William Stones was born 1840 in the Hartshead district of Sheffield, where his mother was a cabinet case maker.In 1865 Stones took over the Neepsend Brewery of Shepherd, Green and Hatfield. This became the “Cannon Brewery”. William Stones became a limited company in 1895.William Stones himself died in 1900, a bachelor, and one of the richest men in Sheffield, although he lived a modest life in a terraced house.He bequeathed the brewery to a friend.
1931 saw the company report a net profit of £61,767, or £3.3 million in 2010 prices.1953 net profit was modest at £66,778 or £1.5 million in 2010 prices.
During the 1950s there was a period of consolidation in United Kingdom’s brewing industry. In 1954 Stones purchased Mappin’s Brewery of Rotherham, shutting the brewery down the following year. The takeover added around 100 extra public houses to their tied estate. The same year they partnered with Tennant Brothers to acquire the Sheffield Free Brewery, closing the brewery and dividing the estate between them. In 1955 profits had greatly increased to £135,276 or almost £3 million in 2010 prices. In 1959 William Stones also bought Ward and Sons of Swinton, well known local bottlers of beer (including Guinness) and mineral water for £100,000 (£1.8 million in 2010 prices). In 1965 the company was valued at £5 million.
The Cannon Brewery, with its tied estate of 257 public houses and a further 60 or so off-licences, located throughout South Yorkshire and surrounding counties, was bought by Bass Charrington in 1968.The takeover was a friendly one, and £9 million was offered for the company, and recommended by the William Stones board. Bass Charrington already owned 14 per cent of the company’s shares.William Stones had made a pre-tax profit of £629,000 in the previous year, equivalent to £9 million in 2010. The Cannon brewery continued until April 1999 when it closed with the loss of around 60 jobs.The beers that it had produced were Stones Bitter, Light Mild and Mild, and Bass Special, Bass Light and Bass Mild.The brand continues however; the pasteurised beer is brewed by brand owners Molson Coors at their Burton upon Trent brewery, whilst the cask version is contract brewed by Everards.