Barclay and Perkins Company Limited : owner 1781-1955

  • Posted on: 22 September 2009
  • By: David Thrale

Despite the new ownership of Perkins, Sylvanus and the Barclays, the brewery continued to be called "Thrale and Company" and later "H. Thrale and Company" until 1 Jan 1798 when the name "Barclay Perkins and Company" was adopted. The company was incorporated as "Barclay Perkins and Company Limited" in 1896.

Shortly after acquiring the Thrale Brewery, Barclay, Perkins & Company installed a Boulton & Watt steam engine (which was to last for a hundred years) as if to signal the resolve which was to turn the already very large business, henceforward known as the Angel Brewery, into the largest brewery in Europe and one of the sights of London.

David Barclay the younger was one of the slave owners to emancipate his slaves in Jamaica.

David Barclay. Born 1729, died 1809. Engraving after portrait by Johann Zoffany

On 3 April 1797 Thrale and Co. were summoned to "answer complaint made against them for making casks on their premises." Since the 16th century on only Coopers Company in London were permitted to make brewers casks. The outcome of this case unknown.
Anchor Brewery by G Yates in 1826
By 1810 production had increased to over 200,000 barrels a year, making it - at that time - the biggest brewery in the world, occupying 13 to 14 acres of ground. Samuel Johnson was was right.

By 1815 Barclay, Perkins & Co. was the leading brewery in London, producing more than 330,000 barrels a year, with an extensive range of stabling, spacious enough to afford proper accommodation for 200 dray-horses. Visitors flocked to see the impressive Anchor brewhouse on the south side of Southwark Bridge, famous for its Russian Imperial Stout which was widely sold on the continent.

1832 fire

Anchor brewery fire in 1832 by William Clarkson Stanfield
On 22 May 1832 the majority of the buildings were destroyed in a fire when, it is believed, a lamp held by one of the employees of the brewery ignited. As the buildings were made of wood and contained very combustible material such as malt and hops, the fire spread quickly. A number of fire engines were brought in but the firemen and the brewery employees were unable stop the fire burning for many hours. As a consequence much of the brewery was rebuilt and extended. Victorian authors could not avoid pouring the celebrated porter into their books.

There are many references to Barclay's beer in the novels of Charles Dickens. Dick Swiveller claimed in the Old Curiosity Shop, published in 1840, that there was 'a spell in every drop against the ills of mortality'. It was a job at Barclay's Brewery that Micawber had in mind when he was 'waiting for something to turn up'.
Russian Imperial Stout bottles
Anchor Brewery employed some 430 men in 1850 and had the largest output of beer of any firm in London. Dr Johnson eventually had his face plastered all over the brewery's bottle labels, as Barclay's Doctor brand gained fame at home and abroad. An upright figure of the stout academic clutching a pint pot became the brewery's emblem. In 1899 the brewery was said to be one of the sights of London.

Shakespeare was not forgotten. In 1909 a bronze memorial was unveiled on the brewery wall in Park Street, showing a view of old Southwark, commemorating the fact that "Here stood the Globe Playhouse of Shakespeare, 1598-1613". When the company produced a Festival Ale in 1951 to mark the Festival of Britain, the Globe Theatre was featured on the label. John Perkins was killed at Brighton horse races by Lord Bolingbroke's horse, Highflyer. The horse had kicked out at an insect that was irritating it, and kicked Perkins in the head.

Barclay Perkins took over Style and Winch with the Dartford Brewery Company and the Royal Brewery Brentford in 1929. In 1951 the company began to establish the Blue Nile Brewery in Khartoum.


Hello from Canada
I am researching my brewing CLAYTON family ancestors in London. I have a business card (circa 1895?) belonging to John Clayton (1856-1909) who was a partner in Barclay Clayton & Co. London Bridge S.E. and Hatcham Brewery, New Cross.

Can anyone please tell me if Barclay Clayton & Co was a later incarnation of Barclay, Perkins Brewery?

My grandmother (daughter of John Clayton) was named Marjorie Ethel Barclay Clayton. I am wondering if she were named after one of the brewing Barclay family?

Would be thrilled if anyone could shed some light on these connections or perhaps give me some suggestions about a Barclay/Clayton link?

Thank you.

David Thrale's picture

Can anyone helo Angela find the origin of this similar sounding business card? owner: David Thrale | My blog | Family motto: In cruce confido