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Fan brews up one of the world’s largest collections of beer trays

Richard Percival with his collection of nearly 1,300 brewery trays
Richard Percival with his collection of nearly 1,300 brewery trays

Many people enjoy a pint of beer but for one man it has led to a 35-year obsession with brewery items.

Richard Percival has spent over quarter of a century collecting brewery trays from around the country.

Part of the brewery tray collection on show
Part of the brewery tray collection on show

He fell into the hobby by accident but he has since amassed a collection of nearly 1,300 trays.

Many have black backs which were common before the turn of the 20th century.

The haul also includes mirrors made for breweries and other assorted items, or breweriana, relating to the beer trade.

Richard, 55, of Rutland, said: “I am a Notts County Football Club fanatic and I was on an away day trip to see them play Brighton and Hove Albion.

Richard Percival with his collection of nearly 1,300 brewery trays
Richard Percival with his collection of nearly 1,300 brewery trays

“I was with a guy who collected beer mats. He asked in the pub for a beer mat and they said they didn’t have a mat but they had a tray.

“I took the tray and after that I began to pick them up from pubs.

“I was 19 at the time and the first one I got was for Young’s Beer, in Wandsworth.

“In the early days I got them for free and just put a donation in a charity box.

“It’s gone from there to getting them off eBay and online sites.

“I don’t have any trays left in my collection that I picked up in a pub.

“I have spent masses and masses of time on this over the years.”

The collection only includes trays dating between the 1870s to 1969 as Richard is not interested in more modern trays.

He says he would pay up to £100 for a tray but he does not know how much in total the haul is worth.

Richard only buys items online and does not visit auction houses to pick up goods now.

Many of the oldest trays have maker’s marks on the back like Hancock, Corfield and Waller or Causton.

Fifteen years ago Richard sold a further 600 trays which were made after 1970.

In total the memorabilia weighs just short of one tonne.

Richard thinks he started collecting brewery trays about 20 years before anyone else did. He thinks that his collection is the biggest in Britain if not the world.

He said: “A lot of people were collecting bottles, jugs and mats.

“I was only interested in collecting trays and it has gone on to become more and more popular.

“There are people who collect trays from only one brewery or from one area of the country.

“There are people in America who now collect British brewery trays too.”

He added: “A lot of the breweries from which I have trays have now gone.

“There is the colour and history of the trays and the images on them.

“I have got them covering drinks from porter through to lager.

“Trays were in their heyday in 1970s but there are not too many about now.

“I have a target list of 100 items which I would like to get.

“To be honest I probably won’t stop as there is always something out there to get.”

Visitors from America, Australia and New Zealand have visited to view the brewery items.

His interest even led Richard to surprise one brewery when he turned up an item they said did not exist.

He said: “Coming from the East Midlands I loved Ruddles County beer.

“I called Ruddles and they said they had no black backed trays from the pre-war times.

“Then three weeks later a Ruddles tray turned up from 1933.

“It goes to show what’s out there as even the brewery did not know it existed.”

Of particular interest to Richard is the East Midlands brewery Thomas Salt and Co Ltd.

The brewery was established in 1774 in Burton-on-Trent, in Staffordshire.

It had a number of pubs in the Rutland area.

Following years of trading and some financial problems it was bought by Bass for £1,177,773 in 1927.

Richard said: “They are my utopia.

“I would like any item from Salts. I would pay a decent price for goods from Salt’s brewery.”

Amongst his collection Richard also has jugs, ceramic matchstick holders and strikers, ashtrays and other items.

He also has several ceramic pieces from the Salt Brewery but no tray.

There are a number of large showcard posters featuring breweries from across Britain too.

So impressive is the collection that it has appeared on television on five occasions.

There are other local breweries which Richard is seeking trays and memorabilia from.

In Stamford there is G and HR Hunt which stood on Water Street. It was acquired by Mowbray and Co Ltd in 1935.

The list also includes Lowe, Son and Cobbold Ltd, of St Michael’s Brewery that stood on Broad Street.

It was bought James Hole and Co Ltd in 1935.

The third Stamford brewery on the list is Philip’s Stamford Brewery Ltd, of St Martin’s Brewery, once of Water Street.

The Northampton Brewery Co Ltd bought it in 1952.

From Oakham Richard is seeking a tray from the former Morris’ Rutland Brewery Ltd, of New Street.

This business was bought by Warwick’s and Richardsons Ltd, of Newark.

He would also like a showcard for the Melbourn Bros brewery, from Stamford.

To view the collection or to help add to it contact Richard on 07715369540 or visit www.brewerytrays.co.uk


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