Harry Bateman – Managing Director, second generation
I joined the Brewery after leaving school in 1894 and, upon the death of my father, took over the business in 1919. The 1920s and ‘30s were very depressed times for beer on account of the strict drinking regulations imposed during the First World War, not to mention the severe taxes.
At one point there was such a slump in beer sales that I had to lay off my entire workforce, a very sad day indeed. In the end, I was so upset at seeing them wandering around Wainfleet with nothing to do, that I invited them back and was determined to find them work at Batemans – somehow.
Having made this move, I decided I had no choice but to increase the size of the Brewery. So I bought the buildings across the lane from Salem House and installed a bottling plant.
The Batemans landmark
With these buildings there was also a windmill, which had been used for grinding corn for bread and horse feed. Unfortunately the sails were in such desperate need of repair that I decided it was cheaper to remove them. Little did I realise then what a landmark the windmill would become for Batemans Brewery.
For my 21st birthday my father had given me a pub. In the 1920s we decided it was time to start purchasing some more. Despite money being difficult, which seems to be the story of our lives so far, I acquired a group of pubs that everybody else thought was worthless.
An auctioneer friend of mine from Boston decided I had gone completely mad and said I should give up brewing and join him, especially as I now had a young family to support.
“The best way I knew how to celebrate my son’s birth was to buy somewhere that would be able to sell Batemans beer.”
My parents had taught me many things, but one of the finest principles they instilled in me was never to give up. So, during some difficult times I told a colleague, “If the ship’s going down, I’m going down with her.”
In 1927 I was, in my own way, a very excited man. My first son, George, had been born. The best way I knew how to celebrate this day was to buy somewhere that would be able to sell Batemans beer. So I decided to purchase the Vine Hotel in Skegness.
As Skegness was becoming a prosperous seaside town, it seemed prudent to open another hotel there. So we built the County Hotel on the site where Billy Butlin once had a skittle alley. In 1935 my three children – Helen, George and John – helped to lay the foundation stone.
The first beer at Butlin’s
Business still wasn’t easy. But Billy Butlin decided to build his first Butlin’s holiday camp in Skegness – which included some bars. On a few occasions I had shared a few pints of Batemans beer with Billy, which he thoroughly enjoyed. On account of that, he decided to give us the licence for these bars.
Then, during the Second World War, the camp became a naval station known as HMS Royal Arthur. Of course, that meant we continued to supply plenty of beer.
In 1947, to my great relief, a proper mains water system was introduced into Wainfleet. You see, originally the water had been pumped by hand from the River Haven, which runs next to the Brewery.
We’d always found this water to be beneficial to the balanced flavour of our beers. But it became so polluted we decided it wasn’t a good idea to continue using it (which meant that we had to bring fresh water by lorry from the nearest suitable supply, seven miles away).
Needless to say, the mains water was a blessing.
By 1948, the Batemans estate had grown to 68 pubs. Two years later, in 1950, I was delighted that my son George – later to be affectionately known by the team as Mr George –decided to join me in the Brewery, all in good time to help with those pubs.