Topic: A Short History of the Waikato Brewery in Hamilton

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Waikato Brewery was established by William Cumming in 1873 at the river end of Cook Street in Hamilton East. It was adjacent to the Royal Hotel which Cumming had bought in 1870.

Original site of Waikato Brewery in Hamilton EastThe large Public Square in the centre of the map would later become Steele Park. Cook Street runs down the left of the Square to the river where William Cumming's plot of land, where he would establish his brewery, can be seen.

It’s not known if Waikato Brewery was a legally registered name but Mr Cumming advertised using this name.

Advertisement by William Cumming of Waikato Brewery
From Waikato Times 18 February 1879 p.1

Over the next decade William Cumming had problems with his finances and the management of the Royal Hotel. He ended up filing for bankruptcy in 1883. The brewery was acquired in September of 1884 by C.J.W. Barton & Co. Mrs Charlotte Wilson, mother of Charles John Wright Barton, owned the land and the buildings while C.J.W. became the plant’s occupier and operator. He did this for three years before moving on to manage the Commercial Hotel in Hamilton and a Mr S. Pascoe took over the brewery’s operations. Mr Pascoe parted with the business in late 1889 and the plant was purchased by Mary Jane Innes, whose family was to have a long association with the Waikato Brewery.

Waikato Brewery advertisements 1881-1888

Mary and husband Charles had brewing experience having previously owned and run a brewery at Ngaruawahia and at the time of purchasing the Waikato Brewery, owning and operating the Te Awamutu Brewery since about 1877. They had already extended their operations into Hamilton with the opening of a beer bottling plant and the appointment of a wine and spirit merchant, Mr Richard Land, as an agent, so had been in competition with William Cumming’s Waikato Brewery.

Financial pressures led to the Innes’ closing their Te Awamutu brewery and on the 12th of December 1895 the property was sold. Just over two years later, in April of 1897, a fire broke out at the Hamilton East brewery. The aerated water section survived but the beer brewing part didn’t.

Future site of Waikato Brewery, 1864From  Hamilton West, parish of Te Rapa [map], 1864

A new site was needed. This was to be Lot 60, and the lease of part of Lot 61. The financial transactions and ownership details are complicated but we know that the brewery buildings were built closest to the north west corner of Lot 60, i.e. the corner of Tisdall Street and Richmond Street (now Bridge Street).

In July of 1899, Charles Innes senior, aged 75, died in a bathtub at the brewery. The cause was heart failure. On the 1st of November 1900 eldest son Charles Lewis Innes and his mother Mary Jane Innes formed a partnership as C.L. Innes & Co., Brewers and Aerated Water Manufacturers, Waikato Brewery, Hamilton.

Waikato Brewery, c.1908Looking across the river from Hamilton East, the Waikato Brewery can be seen at centre left.

A couple of years later Charles Lewis bought the house at number 8 Tisdall Street and he and his mother and brothers moved in. In 1905 brother Frank T. Innes became a joint owner, with Charles, of the property. Frank was also a partner in the brewery. After Charles Lewis married in 1907 Mary Jane moved out of the house and up to Auckland. Charles and Frank continued to run the business. Charles focussed on the alcohol side and Frank on the soft drinks and cordial. At this time the brewery produced its own Peerless Ales and bottled Ward’s Ale from Christchurch. In 1912 Mary Jane Innes gifted her shares in the company to sons Charles Lewis and Frank.

C.L.Innes & Co. horse and cart c.1915Horse drawn carts like this one were replaced by motorised vehicles from about 1915

Tragedy struck on the 15th of November 1918 when Charles Lewis Innes succumbed to influenza aged 45 years. It fell to Frank carry on operations and he did so successfully.

In 1930 a new building to front the C.L. Innes & Co brewery and bottling operations was built. The building, on the corner of Tisdall Terrace and Bridge Street, is still there today (2012). It is not known why the date of 1887 was placed on the building’s facade as nothing significant happened that year.

 Waikato Breweries c.1950
Waikato Breweries Ltd c.1950  

With the Innes’ at the helm and a loyal hard working workforce, the brewery survived the depression of the 1930s, the Second World War and increasing competition.

In the late 1940s new methods and new expertise were introduced which contributed to a rise in popularity for Waikato brews. In 1948 the company was restructured. Innes Industries Ltd was formed, of which Waikato Breweries Ltd became a subsidiary unit separate from the soft drink side of things. In 1951 Waikato Breweries and L.D. Nathan merged their brewery interests and formed Consolidated Hotels Ltd. This was a boon for Waikato Breweries as they gained access to a number of hotels.

From Hamilton News 1 April 1953 p.7

In 1960 Frank T. Innes and family dedicated the area west of Hamilton Lake, known today as Innes Common, in memory of Charles Innes senior.

One year later Frank T. Innes died. Shortly after, Frank’s son Jack L. Innes resigned from the board of Waikato Breweries Ltd. In 1962 New Zealand Breweries Ltd bought Innes Industries Ltd’s shares in Waikato Breweries and Consolidated Hotels and the end of the Innes connection was nigh. Just over 100 years after William Cumming established the Waikato Brewery in Hamilton East, Harold H. Innes turned 65 and retired from his director role.

The Waikato Brewery plant officially closed in 1989.



The majority of information here comes from Colin Innes' book A crown for the lady : the unravelling of a pioneer story (Tauranga: Moana Press, 1989)

All photos, maps and newspapers that advertisements have been sourced from are available at Garden Place Library on Level 3. We also hold Colin V Innes' Research notes on Waikato Brewery, Innes family and Harris family [manuscript] and other papers gifted by Colin V Innes with material relating to the Waikato Brewery and those associated with it.

For more images see the Related Items section below or come up to Level 3 of Garden Place Library


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A Short History of the Waikato Brewery in Hamilton

Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial 3.0 New Zealand License
A Short History of the Waikato Brewery in Hamilton by Susy is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial 3.0 New Zealand License