Papers of the Directors of the Guinness Company, 1800-1998

Repository: Guinness Archive

Identity Statement

TitlePapers of the Directors of the Guinness Company, 1800-1998
Archive ReferenceIE GA/GDB/CO04
Web Link to this Entry
Creation Dates1800-1998
Extent Medium7 Series


Creator(s): Arthur Guinness Son & Company Limited

  • Administrative History ↴

    Arthur Guinness was born in Celbridge, County Kildare in 1725. It seems that Arthur first learnt the art of brewing from his father Richard, whose job as a land steward included brewing beer for workers on the estate of Dr. Arthur Price, later Archbishop of Cashel. In 1759, at the age of thirty four, Arthur Guinness signed a 9000-year lease for the St. James's Gate Brewery, Dublin, at an annual rent of £45. The Brewery was only four acres in size, disused, and had little brewing equipment. But in only ten years, despite competition from imported English beers, Arthur began to export his beer to England. Arthur began by brewing ale, and in the 1770s started brewing 'porter', a new type of dark English beer. Arthur's porter was so successful that in 1799 he stopped brewing ale. By the time Arthur died in 1803, he had built a successful brewing business, with a promising export trade. Arthur married Olivia Whitmore, and had twenty one children, ten of whom survived into adulthood. When he died, his son Arthur Guinness II took over the Brewery. In all, seven generations of the Guinness family were directly involved in the brewery management. Arthur Guinness II developed the business, expanding the export trade, and brewing a new beer 'Extra Superior Porter'. By the 1830s, St. James's Gate Brewery was the largest brewery in Ireland. In 1855 Arthur II's son, Benjamin Lee Guinness, took over. Under Benjamin, the first trade mark label for GUINNESS® stout was introduced in 1862. When Benjamin died in 1868, his son Edward Cecil took over. Under Edward's leadership the brewery became the largest in the world. In 1886 the business was floated on the London Stock Exchange and Edward became Chairman. By the end of the 19th century the brewery had grown to sixty acres, sales of GUINNESS® Stout were over 1.2 million barrels a year, and GUINNESS® Stout was available across the world. In the 20th century the Guinness family continued to lead the business. Edward Guinness died in 1927, and his son Rupert became Chairman. Rupert's grandson Benjamin became Chairman in 1962, and was the last member of the Guinness family to hold this position, which he resigned in 1986. In 1929, the first advertising campaign for GUINNESS® was launched. More product innovations took place including the launch of GUINNESS® Draught in 1959. GUINNESS® Draught in Can was launched in 1988 thanks to the 'widget' – a groundbreaking invention in beer packaging technology. From the 1940s to 1980s a major overhaul of brewing machinery took place, making the brewery one of the most technologically advanced in the world. In 1936 the first overseas GUINNESS® Brewery was opened. It proved successful and was followed by four more in Nigeria (1962), Malaysia (1965), Cameroon (1970), and Ghana (1971). Licences were also issued to brewers in other countries so that GUINNESS® could be brewed locally. By the end of the 20th century, GUINNESS® was brewed in over 40 countries, and sold in over 150. In 1997 Guinness Plc merged with Grand Metropolitan Plc in a £24 billion merger. A new company was formed called 'Diageo' Plc. Today, 10 million glasses of GUINNESS® are enjoyed daily around the world.
  • Archival History ↴

    The Guinness Archive was established in 1998 and at this time all historical papers relating to the Company were transferred to the Guinness Archive.
  • Immediate Source Acquisition ↴

    Official Transfer

Content & Structure

  • Scope & Content: Arthur Guinness Son & Company Limited ↴

    These papers are the work of the Executive Directors who sat on the Board of the Guinness Company since its incorporation in 1886. The Directors comprised the highest level of management within the Brewery, and as such, all Departments reported into them, and they in turn reported into the Board. From incorporation in 1886, a Managing Director was appointed, in addition to an Assistant Managing Director, or Directors. The Directors had a certain degree of independent managerial authority, but matters were frequently brought by them to the Board for sanction, particularly in cases where money was involved, or if a precedent to existing procedure was under consideration. In practice the Directors ensured the smooth running of the business on a daily basis, bringing matters to the Board for decisions where relevant, and in turn implementing decisions taken at Board level across the Company and at the St. James’s Gate Brewery.

    As the business expanded post-incorporation, and distinct Departments were formed, the Directors’ involvement in the running of different aspects of the business was transmuted to a more supervisory level, as a network of Departmental Managers oversaw the running of each Department’s business. But as the business grew, so did the number of Directors. Until the 1920s, there were only two or three Directors – a Managing Director and either one or two Assistant Managing Directors. By the 1920s, the number of executive Directors had increased to four or five. By the 1960s, the Directors were assigned specific portfolios of responsibility, so that there was a Director in charge of personnel and administrative matters, a Director in charge of brewing and operational matters, a Director for sales and advertising, and so on. The portfolios assigned usually comprised a set of different areas of responsibility that were commonly related, however they did not form a hard and fast set, and areas of responsibility were sometimes moved between Directors, and grouped differently, perhaps in an effort to best match the individual Director’s own talents and knowledge.

  • Appraisal Destruction ↴

    Permanent Retention
  • Arrangement ↴

    The Director’s Papers have been broadly divided into different categories reflecting the Director’s principle areas of responsibility, and corresponding to the principle functions of the business – and ultimately to the portfolios they were assigned in the 1960s. These categories include: Brewery Management (GDB/CO04.03); Corporate Affairs (GDB/CO04.04); Operations (GDB/CO04.05); Personnel (GDB/CO04.06); Subsidiaries (GDB/CO04.07); Trade (GDB/CO04.08); Brewery History (GDB/CO04.09); Directors’ Personal Papers (GDB/CO04.10); Directors’ Office (GDB/CO04.11). Only records created or held by the Directors, or their Office (Secretariat) have been included.

Conditions of Access & Use

Access Conditions On application to the Guinness Archivist
Conditions Governing ReproductionAt the discretion of Guinness Archivist
Creation Dates1800-1998
Extent Medium7 Series
Material Language ScriptEnglish
Finding Aids Descriptive list Archive Web Link →

Allied Materials

There are no Allied Materials

Descriptive Control Area

Archivist NoteGuinness Archive Archivist
Rules/ConventionsISAD(G): General International Standard Archival Description. 2nd ed. Ottawa: International Council on Archives, 2000.