Records of John Somerville & Co Ltd, brewers, Edinburgh, Scotland

Scope and Content

  • Shareholding records 1897;
  • Promotional material c19th-20th century;
  • Historical notes 1897.

Administrative / Biographical History

The firm of John Somerville & Co was founded as wine and spirit merchants of Quality Street, Leith, Scotland , in 1853  . It expanded into whisky broking and blending and acquired a controlling interest in two Highland Whisky distilleries: Dalwhinnie Distillery , Dalwhinnie, Highlands, Scotland , and Glendronach Distillery , Forgue, Aberdeenshire, Scotland .

In 1897  the company made a further move into brewing by merging with the recently formed partnership of Blyth & Cameron , who a short while previously had erected a substantial brewery, the North British Brewery at Duddingston, Edinburgh, Scotland . Alexander Blyth was a director of John Somerville & Co and Malcolm John Cameron was the head brewer of the new concern. The North British Brewery had been erected to plans of Peter L Henderson , architects, Edinburgh, and had a capacity of in excess on 50,000 barrels per annum. The newly merged concern was registered as a limited liability company under the name of John Somerville & Co Ltd . John Somerville became chairman of the new concern with Alexander Blyth and Malcolm Cameron acting as joint managing directors.

In 1906 Malcolm Cameron left the company and by 1909 Alexander Blyth and John Somerville had retired. They were succeeded by J Jarvie Purves who became managing director and J Morton Robertson , J. P., who became chairman. The North British Brewery produced a wide range of both bulk beers (Pale and Mild Ales and Stouts) and bottled beers (India Pale Ale, Bitter Table Beer, Extra Hopped Beer, Three and Four Guinea Ales, Brown Stout, Double Brown Stout, Oatmeal Stout, Imperial Stout).

The control of the Dalwhinnie Distillery had been relinquished to James Munro & Son Ltd in 1905 and in 1920 the Glendronach Distillery was sold to Captain Charles Grant. In 1922  the North British Brewery was sold to neighbouring Craigmillar, Edinburgh, brewers William Murray & Co Ltd and became known as Murray's No 2 Brewery. Brewing at the No 2 Brewery ceased in 1963  .

Sources: McMaster, Charles . Scotland's Forgotten Breweries. John Somerville & Co Ltd, The North British Brewery, Duddingston, Edinburgh. in Scottish Brewing Archive Newsletter , No 15 (Autumn 1989)


The material is arranged according to the Scottish Brewing Archive classification scheme used within all SBA collections.

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Acquisition Information


Other Finding Aids

File level list available in searchroom

Alternative Form Available

No known copies

Conditions Governing Use

Applications for permission to quote should be sent to the Archivist

Reproduction subject to usual conditions: educational use & condition of documents

Appraisal Information

This material has been appraised in line with standard GB 0248 procedures

Custodial History

The collection was previously housed with the rest of the Scottish Brewing Archive at Heriot-Watt University. It moved to the University of Glasgow in 1991. Custody of the Scottish Brewing Archive was transferred to Glasgow University Archive Services in 2008.


None expected

Related Material

GB 0248 WMC: Records of William Murray & Co Ltd

GB 0234 BT2: Dissolved Companies Files (National Archives of Scotland)


McMaster, Charles . Scotland's Forgotten Breweries. John Somerville & Co Ltd, The North British Brewery, Duddingston, Edinburgh. in Scottish Brewing Archive Newsletter , No 15 (Autumn 1989)

Additional Information

This material is original

Fonds level description compiled by Natalie Milne, Archive Assistant (Hub), 7 November 2001. Catalogue converted to Encoded Archival Description, 8 June 2005. Catalogue revised and administrative history added by Wiebke Redlich, Archive Assistant (Hub), 20 February 2002. Catalogue revised by Emma Yan, Assistant Archivist, 19 December 2008; and Michelle Kaye, Archives Assistant, 11 May 2012.

Geographical Names