Douglas Townsend

Douglas Townsend
Douglas Townsend
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AS managing director of the Bass-owned Sheffield brewers William Stones Ltd, Douglas Townsend presided over the company’s exponential growth which began after the distribution of Stones Bitter was extended to the rest of the North of England in 1977, and continued when it went nationwide from 1979. He has died, aged 87.

After Mr Townsend’s retirement in 1986, the beer became the country’s biggest selling bitter. In the meantime, he had become vice president of the Licensed Victuallers’ National Homes, a charity specialising in providing housing for retired pub managers and tenants whose homes, throughout their working life, were tied to their job.

Mr Townsend was the youngest of the four children of Evelyn and George William Townsend, the Officer Training Corps master at Repton School. His was a childhood centred on football and cricket, or playing in and around the River Trent.

He went to Bemrose School, Derby, excelling in Divinity and English Literature.

In May, 1943, he joined the Royal Air Force, and qualified to be a navigator on Lancaster Bombers the following year. Postings included the RAF flight training station at Moreton-in-Marsh, and RAF Pembroke Dock. He was demobilised in 1947, but remained an RAF reserve until 1950.

His interest in English literature prompted him to get a job in the Repton School bookshop, his longer-term plan being to work for HarperCollins.

It never happened, thanks to a cricket match.

In the summer of 1950 he was asked by a director of Bass Brewers in Burton, who was desperate for outside help with the Bass cricket team, to play in an upcoming weekend fixture. This he did, and a combination of his cricketing prowess and charm led to a job offer, which he accepted; it was to be the start of a career with Bass that lasted 36 years.

He began in the brewing division but made a seamless transition to sales. He was posted to Bass Ratcliff and Gretton’s Liverpool office in 1953, selling to the 100 or so free trade customers in the square mile of Liverpool’s city centre.

Much of his day’s work was confined to midday opening hours when he would arrange meetings at up to 14 of Liverpool’s city centre pubs; and at each pub he would have half a pint of Bass with the respective licensee. He would then burn off the day’s excesses by playing several sets of tennis back home in the Wirral.

Mr Townsend was posted to Leeds in 1958 and worked from the Bass offices in Upper Fountain Street.

An exceptionally good tennis player, while living in Wetherby he joined the tennis club there. A 1962 mixed doubles fixture against Collingham led to a date with his female opponent Jennifer Firth – a date with destiny: the couple were married in April 1963 at Carlton Hill Quaker Meeting House in Leeds.

A posting to Bass’s Manchester office followed, and then back to Yorkshire when he was appointed to the Bass North East regional board as free trade director, and as such, he was able to deliver exceptional results for the company.

It was the brewing side of the drinks industry that he enjoyed, and for that reason he turned down the opportunity of becoming a director of Canada Dry Soft Drinks.

He was the managing director of several companies within the Bass group when he was made managing director of William Stones in Sheffield.

With a lifetime’s experience on matters relating to loan-ties (where a pub borrows money from a brewer in exchange for selling its beer), Mr Townsend advised Lord Young, the then Trade and Industry Secretary in Margaret Thatcher’s Government, on how the complex monopoly held by the six big brewers could be made fairer without damage to the industry. However what ensued was an act of state intervention that contributed to the decimation of the UK brewing industry.

Sport was a central element in his life, and through Bass’s sponsorship of Yorkshire County Cricket Club, he could legitimately mix business with one of his greatest pleasures.

He was an active member of Wetherby Golf Club, having first joined in the early 1960s; he remained a member up until his death. He was a member of Collingham Tennis Club and a coach at Collingham Cricket Club, and in later, more sedentary years, he was a member of Wetherby Bridge Club.

His four children were all educated at Ackworth School near Pontefract, and following their time at the school he was invited to become a governor, a rare distinction for someone who was neither a Quaker nor a former pupil.

Mrs Townsend, however, was a Quaker, and he acted as treasurer at Carlton Hill (Quaker) Meeting in Leeds.

He was a member of Collingham and Linton Parish Council, and he was chairman when the council managed to prevent the development of the Glebe Field in the centre of Collingham by raising enough money to purchase it for the village.

Mr Townsend is survived by his wife, their children Jeremy, Jonty, Guy and Sarah, and seven grandchildren.