Michael Bass. M.P.

Not Just a Brewer of Beer

Michael Thomas Bass Jr., 1799-1884, was born on July 6th 1799 in Burton upon Trent. His occupation is often listed simply as brewer but he was so much more; his time managing and building the family brewery was just part of a long life where he balanced his work in the industry with the Victorian social life expected of a man of his status and an impressive run as the MP for Derby. He began as a teenager in the Bass Brewery but he finished his career aged eighty-four as a popular politician, benefactor and friend to the city.


 The Bass Brewery of Burton upon Trent.

 Having grown up as part of the famous Bass family in Burton upon Trent, it was no surprise that Michael Thomas Jr would join the family business and become a brewer. What was surprising, however, was the success he enjoyed and the way he managed to transform the dwindling company into a force within the industry. He joined the brewery straight after his education at the age of eighteen and approximately ten years later he had proven himself worthy of taking over the company when his father died. Bass Jr. turned the company around by increasing exports and by 1881 he had built the company up to become one of the largest in the world with three breweries, twenty-six malt-houses and agents in cities across the country.

Plaque under the statue of Michael T Bass Jr.

Plaque under the statue of Michael T Bass Jr.

Michael Thomas Bass Jr’s family life and more leisurely pursuits.

 It was not all business for Bass because his affluence and lifestyle allowed him to have a happy family life full of leisure time and activities. He married Eliza Jane Arden in 1835 and had four children, their only son later becoming the 1St Baron Burton and taking over his father’s brewery. In his younger days, Bass spent his free time as a member of the Derbyshire Yeoman Cavalry. As he grew older, he turned to gentleman’s pursuits like fox-hunting, billiards with the family and fashionable long holidays to his Scottish estate where he indulged in shooting and fishing.

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Bass’ work in parliament from 1848-1883.

 When Bass wasn’t working for the family brewery he was an active Member of Parliament for Derby, so active in fact that his peers remembered him more fondly for his impressive attendance record within the House of Commons than for many feats of oratory. He was an orthodox liberal that was keen to fight for many causes that were popular with the workers of his constituency, notably his stances on free trade, lower taxes, better living standards and legislation to abolish imprisonment for small debtors. His opposition to the Ground Game Act and his highly-publicised crusade against noisy street musicians were not so well-received by the public and press but, through the highs and lows, Bass continued with his position until the year before his death, declining a peerage to stay within the Commons.

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In a report to Michael T.Bass, Esq., M.P.

On “Wages and Earnings of the Working Classes”

Taken from the book of the same name published in 1867.

Maltsters and Brewers


Men under 20

Men 20-60

Women 20-60

















 In Leicestershire mashouse men and cellar men earn 21/- a week; malthouse men 18/-; upper and under draymen,17/6; coopers 22/-; labourers, 17/-.Edinburgh, mashouse men, 17/6; upper, 20/- and under draymen, 18/-; coopers, 25/-; carpenters, 25/-; labourers, 17/-.

In Burton-upon-Trent, brewers,17/-; grainers,26/-; racking-room men, 15/6; hoppers, 14/6. The average wages earned in Mr. Bass’s brewery were as follows:- men, 20/4, with an allowance of 2/31/2 a week; boys, 8/7, with an allowance of 1/23/4.In Liverpool labourers earn 21/- to 25/- a week.On an average, we may take 18/- for men; 9/- for boys, and 8/- for women.



Under 20

@ 9/-




20 to 60

@ 18/-




20 to 60

@ 8/-







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Bass’s impact after his death.

Michael  worked hard to build up his business within Burton upon Trent and to serve the people of Derby and his impact on these areas was just as clear after his death in April 1884 as it was while he was an MP. Bass is as well remembered as a benefactor as he was as a brewer because he contributed approximately £80,000 to projects in his hometowns. In 1867 he funded the recreation ground, which was later joined by swimming baths in 1873, he helped with the Derby School of Art and he provided the townspeople with greater access to the library and museum in 1879. Before his involvement, each establishment was a private society that had difficulty housing their collections but his funds allowed for new buildings and free access for the public.

Michael produced a lot more in the area than just beer and his legacy is long lasting. He was as much a son of Derby as of Burton upon Trent and while some may not have agreed with his politics, he did a lot for the area and will be remembered through the buildings and his generous spirit. It may be William Bass’ name on the blue plaque on the brewery but it was Michael Jr. who made it a success and it is his bust that stands proudly in the museum he gifted to the city.