Records of William Younger & Co Ltd, brewers, Edinburgh, Scotland

Reference code(s): GB 1127 WY
Title: Records of William Younger & Co Ltd, brewers, Edinburgh, Scotland
Date(s): 1658-1970s
Extent and medium of the unit of description: 30.6 metres
Repository: Scottish Brewing Archive
Name of creator(s): William Younger & Co Ltd (brewers : 1887 - 1986 : Edinburgh, Scotland)
Level of Description: fonds
Published by: Scottish Brewing Archive 01 April 2002
Language of Material: English

Administrative/Biographical History

Tradition has it that William Younger I, aged 16, set up a brewery in Kirkgate, Leith, Scotland, in 1749. In 1853 he married Grizel Syme and became an exciseman, leaving the brewery to be run by Grizel. However, this account is flawed and inaccurate and cannot be substantiated. Grizel actually ran her deceased second husband's brewery and it was this brewery and those of her sons that developed into the firm of William Younger & Co.

After William Younger I, Grizel Syme's first husband, had died in 1770, Grizel married Alexander Anderson, a Leith brewer, in 1772, who had been brewing since at least 1758. He took one of her sons, Archibald Campbell Younger as an apprentice, and probably also trained her other sons Richard and William II. Alexander Anderson died in 1781 and Grizel took over the brewery, trading as Grizel Anderson, assisted by William II, until she retired in 1794.

Archibald Campbell Younger set up on his own business in 1777, establishing a brewery in the grounds of Holyrood Abbey, Edinburgh, Scotland, and acquired a new brewery, Croft-an-Righ Brewery, Holyrood, in 1786. He opened a new larger brewery in the North Back of Canongate (now Calton Road) in 1793. Richard was brewing at Gentle's Close, Canongate in 1788, but by 1796 was in London, England.

William Younger II opened his own brewhouse within Holyrood Abbey precinct in 1796. William Younger II extended this brewery and acquired James Blair's Abbey Brewhouse, Horse Wynd, Holyrood in 1803. (The company founding date of 1749 probably derives from James Blair's Abbey Brewery.) In 1806 he commenced brewing porter with his brother, Archibald Campbell Younger, and in 1808 took his brother-in-law, Robert Hunter, into partnership under the name of Younger and Hunter. In 1818, after the death of Robert Hunter, he took Alexander Smith, Brewer and Superintendent of the brewery, into partnership, the firm to be called William Younger & Company.

In 1819 Archibald Campbell Younger died and his brewery was disposed of to George Hastie. William Younger II's mother and brother-in-law died in 1821 and he was able to consolidate all the family interests under the title William Younger & Co. He expanded further into the Canongate and in 1836 Alexander Smith, brewer, and his son, Andrew, and William Younger III became William II's partners. By the 1840s the partnership was trading all over Scotland and exporting to North and South America, India and Australia. After the death of William Younger II and Alexander Smith in 1842 their sons carried on the business. William Younger IV joined the partnership in 1849 followed by his brother, Henry Johnston Younger, in 1852. The latter left the firm in 1855 but returned as a partner in 1861. William Younger III retired in 1851 (died 1854) leaving Andrew Smith to manage the business.

In 1858 Andrew Smith and William Younger IV purchased the adjacent premises of brewer Alexander Berwick, and built the Holyrood Brewery which ran between Canongate and its South Back (now Holyrood Road). The firm's first London office opened in 1861. William Younger IV (died 1886) and Andrew Smith retired in 1869, leaving the day-to-day control to Henry J Younger, his brother David Younger (retired 1880) and Alexander Smith (died 1885), Andrew Smith's son. Alexander Low Bruce (died 1893) became a partner in 1876. The breweries continued to expand and William Younger & Co Ltd was registered in August 1887 as a limited liability company to acquire the business, becoming a public company in 1889. By 1891 the company was producing 400,000 barrels of beer per year and by 1907 the brewery covered 27 acres and brewed a quarter of all the ale produced in Scotland.

In January 1931 the company merged with William McEwan & Co Ltd, Edinburgh, through Scottish Brewers Ltd. It acquired Collin Croft Brewery Co Ltd, Kendal, Cumbria, England, in 1933 and in 1946 employed 1,350 people. The Abbey Brewery closed in 1956 and the premises were remodelled to form the headquarters buildings of Scottish & Newcastle Breweries plc, with whom Scottish Brewers Ltd merged in 1960. The site is to be the new Scottish Parliament buildings. The Holyrood Brewery complex closed in 1986.

Sources: Richmond, Lesley and Turton, Alison (eds). The Brewing Industry. A Guide to Historical Records (Manchester and New York: Manchester University Press, 1990)

Topen, Alma. Unpublished draft of article on the history of William Younger & Co Ltd (Glasgow, 2002)

Scope and Content

  • Corporate records 1800-1960
  • Shareholding records 1887-1955
  • Letterbooks 1838-1969
  • Financial records 1805-1960
  • Patents and trademarks 1803-1940s
  • Production records 1807-1970s
  • Sales records 1862-1943
  • Staff records 1866-1965
  • Licensed premises records 1880-1955
  • Property records 1658-1957
  • Promotional material 1870s-1960s
  • Public relations 1870s-1960s
  • Family papers 1843-1890s
  • Photographs 1860s-1960s

System of Arrangement

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

Custodial History

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

Immediate source of acquisition or transfer

Scottish & Newcastle plc

Appraisal, destruction and scheduling information

This material has been appraised in line with standard GB 1127 procedures


None expected

Access Conditions


Copyright / Conditions governing reproduction

Applications for permission to quote should be sent to the Scottish Brewing Archivist

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

Finding Aids

File level list available in searchroom

Related Units of Description

GB 800001: Records of William Younger & Co Ltd (private collection, enquiries to National Register of Archives for Scotland, Edinburgh, Scotland)

GB 1127 ARTEFACTS: Scottish Brewing Archive Artefacts Collection

GB 1127 CC: Records of Collin Croft Brewery Co Ltd

GB 1127 SNM: Records of William McEwan & Co Ltd

GB 1127 SNB: Records of Scottish & Newcastle plc

GB 1127 SB: Records of Scottish Brewers Ltd

Publication note

Keir, David. The Younger Centuries. The Story of William Younger & Co Ltd 1749 to 1949 (Edinburgh: William Younger & Co Ltd, 1951)

Donnachie, Ian. Men of Brewing. Henry Johnston Younger. Scottish Brewing Archive Newsletter No 3 (Spring 1984)

Donnachie, Ian. Men of Brewing. Harry George Younger. Scottish Brewing Archive Newsletter No 11 (Summer 1988)

McMaster, Charles. Excerpts from Andrew Smith's "Book of Notes on Brewing" 1834-1860. Scottish Brewing Archive Newsletter No 12 (Autumn 1988)

McMaster, Charles. Further excerpts from Andrew Smith's "Book of Notes on Brewing" 1834-1869. Scottish Brewing Archive Newsletter No 13 (Winter 1988/89)

Dean, Paul. Father William. Scottish Brewing Archive Newsletter No 28 (Spring 1997)

Processing information

Fonds level description compiled by Natalie Milne, Archive Assistant (Hub), Thursday 22 November 2001

Revised and publication notes and related units of description added by Wiebke Redlich, Archive Assistant (Hub), 1 April 2002