Records of J G Thomson & Co Ltd, wine and spirit merchants, Leith, Scotland

Scope and Content

  • Memorandum and articles of association 1921;
  • Minutes of managing body 1951-1959;
  • Records relating to directors' meetings 1960;
  • Directors' annual reports and accounts to shareholders 1966-1968;
  • Notes relating to corporate records 1938-1941;
  • Letter books and business correspondence 1884-1908;
  • Financial records 1932;
  • Production records 1828-1899;
  • Sales records 1899-1970;
  • Pensions and life assurance records 1955;
  • Licensed premises records 1949;
  • Promotional material 1893-1959;
  • Public relations 1817-1968;
  • Personal papers 1709-1959;
  • Photographs c19th-20th century;
  • Historical notes 1812-1937;
  • Objects collection 1700s-1988.

Administrative / Biographical History

In 1709 Andrew Thomson inherited the business of his father-in-law, Mr Brown, who was a brewer and vintner in the Grassmarket, Edinburgh, Scotland. About 20 years later the business was moved to "The Vaults", Leith, Scotland, which were bought by the company on 29 July 1782. The firm of J G Thomson & Co was founded by James Gibson Thomas in 1785 at the Vaults to supply goods like whisky, brandy and wines. James Gibson Thomson jnr, the son of the company's founder, was associated with the company from 1820 to 1876.

In its early years the major part of the business was in the import and distribution of wines from the continent. Later it extended to cover wines and spirits of all descriptions (imported or home produced). The company's wholesale business was carried out under the name of J G Thomson & Co whereas the private trade was carried out under the name of Thomson Lauder & Co.

In 1875 James Gibson Thomson jnr acquired as partners James Anderson, Sir John Usher, Baronet, and Andrew Usher D.L. and in 1876, when J G Thomson retired, James Anderson became the senior partner. The company then concentrated on the wholesale business and discouraged the private trade with the result that the business under the name of Thomson Lauder & Co faded out in the 1890s. In 1890 the company took over the Leith firm of Scott & Allan who owned two clippers, which brought into Leith cargoes of wines and brandies and were also cork cutters. In 1905 the company became a limited liability company.

The company went into voluntary liquidation in 1921 and the buildings and all the stocks were taken over by J M Hogge on behalf of the new company, which was a private company without a stock exchange quotation. In the 1930s the company was supplying wines to most of the top hotels in Scotland. By this time J G Thomson & Co was one of the country's leading independent whisky blenders, with a prosperous overseas trade. By 1959 the company owned three bonded warehouses and large duty paid warehouses. The company acted as agent, stockist and distributor in Scotland for many famous and internationally known brands of wines and spirits. It also functioned as a very large exporter of whisky to all parts of the world and was involved in the blending of whisky. The emphasis of the whisky export lay on the United States of America. The company maintained a large transport fleet with depots in Leith and Glasgow, Scotland. It also maintained its own cooperage.

After the Second World War many private hotels amalgamated into larger chains or were acquired by breweries. This effectively removed J G Thomson's principal outlets, and the company had no alternative but to become the wine division of a brewery. In 1960 it was bought by Charrington United Breweries Ltd, London, England. Three years later Charrington United Breweries Ltd acquired J & R Tennent Ltd, Glasgow, Scotland, and in 1966 J G Thomson became a subsidiary of Tennent Caledonian Breweries Ltd.

By the early 1960s J G Thomson was a shadow of what it had once been. The last bottlings were done at The Vaults in 1964, and the old building became no more than a warehouse with offices. By the late 1970s the top two storeys were unsafe and unusable. In 1983 Tennent Caledonian Breweries Ltd resolved to re-establish the company as a serious wines and spirits wholesaler and erected new purpose-built premises, including a bonded warehouse, on London Road in Glasgow, from where the company has traded until at least 2000.

In 1983 the Vaults complex was sold to a consortium made up of Philip Hills (tax consultant), Russell Hunter (actor), Ben Tindall (architect), W Gordon Smith (writer) and David Alison (contractor) for GBP40,000. The old building was acquired to provide the nascent Scotch Malt Whisky Society Ltd, Edinburgh, with premises, and to establish a whisky museum.

Sources: MacLean, Charles. "The Vaults - The True History of a Remarkable Building" (Edinburgh: Scotch Malt Whisky Society Ltd, 1997)

"J G Thomson & Co Ltd 1709-1959. Two Hundred and Fifty Years" (Edinburgh: J G Thomson & Co Ltd, c1959)


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

Access Information

Access to records within this collection is open, however an appointment may be required. Please email Archives and Special Collections for advice:

Acquisition Information

Tennent Caledonian Breweries Ltd

Other Finding Aids

See also University of Glasgow Collections

File level list available in searchroom

Alternative Form Available

No known copies of this material

Conditions Governing Use

Reproduction subject to usual conditions: educational use and condition of documents. Applications for permission to quote should be sent to Archives and Special Collections, please email:

Appraisal Information

This material has been appraised in line with standard GB 248 procedures

Custodial History

The collection was housed at Tennent Caledonian Breweries Ltd before it was deposited at the Scottish Brewing Archive at Glasgow University. Custody of the Scottish Brewing Archive was transferred to Glasgow University Archive Services in 2008.


None expected

Related Material

  • GB 248 CUB: Records of Charrington United Breweries Ltd;
  • GB 248 T: Records of Tennent Caledonian Breweries Ltd;
  • GB 233 9416: Records of J G Thomson & Co Ltd, wine and whisky merchants (National Archives of Scotland, Manuscript division)

Location of Originals

This material is original