History of the Society
The British Beermat Collectors Society was formed in 1960 by Chris Walsh. A keen collector, his main objective at this point was to try and meet up with other collectors and share his hobby with them. A quick advert in the collecting section of Exchange and Mart magazine drew a sufficient enough response from like-minded collectors that he formed the BBCS and the name Tegestology was coined, from the latin teges, meaning mats. Initially a newsletter was produced and sent out to fellow members, providing information on beermats, new issues that members had found and Society meetings.
As more members joined the first committee was formed, along with key officers and a set of rules and objectives.
It was quite common during this period that established societies tried to attract well-known presidents in order to publicise and promote themselves…. and of all people to crop up in the timeline of this obscure little hobby, guess who the first presidents of the British Beermat Collectors Society were? Legendary comedy duo Eric MORECAMBE & Ernie WISE.
In 1963 Eric & Ernie were interviewed about their new appointment by the Dublin Evening Press. Whilst they were keen to emphasise that initially their involvement was a bit of a joke they admitted that after being briefly immersed in the ‘tegestive’ world they, “genuinely began to take an interest in it,” even keeping their not-to-be-sneezed-at 1000-mat-strong personal collections in self-dubbed ‘tegestoriums’ in their homes. A nice old video of Morecambe & Wise collecting can be seen opposite along with a selection of mats produced around this period..
As more and more members joined the newsletter grew to a magazine and included lists of new mats, images of them, society meetings and member’s adverts for swapping mats.
The Committee began the onerous task of listing mats, particularly UK Brewery mats and once cataloguing standards were devised the first recognised Catalogue of British Brewery Mats was produced. This standard is still in practice today whereby each mat found is given a detailed catalogue description and date of issue, enabling collectors and brewery historians to use the data to identify, date and swap. In essence this huge piece of work underpins how we all collect ! Further information on our Catalogues and Cataloguing terminology (and the opportunity to buy them) is available to our members in the Members Area.
Between the 1970’s and 1980’s, the growth of the so called “Big 6” brewers meant that many smaller breweries were taken over and beer styles were at a minimum. Strangely, this meant with a smaller number of brewers brewing a small number of beers they quite often brought out mats with large print runs enabling collectors to quickly identify, obtain and swap. It also meant that good relations between theses brewers and the society meant that quite often we could set up local liaison schemes to obtain copies of new mats printed. Unfortunately the growth of the “micro” brewers in the 1990’s onwards, coupled with the emergence of large numbers of “Craft” brewers over the past few years means that we can no longer operate this way. Indeed, nowadays although there’s probably many more different beermats produced, the fact that many are only ever in small print runs means they are often much harder to track down !
The society continues to maintain a museum of British Brewery beermats. With beermats stretching back to the 1930’s it is by far the largest and most important collection of Brewery Beermats in the UK. This unique collection offers a visual record of brewery advertising, brewery history and changes to brewing styles over the past 80 years.
The Society still produces a monthly newsletter, still maintains the Catalogue of British Brewery beermats (as well as other types of mats…Cider, Rum, Festivals, Foreign beers in the UK etc) and organises regular meetings. Each year we raise money for both local and our chosen annual Charity through our meetings. Last year we raised over £4,500 for Guide Dogs for the Blind from our National meeting.
A massive thank you to all the Breweries, Pubs and Clubs that help us do this by supplying us with mats for our meetings.
In 2010 we turned 50, so to celebrate we produced some beermats celebrating the event. As part of our celebrations we worked in partnership with a number of small independent craft brewers to design and fund their first ever mats – something which is always important to us.
Likewise in 2015 we turned 55, we again helped a number of small brewers produce their first mats. This is something that’s important to us and we value our relationships with brewers, large and small and in particular the support we can offer each other.