Carlisle-born William Underwood had returned to the city in 1880 after years as a labourer in Washington, County Durham and Whitehaven.
He advertised that the firm of Underwood’s Mineral Water Co was formed in 1880 and in 1881 he was settled in Trafalgar Street, Carlisle, with six of his eight children and wife who were two years his senior.
Works and houses were planned on Junction Street in 1888 and these were built, because Mr Hindson the joiner took William to court in 1889 over a debt “for work on a building erected on Junction Street”.
But William died on May 1, aged only 54, leaving his wife Frances to carry on the business.
It was she who built the Crown Works to replace the existing buildings. The plans, by architect G Armstrong, were approved in April 1899.
This three-storey building stands today.
At Brewers’ Exhibitions in London and Glasgow the firm’s Brewed Ginger Beer won gold medals and diplomas were won for three years running from 1896.
The company was confident enough to advertise in 1902, “After a fair trial extending over a period of 20 years, the public have given a popular verdict in favour of Underwood’s famous beverages.”
Unfortunately, Frances and William’s sons died early – William in 1900 and Robert in 1907.
While Frances headed the firm, when John Ewart Underwood died in October 1914, “eldest son of the late William,” the Carlisle Journal stated that he “has had sole management of the business since the death of his father”.
News came in November 1917 of the loss of Private David Taylor Underwood, who according to the Journal was the youngest son of JE Underwood, “one of 11 grandsons of Mrs Underwood who are serving”.
When an accident occurred in the centre of the city in January 1918, the newspaper reported this was between “a horse and lorry belonging to Thomas Underwood, aerated water manufacturers, Junction Street and a tram car”.
Such were the injuries the horse had to be destroyed.
Regrets were expressed at a meeting of the Border Counties Bottlers’ Society in April 1919 over the death a month earlier of Frances Underwood who was 84.
This prompted a sale of the business under the terms of William Underwood’s will, the trustees offering “the newly erected premises now used for aerated water manufacture, up-to-date plant and dwelling houses on Junction Street.”
But the auction was cancelled in May 1919 because these had been sold as a going concern by private treaty.
Almost certainly it was Thomas Underwood, third son of Frances and William, who was the purchaser, because he is listed at the works in 1920.
But the business suffered under bankruptcy proceedings and the Junction Street works were offered for sale again in December 1923 and August 1924 as “the estate of Thomas Underwood,” before being withdrawn. This time the firm was saved by another woman, Sarah Elizabeth Underwood, the wife of Thomas, who is listed in a 1925 directory as “Mrs SE Underwood, mineral water manufactory, Junction Street.”
In a legal document of 1925, Thomas, acting as a trustee of the will of Martha Nixon (probably his sister), is referred to as mineral water manufacturer living on Empire Road.
By 1934 “SE Underwood, mineral water manufacturer,” was listed in Peter Street where the firm is last mentioned in the 1990 telephone book.
Thomas died in 1940 and his wife in 1954.
In her book on Denton Holme, Babs Cullen, writing in 1994, says “the business itself was taken over some years ago trading as Underwood and McMichael”, the latter being the Eastriggs business.
Finding the illusive history of a small firm like Underwoods is made easier by Stephen White’s index of Carlisle Cemetery gravestones and census returns available on-line at Carlisle Library.