William Bass (1717 – 1787)

William Bass, born in 1717, was the second son of three sons of William Bass who ran a moderately successful plumbing and glaziery business and small-holding in Hinkley.

William’s father died when he was just fifteen. The eldest son, John, succeeded his father as plumber and glazier, leaving William to look after the running of the small-holding. Eventually, John and William established a carrier business and by 1754, they were operating a bi-directional service between Manchester and London but the following year, William gained complete control over the carrying business with his brother preferring to concentrate on the original established business so that he could remain in Hinckley.

In 1756, William married Mary Gibbons, the daughter of a London publican close who ran the ‘Red Lion’ close to the London depot. They chose to make their home in Burton upon Trent because it was mid-way en route from Manchester and London, was a growing industrial and commercial centre, and was positioned on the new, under construction Trunk canal.

From Burton, he carried felt hats, which had a strong manufacturing presence in Burton, together with spades, axes, screws and hardware predominantly for Thomas Thornewill’s works in New Street but also for other Burton manufacturers such as Richard Green. Increasingly, he was also shipping casks of beer from Burton’s steadily growing brewery trade for the likes of Charles Leeson, William Musgrave, Samuel Sketchley, Joseph Clay, Thomas Lovatt and Henry Evans.

Living in a modest house in Wetmore, William’s first of two sons, Michael Thomas was born in 1759. As a well established carrier proprietor, in 1765, William Bass was able to lease a large new house in High Street.

He entered brewing relatively late in life, aged 60, by selling his transportation business to the Pickford family and using the funds to purchase a Town House in High Street, with a brewery and malthouse on adjoining land, seeing brewing as providing a better future business for his two sons.

The Bass Brewery catered mainly for the domestic market, but in 1784 he started to export ale directly to the Baltic (Russia) via Hull. After his death, he was succeeded in the business by his sons William and Michael and in 1795 Michael took sole control.


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