Registry Department Papers

Repository: Guinness Archive

Identity Statement

TitleRegistry Department Papers
Archive ReferenceIE GA/GDB/PE03.01
Web Link to this Entry
Creation Dates1870-1969
Extent Medium649 items


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 are the surviving papers of the Registry Department, one of the many different departments, which together formed the Guinness Company based at St. James’s Gate Brewery, Dublin. The Registry Department papers form one part of the Guinness Archive collection. These Registry Department papers relate specifically to the administration of employment matters within the Brewery at St. James’s Gate, Dublin, providing an insight into employment conditions at the Brewery.
    The Registry Department was one of several departments involved in the management and administration of the extensive workforce employed at St. James’s Gate Brewery. The size of the Brewery workforce began to swell towards the end of the nineteenth century and for nearly a century, could contain between 3,500 to 4,500 employees at any one time. Such a large workforce required a great degree of management and administration, and it was the Registry Department that was largely responsible for that administration.
    These papers constitute an extremely large body of documentation, though it is still only a proportion of the total amount of documentation that would have been produced. Like many of those within the overall collection, the Registry Department records, have survived as a result of the efforts made by a small number of people within the Company to gather such historical documentation together until a proper Archive could be established to take custody of them. Consequently, files were often stored in locations that were not conducive to their preservation, and many have suffered damage. Despite these factors the surviving documentation reflects, fairly comprehensively, the many and varied functions of the Registry Department.

    Registry Department’s Function, Duties and Records
    For many years the Guinness Company was the largest employer within the private sector in Ireland, such a large workforce required a great deal of administration and organisation if management decisions and initiatives were to be implemented effectively. It was the Registry Department that became responsible for recording and organising the many aspects of Brewery employment, thereby facilitating management of the workforce.
    During the earlier period (c.1870s to 1900s) the Registry Department records were mostly in the form of either ledgers or personnel files. Employment records, which constituted a large proportion of the records created and maintained by the Registry Department, related principally to workers known as ‘Tradesmen and Labourers’ who formed the main body of the Brewery workforce. ‘Tradesmen and Labourers’ were often referred to as ‘employees’ distinguishing them from ‘staff’ who formed the top tier of the workforce. (The Brewery workforce was divided up into two main tiers, ‘Staff’ in the top tier and ‘Tradesmen and Labourers’ in the lower tier. ‘Staff’, principally male with some female (from 1900 onwards) were salaried workers who might perform clerical duties, fulfil management roles or possess some specialised academic qualifications. ‘Tradesmen and Labourers’, principally male with some female, were paid through a weekly wages system and formed the bulk of the workforce. A variety of tradesmen were employed, one of the most notable groups being the highly skilled Coopers who were responsible for manufacturing the wooden casks. The term ‘labourer’ would also have included female employees occupied as cleaners and waitresses as well as boys and lads employed as messengers and number takers.)
    These personnel files, form a large body of documentation, recording individual workers’ careers. (Access to individual employees personnel files is granted to direct relatives only).
    The majority of Registry Department records, in the form of files, date from the turn of the century from when the Registry Department began to develop a more formalised structure as its functions increased. The maintenance of ‘employee’ service records constituted a large proportion of the Registry Department’s work, yet the records also demonstrate that overall the Registry Department’s work covered an extremely wide range of areas, being administrative, rather than decisive in character. In keeping with the structure of the firm, the Registry Department, as with other Brewery departments, had a hierarchical structure. The Registry Department was led by a departmental Manager, answerable to the Managing Director, and ultimately to the Board. The Registry Department, was then subdivided into a number of different section, or ‘Offices’, each with its own manager, answerable in turn to the Registry Department Manager. Each of these Offices were responsible for a certain number of the many different tasks which fell under the remit of the Department.
    The Registry Department’s principal function was to record and organise ‘employee’ affairs, covering many aspects of Brewery employment. The Registry Department facilitated the flow of the workforce from first entry into Brewery employment, through working life to retirement, and even beyond, as the Company provided support for workers’ dependants. During the early period, from the 1870s, records kept were relatively routine and repetitive, documenting administration of employment finances. Wages and all other payments made to workers were documented in an increasingly systematic fashion.
    From the beginning of the twentieth century the records show that the Registry Department had developed into a large department with reasonably well defined areas of concern in relation to its documentation and organisation of the workforce. These areas of concern can be explained with reference to the flow of the workforce, including: entry, career progression, working environment and structure, employment conditions, social activities and philanthropic benevolence.
    The Registry Department was responsible for organising the entry of workers into Brewery employment, which involved creation and maintenance of records in relation to: applications for employment, interviews, written examination and medical examinations. The Registry Department then monitored the workforce as an entity in itself by compiling statistics to assist managers in making decisions on employment, such statistics might include: numbers employed, age distribution, mortality rates, sickness, hours worked, wages and allowances such as pensions paid, and wage increases.
    The Registry Department also monitored the overall employment situation throughout the Brewery, often acting as a communication channel, horizontally across departments, and vertically along all levels of management and grades, recording: labour requirements, transfers, promotions, resignations, terminations, retirements and deaths. The working environment was also controlled by management through the Registry Department who maintained and distributed the ‘Rules and Regulations’ – a guide for departmental management outlining all rules and regulations applicable to Brewery employment.
    The working environment was often effected by external developments and it was necessary for the Registry to monitor the effects of these on Brewery employment, particularly: employment legislation, external events such as conflicts, economic development and labour relations.
    The Registry Department was responsible for the administration of employment conditions and provision of care for workers, determined by management, including: remuneration, allowances (for sickness, beer, gratuities, bonuses), pensions, insurance, internal financial assistance schemes, annual leave, excursions and Trade Union relations. In addition to making substantial provisions for the welfare of its employees, Guinness supported many social activities and organisations run by its own workforce (These would include: Guinness Athletic Union (GAU), Fanciers and Industrial Association, Guinness Workers’ Employment Fund (GWEF) and departmental Mutual Benefit Societies.), particularly sports clubs and other leisure pursuits, the Company’s facilitation of these social initiatives being documented and organised by the Registry Department.
    The Company also had a strong sense of its own social responsibility amidst the wider community at large throughout Dublin and this philanthropic outlook manifested itself in activities such as: donations to schools and charities, provision of gratuities for deserving cases, and workers housing – activities recorded by the Registry Department.

  • Appraisal Destruction ↴

    Permanent Retention
  • Arrangement ↴

    The papers within the Registry Department have been categorised as such because they originated from within the Registry Department and were created by them. Due to the number of files involved, no further arrangement was imposed upon them, either thematic or chronological, although some efforts were made to reconstruct small series of files where possible. Within the descriptions of each file, where possible all existing file titles were noted. When noting the names of the authors of the files, their position within the Brewery, where possible, was also noted in brackets following their names. Once named in a description an author is then referred to thereafter in that description by their last name. The Guinness Company, in its various forms, is referred to as the ‘Company’ and the St. James’s Gate Brewery as the ‘Brewery’.

Conditions of Access & Use

Access Conditions On application to the Guinness Archivist. Please note access to employee personnel files granted to direct relatives only.
Conditions Governing ReproductionAt the discretion of Guinness Archivist
Creation Dates1870-1969
Extent Medium649 items
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