Burton upon Trent

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Burton upon Trent, also known as Burton-on-Trent or simply Burton, is a town straddling the River Trent in the east of Staffordshire, England. Its demonym is “Burtonian”.

Burton is best known for its brewing heritage, home to over a dozen breweries in its heyday. It originally grew up around Burton on Trent Abbey, the monastery of St. Modwen, and had grown into a busy market town by the early modern period. While Burton’s great bridge over the Trent was in poor repair by the early 16th century it served as “a comen passage to and fro many countries to the grett releff and comfort of travellyng people”, according to the abbot. The bridge was the site of the 1643 Battle of Burton Bridge, a royalist victory during the First English Civil War. The town, which had an estimated population of 64,449 (2001 Census), lies within the National Forest.

For centuries, Burton has been associated with the brewing industry. This is due to the quality of the local water, which contains a high proportion of dissolved salts, predominantly caused by the gypsum in the surrounding hills. This allowed a greater proportion of hops, a natural preservative, to be included in the beer, thereby allowing the beer to be shipped further afield. Much of the open land within and around the town is protected from chemical treatment to help preserve this water quality.

The town is currently home to five brewers:

  • Coors Brewers Ltd: formerly Bass Brewers Ltd, and now the UK arm of Molson Coors Brewing Company – a brewery from Canada (co-headquartered in the United States) – which produces Carling and Worthington Bitter
  • Marston, Thompson and Evershed plc, bought by Wolverhampton & Dudley Breweries now renamed Marstons plc. The Marston’s Brewery produces its own brands, draught Marstons Pedigree, draught Hobgoblin snf also draught Bass under licence from InBev.
  • Burton Bridge Brewery is a local company based in Bridge Street with a six local pubs in and around Burton. It produces a number of traditional beers including Bridge Bitter, Stairway to Heaven, Damson Porter and Golden Delicious.
  • Tower Brewery, a microbrewery located off Wharf Road
  • Old Cottage Brewery, based in Hawkins Lane whose beers include Oak Ale and Halcyon Daze.
  • Black Hole Brewery based at the Imex Centre

It is also the corporate headquarters of the pub operators Punch Taverns plc and Spirit Group, which were spun out of Bass in 1997.

In addition, the White Shield micro-brewery remains open alongside the National Brewing Centre formerly Coors Visitor Centre and (previously the Bass Museum of Brewing).

A by-product of the brewing industry, figuratively and literally, is the presence of the famous British icon Marmite factory in the town. This in turn generated the production of Bovril. Both owned by multinational Unilever.

The opening of the River Trent Navigation at the beginning of the 18th century allowed Burton beer to be shipped to Hull, and on to the Baltic Sea and Prussia, as well as to London where it was being sold in 1712. A number of breweries opened in the second half of the 18th century to take advantage of this trade. The Napoleonic blockade brought this to a halt, leading to some consolidation and a redirection of the trade to London and Lancashire via canals. When Burton brewers succeeded in replicating the pale ale produced in London, the advantage of the water’s qualities allowed the development of the trade of Burton India Pale Ale (an ale specially brewed to keep during the long sea voyage to India). The building of rail links to Liverpool enabled brewers to export their beer throughout the British Empire.

Burton came to dominate this trade, and at its height one quarter of all beer sold in Britain was produced here. In the second half of the 19th century there was a growth in native breweries, supplemented by outside brewing companies moving into the town so that over 30 breweries were recorded in 1880. However at the beginning of the 20th century there was a slump in beer sales causing many breweries to fail, unhelped by the Liberal government’s anti-drinking attitudes. This time no new markets were found and so the breweries shrank by closure and consolidation from 20 in 1900 to 8 in 1928. A further process of mergers and buy-outs resulted in three main breweries remaining by 1980: Bass, Ind Coope and Marston’s. Today, only Burton Bridge Brewery remains as an independent brewer.

The town’s connection with the brewing industry is celebrated by a sculpture of the Burton Cooper, which is now housed in the Coopers Square shopping centre.

The National Brewery Centre (previously Coors Visitor Centre & the Museum of Brewing and before that the Bass Museum of Brewing) which celebrates the town’s brewing heritage is its biggest tourist attraction.

Burton is the administrative centre for the borough of East Staffordshire and forms part of the Burton constituency. The local Member of Parliament is Andrew Griffiths, who has represented the Burton (and Uttoxeter) constituency since May 2010.

Burton was incorporated as a municipal borough in 1878. The incorporated area was split between the counties of Staffordshire and Derbyshire – the Local Government Act 1888 incorporated the entirety of the borough in Staffordshire, including the Derbyshire parishes of Stapenhill and Winshill. It became a county borough in 1901, having reached the 50,000 population required.

It never substantially exceeded the population of 50,000, and at a population of 50,201 in the 1971 census was the smallest county borough in England after Canterbury. The Local Government Commission for England recommended in the 1960s that it be demoted to a non-county borough within Staffordshire, but this was not implemented. Under the Local Government Act 1972, the town became on 1 April 1974, an unparished area in the new district of East Staffordshire.

The main venue for live theatre and other performing and visual arts is The Brewhouse which is run by East Staffordshire Council.  Burton is the location of the English National Football Centre, due to be opened in 2012.

Burton Operatic Society is a Musical Theatre Company based in Burton and produces two productions each year.

Burton upon Trent was also home to the Burton School of Speech and Drama on Guild Street where many professional and hard-working amateur actors and actresses learned their craft. Following the closure of the school in July 1984, its in-house amateur company the Little Theatre Players continued life as an independent amateur drama company called The Little Theatre Company often referred to locally and by its 70+ members as LTC. LTC currently stages at least four productions a year in the town: two plays, a musical and a youth production.

Claymills Pumping Station on the north side of Burton is a restored Victorian sewage pumping station, adjacent to the modern sewage works.

Until 2006, one of Burton’s most distinguishable landmarks was the Drakelow Power Station, just south of Burton on the opposite side of the River Trent. The cooling towers have since been demolished.

Burton was home to the Peel family, who played a significant role in the Industrial Revolution and founded the Peelers, which became the modern day police force. The family home is still visible in the town as Peel House on Lichfield Street.

Burton upon Trent has one of the oldest amateur radio clubs in the UK. It was formed in 1919, although there were enthusiasts of wireless telegraphy in Burton well before the First World War. One of the founder members of the club was Mr F. V. A. Smith, call sign XSR, (X = experimental station). Mr Smith was licensed on 3 July 1914. One month later he received a message from the Marconi spark transmitter at Poldhu in Cornwall, being sent to London, on the eve of the outbreak of World War One. The message, which has survived and is in the present club archives, was announcing the mobilisation of Russian, French and Belgian troops.

HM Queen Elizabeth II visited the town on 3 July 2002 to celebrate her Golden Jubilee.

The Statutes Fair takes place in the town every year on the first Monday and Tuesday after Michaelmas (29 September). This is usually the first Monday and Tuesday in October, but can occasionally fall on 30 September/1 October, as in 2002. The fair occupies the Market Place and parts of High Street, New Street and Lichfield Street for two days.

The Cooper’s Square shopping centre is the principal shopping area originally opened in 1970 by HRH the Princess Alexandra but since considerably upgraded with a roof being added in the mid 1990s. The older Riverside Shopping Centre (formerly known as Bargate’s) is currently derelict,sealed off and demolition is pending. A new shopping area has been added off Guild Street including a multiplex cinema, Matalan and Aldi etc. An additional shopping centre is Octagon Centre on New Street constructed in the mid 1980s. There is another, much smaller shopping centre, Burton Place Shopping Centre which was built in 1986. Burton Place was originally known as Worthington Walk.

In addition to the brewery industry, tyre manufacturer Pirelli is a major employer in the town, and they are a major sponsor of the Burton Albion Football Club.

The Burton suburb of Branston is where the well-known Branston Pickle was invented.

The town had its own municipal buses known as Burton Corporation and later East Staffordshire District Council after 1974. This was taken over by Stevenson’s of Spath in the mid 1980s and in turn was absorbed by Arriva. Arriva Midlands and independents now operate locally.The former Burton Corporation depot has been replaced by the Magistrates’ Courts.

The local Sea Cadet unit is TS (Training Ship) Modwena alongside the River Trent and road bridge. The town’s Air Training Corps unit is No 351 (Burton on Trent) Squadron. The local Territorial Army unit is F (Fire Support) Company, 4 Mercian Brigade an infantry unit at Coltman House TA centre, Hawkins Lane. The unit was formerly a volunteer brigade of the North Staffordshire Regiment.

Eatough’s (sometimes Etough’s) was an innovative shoemaking firm from Leicestershire which opened a factory in Burton Road, Branston in 1920. It was the first British shoe factory to introduce music in the workplace (1936), and washable children’s sandals (‘Plastisha’ 1957), but it closed in 1989 as a result of competition from cheap imports.

Briggs of Burton PLC (formerly S. Briggs & Co.) is a Burton-based brewery and process engineering company established in 1732 by Samuel Briggs. Famous for its manufacturing innovation and craftsmanship across the world, Briggs moved from its works in New Street to Derby Street having taken over its rival Robert Morton DG in the mid-1980s. The former site is now occupied by the Octagon Shopping Centre.

Midco Toymaster (formerly Midco Toys Ltd) is a Burton Based Independent Toy Store.

In 2005 a report by the New Economics Foundation rated Burton at 13.3 out of 60 for “individuality”, putting it in the top ten clone towns in England, because of the large number of chain stores in the town centre. Since then events such as a French market have been organised to bring more footfall into the town centre.

The main venue for live theatre and other performing and visual arts is The Brewhouse which is run by East Staffordshire Council. During the 1970s and 1980s a number of well known rock bands appeared at the 76 Club nightclub in Burton, including Dire Straits and the Sex Pistols. Burton upon Trent is the home of contemporary visual artist, Alistair Kennedy. Burton Operatic Society is a Musical Theatre Company based in Burton and produces two productions each year. Burton upon Trent was also home to the Burton School of Speech and Drama on Guild Street where many professional and hard-working amateur actors and actresses learned their craft. Following the closure of the school in July 1984, its in-house amateur company the Little Theatre Players continued life as an independent amateur drama company called The Little Theatre Company often referred to locally and by its 70+ members as LTC. LTC currently stages at least four productions a year in the town: two plays, a musical and a youth production.

Burton upon Trent has one of the oldest amateur radio clubs in the UK. It was formed in 1919, although there were enthusiasts of wireless telegraphy in Burton well before the First World War. One of the founder members of the club was Mr F. V. A. Smith, call sign XSR, (X = experimental station). Mr Smith was licensed on 3 July 1914. One month later he received a message from the Marconi spark transmitter at Poldhu in Cornwall, being sent to London, on the eve of the outbreak of World War One. The message, which has survived and is in the present club archives, was announcing the mobilisation of Russian, French and Belgian troops.

The Statutes Fair takes place in the town every year on the first Monday and Tuesday after Michaelmas (29 September). This is usually the first Monday and Tuesday in October, but can occasionally fall on 30 September/1 October, as in 2002. The fair occupies the Market Place and parts of High Street, New Street and Lichfield Street for two days.

Bloodstock Open Air is an annual festival of heavy metal music which takes place in August and has been held at Catton Hall in Walton-on-Trent, 8 miles south-west of Burton since 2005.

The town’s connection with the brewing industry is celebrated in The Burton Cooper a bronze sculpture, by James Walter Butler. It was commissioned in 1977 and depicts a local craftsman making a barrel. It originally stood opposite the market and was moved to its present location inside the Cooper’s Square Shopping Centre in 1994.

The National Brewery Centre (previously Coors Visitor Centre & the Museum of Brewing and before that the Bass Museum of Brewing) which celebrates the town’s brewing heritage is its biggest tourist attraction. Claymills Pumping Station on the north side of Burton is a restored Victorian sewage pumping station, adjacent to the modern sewage works. Until 2006, one of Burton’s most distinguishable landmarks was the Drakelow Power Station, just south of Burton on the opposite side of the River Trent. The cooling towers have since been demolished.

The town is served by Burton-on-Trent railway station, which is accessed from the bridge on Borough Road. The station has two platforms, Platform One for Derby, Nottingham, London and the North, Platform Two for Tamworth, Birmingham and the South. The station is situated on the Cross Country Route, between the principal cities of Derby and Birmingham.

The station’s operator is East Midlands Trains, although no East Midlands Trains trains call there. All of services are provided by CrossCountry, with trains between Cardiff Central, Birmingham, and Nottingham, as well as longer-distance services to destinations such as Bristol Temple Meads, Leeds and Newcastle. Burton is positioned at the southern terminus of the aborted Ivanhoe Line.

East Midlands Trains used to run two direct return weekday services to London via Derby and Leicester along the Midland Main Line. These services ended at the December 2008 timetable change with the last service running on Saturday 13 December 2008. The station utilises the PlusBus scheme where train and bus tickets can be bought together at a saving.

The town had its own municipal buses known as Burton Corporation and later East Staffordshire District Council after 1974. This was taken over by Stevenson’s of Spath in the mid-1980s and in turn was absorbed by Arriva. Arriva Midlands and independents now operate locally and provide services to Uttoxeter, Derby, Horninglow, Edge Hill, Stapenhill, Queen’s Hospital Burton, Winshill, Stretton, Abbots Bromley, Tatenhill, Wetmore, Lichfield and Ashby-de-la-Zouch. The former Burton Corporation depot has been replaced by the Magistrates’ Courts. Most buses can now be caught from New Street between the Octagon and Cooper Square shopping centres.

Burton upon Trent Corporation Tramways operated a tramway service in Burton upon Trent between 1903 and 1929. The system comprised four routes going out from Station Street to Horninglow, Branston Road, Stapenhill, and Winshill. The depot was in Horninglow Road.

The town is served by the general aviation airfield located at Tatenhill four n.m. west of the conurbation.

Burton is also on 2 routes of the National Cycle Network. Route 54 links Burton with Birmingham to the south and Derby to the north with the route closely following the Trent and Mersey Canal around Burton. Route 63 starts in Burton and links to South Derbyshire via the town centre, Stapenhill Viaduct and Stanton. Route 63 will terminate eventually in Shobnall at its junction with route 54.

The mother church of Burton is St. Modwen’s. Other Anglican parish churches built to serve the expanding population include St Paul’s, St John the Divine, St Chad’s and All Saints and St Marys in Stretton on church Road. There are five mosques in Burton, three Bareilvi or Sufi, one Deobandi and one Salafi There is a Sikh Gurdwara established in St Chad’s Community Centre. Although there was a small Jewish community in Burton-on-Trent in the early half of the 20th centuries, there is no record of a synagogue being established. There was, however, a close relationship with the near-by community in Derby, whose minister acted as visiting teacher and shochet.

The town is home to Burton Albion, who play in the Npower Football League 2. Burton is also the location of the English National Football Centre, due to be opened in 2012. The NFC has been renamed St George’s Park

Burton RUFC, one of the oldest rugby union clubs in the country, was established in 1870, when it played both association and rugby football rules. It did not adopt rugby union only rules until 1876.

The town is also home to the Burton Canoe Club on the banks of the River Trent. It has recently expanded and built its own clubhouse. Also along the River Trent in Burton are Burton Leander Rowing Club, which was founded in 1847 (and is one of the oldest rowing clubs in the country), and Trent Rowing Club, founded in 1863.

Burton is home to the ‘Powerhouse Gym’ International All Round Weightlifting team which was set up in 1985 by Steve Gardner (former World All Round Weightlifting Champion – Inducted into the IAWA (UK) Hall of Fame in 2000) The club trains All Round Weightlifters, including Powerlifting and Olympic Weightlifting and is affiliated to The International All Round Weightlifting Association. The Burton club hosted the 2008 International All Round Weightlifting Association World Championships.

Burton is twinned with Blantyre, Malawi; Elkhart, Indiana, USA; Lingen, Germany; Rochefort, France; Toyserkan, Iran; Bielawa, Poland.

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