here we feature photos from the Oxford Mail archive from the 1990s.

It was a decade when buses were still allowed in Cornmarket, Lady Di visited Oxford, and historic Morrells Brewery closed after manufacturing beer for the city for 200 years.

Morrells Brewery shut for good in 1998.

In July 1998, the Oxford Mail reported that Morrells' workers arrived at the St Thomas' Street brewery knowing that time was about to be called on 200 years of brewing.

Read again: Shopping centre gets an upgrade

For some, Oxford without a brewery was just about as unimaginable as Carfax without its tower. But any real hope of survival had already gone.

Oxford Mail: Dray horses at Morrell's in 1989

Weeks of rumour about the future of the historic brewery and its 132 pubs had been followed by the unedifying sight of one of the city's most famous families tearing itself apart in public.

Any doubts about the bitterness of the feud were removed when brewery boss Charles Eld found himself being escorted from the building last month.

By the time the 'grand old lady' of the Morrells family, Margie Eld, quit as a director after 54 years, many had already concluded that the brewery was in its death throes.

Read more: 10 historic photos of Oxfordshire in the 1960s

Her words as she left the Lion brewery were not designed to bring any cheer. "I am convinced that the new management intends to sell all the assets of the business as quickly as possible and to make all employees redundant," she said at the time.

Oxford Mail: The Morrell's Brewery main gate in 1994

For many years the main source of power was a water wheel driven by a stream passing under St Thomas' Street.

Over-production in the beer industry had seen a wave of brewery closures all over the country that year.

Morrell's was thought to be under particular pressure from its aggressive competitor just down the road, Morland, riding high on the back of its Old Speckled Hen brand.

Oxford Mail:

The Abingdon-based brewery has also closed but the micro-brewery Loose Cannon's beers, made in the town, are now popular.

Read again: Woman could be fined for alleged dog attack

Oxford Mail:

After Morrells closed, The Lion Brewery was developed into 79 luxury apartments in 2002 and historic features, including the brewery gates, were retained.

Read more from this author

This story was written by Andy Ffrench, he joined the team more than 20 years ago and now covers community news across Oxfordshire.

Get in touch with him by emailing: Andy.ffrench@newsquest.co.uk

Follow him on Twitter @OxMailAndyF