Papers of the Guinness Company

Repository: Guinness Archive

Identity Statement

TitlePapers of the Guinness Company
Archive ReferenceIE GA/GDB
Web Link to this Entry
Creation Dates1759-1980
Extent Medium7,500 linear metres


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 ↴

    The collection represents the Guinness company’s history in Ireland from 1759 to the present day, including activities of its Irish subsidiaries. The majority of records document the transactions of the departments at St. James’s Gate Brewery.
    Brewing material (GDB/BR) documents the brewing of GUINNESS, principally at St. James’s Gate Brewery, and is either in ledger or file form. The earliest brewing ledger dates from 1798. Brewing ledgers record details of daily brews throughout 19th century to mid 20th century in the form of saccharometer books, brewhouse daily statements, storehouse books, vathouse books, sampling books etc. From the 20th century brewing files were also kept by the Head Brewer and senior brewing management to document all aspects of the brewing process and production of GUINNESS.
    Company material (GDB/CO), mostly in the form of files, includes the records of the governing Board, its Directors and the Company Secretary’s department. The principal records of the Board are the Board minutes that began at the company’s incorporation (1886), board orders (directions issued on all aspects of business to be followed by all within the Brewery), board endorsements (recommendations issued), annual reports. The executive Directors of the Board held senior management positions and received reports on all aspects of the Brewery’s business – management committees, personnel, operations, external affairs, trade, brewery history. Other functions covered by this category include the Company Secretary’s Department. The Company Secretary’s Department began principally as a trade department, managing trade in Ireland and with overseas markets, but by the 1940s it dealt almost exclusively with matters of corporate governance and legal issues.
    Distribution material, (GDB/DB) mostly in file form, documents transportation of GUINNESS Stout by road, rail and sea to customers in Ireland and abroad. The cooperage, and its successor the keg department, are also covered here. The transportation records document all modes of Brewery transport including: horses, motor vehicles, barges and shipping. The cooperage, and later kegging records, document the manufacture of these containers, and their use for the transport of GUINNESS Stout. This series also includes minutes books of the Regular Dublin Coopers Society.
    Engineering material (GDB/EN05) is in the form of files, maps, plans and drawings, and documents the work of the Brewery’s engineering functions, from individual engineers in the 19th century, to the work of the Engineer’s Department in the 20th century. Activities documented include: Brewery building and maintenance projects, installation, maintenance and design of Brewery machinery, Terenure Housing Scheme.
    Guinness family material (GDB/GU) contains any material connected with individual members of the Guinness family in their capacity as private citizens. The Guinness Archive holds only a very small selection of material in this category as the Guinness Family maintain their own family records. This series consists mainly of photographs.
    Marketing material documents (GDB/MK) the marketing activities by the company in Ireland, in particular advertising and merchandising. A wide variety of media are covered from paper-based materials in the form of departmental files and advertising posters to Audio-visual materials such as photographs and film, and artefacts in the form of memorabilia. The collection of GUINNESS memorabilia dates from 1930s to present day, and includes ceramics such as original Carlton Ware pieces, clothing samples, showcards, waiters trays, tin signs, and calendars. This series also documents a limited collection of overseas advertising in the United Kingdom (GPR/MK) and overseas (GOL/MK).
    Personnel, (GDB/PE) is one of the largest single categories within the collection, it covers employment within the Brewery, from individual employment files to personnel management and policies. Although some ledgers are included, most material is in file form. Personnel covers management policy and administration of the entire Brewery workforce, which in its peak numbered over 5000. This category gives a unique insight into the working conditions within the Brewery for all levels of staff.
    Packaging (GDB/PK) series is mainly in the form of packaging samples, either in paper or artefact form, such as labels, cardboard boxes, and bottles and cans. The samples record the evolution of GUINNESS branded packaging, for markets supplied from the St. James’s Gate Brewery, from the nineteenth century to the present day. Most of the samples were destined for the Irish market, although a small number of items represent packaging used in overseas markets prior to the 1960s.
    Raw materials (GDB/RM) records the purchase and management of raw materials within the Brewery, used in the production of GUINNESS Stout, primarily: barley, water, hops and yeast. The records are in the form of both files and ledgers. Activities recorded include: the operation and management of the company’s Hop Farms in England, maltings and raw materials departments; barley and hop purchases; disposal of spent hops, grains, and yeast, left over from the brewing process.
    Trade (GDB/SA) documents the supply of GUINNESS Stout, from the St. James’s Gate Brewery. The records cover the management of trade for the different markets supplied from St. James’s Gate, from Ireland to countries overseas. All the trade in overseas markets was managed from Dublin until the twentieth century. In the twentieth century, the management of overseas trade began to change. As new GUINNESS breweries were established overseas, and new subsidiaries were formed to handle brewing and marketing for overseas markets, the St. James’s Gate Brewery became less involved in the marketing and supply of overseas markets.
    After the opening of the Park Royal Brewery in London in 1936, responsibility for the supply of the British market was gradually transferred from Dublin to Park Royal. The management of supply and marketing in overseas markets was transferred to a new subsidiary, Guinness Exports Limited (GEL). A new drive to establish overseas operations began in the early 1960s and in 1963, ‘Guinness Overseas Limited’ (GOL) was formed. GOL was responsible for brewing of GUINNESS overseas, shares in other brewing companies overseas and brewing exports for overseas. Records concerning trade in overseas markets outside of Great Britain and Europe, do not reach beyond the 1940s. Even after the establishment of GEL, the St. James’s Gate Brewery retained direct control of trade in European markets, until the early 1960s.
    A large proportion of the records are in ledger form, although there is also a large body of file-based material. Activities documented include sales of GUINNESS, trade with customers, use of the distribution network for supply, market research conducted by sales representatives and early overseas travellers.

  • Appraisal Destruction ↴

    Permanent Retention
  • Arrangement ↴

    The collection has been divided into different categories according to the originating company – either the parent company based at St. James’s Gate, or another Irish subsidiary. Within these categories the collection is then further divided to reflect that company’s principal functions, such as: brewing, finance, sales etc.
    A system of alpha-numeric codes has been devised to identify items within the collection. The first level of the code uses three letters to indicate the company of origin, such as ‘GDB’ for Guinness Dublin Brewery – the St. James’s Gate Brewery. The second level uses a combination of letters and number to represent the function to which an item belongs, such as BR01 – representing the first series of brewing records. This level can be subdivided to reflect the complex structure of the company, and changes over time. Each subdivision of a category is reflected in the code by the addition of numbers. All incoming material is assigned to one of these categories, and takes on a unique number at the third level of coding, such as GDB/BR01/0001 – item one from the first series of brewing records of the St. James’s Gate Brewery.

Conditions of Access & Use

Access Conditions On application to the Guinness Archivist
Conditions Governing ReproductionAt the discretion of Guinness Archivist
Creation Dates1759-1980
Extent Medium7,500 linear metres
Material Language ScriptEnglish
Finding Aids Descriptive list Archive Web Link →

Allied Materials

There are no Allied Materials

Descriptive Control Area

Archivist NoteDeirdre McParland
Rules/ConventionsISAD(G): General International Standard Archival Description. 2nd ed. Ottawa: International Council on Archives, 2000.
Date of Descriptions40395