Records of Gordon & Blair Ltd, brewers, Edinburgh, Scotland

Scope and Content

  • Photographs c1960-c1990;
  • Historical Notes c1980s.

Administrative / Biographical History

Gordon & Blair Ltd, brewers in Edinburgh, Scotland, was registered as a limited company on 13 May 1898, and resulted from a merger between James Gordon & Co, brewers, and wine and spirit merchants of Glasgow, Scotland, and Charles Blair & Co, brewers of Edinburgh. James Gordon had entered the employ of Steel, Coulson & Co, brewers of Edinburgh, in 1863 before setting up on his own business in 1878 as a wine and spirit merchant,  and brewers agent. He held agencies for Charles Blair's Craigwell Brewery, and George Dalrymple's Home Brewery at Parkhead, Invernairn Street, Glasgow.

When George Dalrymple died in the 1890s, James Gordon acquired the Home Brewery. The Craigwell Brewery was established by Charles Blair's father, John, at the North Back Canongate, Edinburgh, in 1822.

Charles succeeded to his father's business in 1873, and he changed the name of the firm to Charles Blair & Co. The company gained a good reputation for its products, and this probably enabled funding for the reconstruction of the brewery, and employment of one of Edinburgh's well-known brewery architects and engineers  , Peter L Henderson, to carry out the project, at the end of the nineteenth century. In 1894, Charles Blair & Co extended the business with the acquisition of a site on the south side of the North Back Canongate, where a forty-quarter maltings was built. Production from the two breweries continued much along the same lines after the merger, as it had done before it, with the Home Brewery concentrating on stout and porter brewing, and the Craigwell Brewery continuing mainly to produce Pale Ales. James Gordon was appointed to the position of Managing Director for an initial period of five years.

In 1914, Charles Blair retired from the Board of Directors and was replaced by John Gordon. This resulted in the Gordon family controlling the company from then until its demise. In the early twentieth century, due to pollution, there had been problems with the water supply at the Craigwell Brewery. This problem was eradicated by the sinking of a new well by R Henderson & Co, Edinburgh, shortly before the First World War broke out. But new problems of a financial nature were encountered towards the end of the war. Around 1920, the Home Brewery ceased brewing, although bottling and the distribution depot continued. However, due to continuing financial difficulties, the company reformed and became Gordon & Blair (1923) Ltd. Around 1939, the Home Brewery was finally disposed of to Maclachlans Ltd, brewers of Edinburgh and Glasgow, Scotland. After the Second World War, Gordon & Blair (1923) Ltd were further weakened by outside circumstances; a drop in demand, and the spread of the tied house system being partly responsible, amongst other things. So the company leased the Low Calton Maltings to a variety of other firms in turn. When the brewing licence came up for renewal in 1953 the firm had already decided to cease brewing. Problems were still being had with the water supply, and financial losses continued.

The company entered into an agreement with George Mackay & Co Ltd of St Leonards Brewery, Edinburgh, who agreed to supply Gordon & Blair with five thousand barrels of beer for a year, beginning 1 October 1953. And so Gordon & Blair continued to bottle beer at the Craigwell Brewery, continued to advertise and distribute beers, and renewed their brewing licence. In November 1954, George Mackay & Co Ltd acquired the entire share capital of Gordon & Blair (1923) Ltd, and the latter became a subsidiary of Mackays. The Craigwell Brewery was closed down and sold in 1955, with the remaining operations being transferred to the St Leonards Brewery. In 1960, Mackay & Co, under the name of Gordon & Blair, went to court over tax assessments for the years 1956-1959. They lost the case and the subsequent appeal. Mackay & Co found themselves in financial difficulties soon after these court cases, and they themselves were acquired by Seagar-Evans Ltd in 1962, and then Watney Mann Ltd, brewers of London, England, in 1963. The Craigwell Brewery was sold to MacNabs of Perth, and became a Cash-and-Carry warehouse. The building went on to become a furniture store before finally being converted into flats.

Source: McMaster, Charles, "Gordon & Blair Ltd. The Craigwell Brewery, Edinburgh & The Home Brewery, Glasgow" in "Scottish Brewing Archive Newsletter" No 17 (Summer 1990)


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

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Custodial History

Custody of the Scottish Brewing Archive was transferred to Glasgow University Archive Services in 2008.


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Related Material

  • GB 248 SC: Records of Steel, Coulson & Co Ltd;
  • GB 248 MK: Records of G Mackay & Co Ltd;
  • GB 248 GJM: Records of G & J Maclachlan Ltd;
  • GB 248 ARTEFACTS: Scottish Brewing Archive Artefacts Collection

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