Burton upon Trent is an old industrial market centre in east Staffordshire. The area is famous for its beer brewing industry, which dates back to the Benedictines of Burton Abbey. The monks quickly discovering that the local waters, filtered through calcium rich rocks, were capable of brewing excellent ale.

Burton on Trent - Market Square © Alan Heardman (CC2)

Overlooking the market place is the 18th-c Church of St Modwen, built on the site of the old abbey. It is dedicated to an Irish princess who preached in the area during the 9th century. Many monuments to brewers can be found inside. The original Abbey was founded by a Saxon earl in 1002 and became a collegiate church after the Dissolution. Fragments now only remain of the original ecclesiastical buildings. The town itself however dates back to much earlier times and Derby Street follows the route of the old Roman road Ryknild Street.

Commercial beer production began in 1744 when Leicestershire man William Worthington opened a brewery in the town. William Bass did the same in 1777 and quickly established a reputation for fine ales. Bass and Worthington soon began to export to the Baltic States and Russia and later into India. The 19th-c expansion of the railways opened up the home market and beer became our national drink. Perhaps the most widely known of Burton's products is IPA (India Pale Ale). Originally intended for export, it was sold in the UK after being salvaged from a boat that sank carrying a cargo bound for India.

Several historic brewery buildings of interest can be visited in the town, such as the Ind Coope Brewery (1859-65) with its elegant stuccoed offices. Also the massive Bass No.2 Brewery with its famous Burton Union Room (nearly a mile long) that once held thousands of beer barrels. The massive water tower to the east at Winshill, was constructed in 1856, capable of storing the vast amounts of water needed for the brewing process.

Victoria Street is packed with 19th-c terraced cottages, built to house the brewery workers. Many fine 18th-c town houses fill the streets near the Bass Museum. Such as Nunneley House (1760) on Bridge Street, which was once the home of brewer Joseph Nunneley. In Wellington Street there is a delightful row of 19th-c almshouses built to house the poor.

Michael Bass, a member of the famous local brewing firm, became Lord Burton during Mr Gladstone's premiership. During his time in office he built the town's Gothic Town Hall, the beautiful St Paul's Church, St Margaret's Church and a number of other fine public buildings.

The main shopping centre lies to the east of the railway station. The impressive Victorian market hall still hosts regular markets - held to a charter originally granted by King John in 1210. Just beyond the market place lies the Washlands park and nature reserve, peacefully located by the Trent. An island in the river here has a holy well that once attracted pilgrims to the town.

Near the site of the old abbey is an unusual iron trestle footbridge stretching across the water meadows, known as the Stapenhill Viaduct. Also crossing the river near the weir is an impressive 32 arch stone bridge (1864). Once a strategic crossing point on the Trent, it was fought over time and time again during the English Civil War.

The Trent and Mersey canal, which runs through the centre of Burton, was once busy with barges carrying beer barrels to ports on the Mersey. Much of the old canal side architecture has been demolished and the canal is now a leisure waterway.

The annual Burton Beer Festival in September provides an excellent reason for visiting the town.

The National Brewery Centre

Formally The Bass Museum (next to the Bass Brewery) covers the history of British brewing with shire horses, early steam engines, vintage vehicles and beer samples. Guided tours available.

Opening times: Wednesday to Sunday 10am to 5pm - Admission Charge
Location: Horninglow St, Burton upon Trent, Burton-on-Trent DE14 1NG
Tel: 01283 532880
Website: nationalbrewerycentre.co.uk

Map of Burton upon Trent

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Towns and Villages in Staffordshire

Burton-on-Trent, Cannock, Leek, Lichfield, Stafford, Stoke-on-Trent, Tamworth, Uttoxeter, Walsall, Wolverhampton

Attractions in Staffordshire


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