An undated photo of the Barclays and Perkin brewery in Southwark. We support the brewing industry.

Barclays’ history of brewing

15 October 2019

The curious history of how Barclays became the biggest brewer in the world, and how we’re still supporting the industry today.

“British Bank Buys Brewery” – this might be how a modern newspaper would report on the acquisition by Robert Barclay in 1781 of a south London brewery which went on to become famous for its Russian Stout. 

That wouldn’t have been completely accurate, but when Robert Barclay – of the banking family that ran Barclays Bank at the time – and the brewery’s chief clerk, John Perkins, paid £135,000 for the brewery, it would lead to the Barclay name being known as much for banking as it was beer through the course of the 19th century.

By 1809 the Barclay Perkins Brewery was the largest brewery in the world, producing 260,000 barrels a year.

As the century progressed the brewery had visits from people as diverse as Napoleon Bonaparte to the Italian general Giuseppe Garibaldi – after whom the biscuits were named.

The brewery continued to produce beer throughout the 19th and 20th centuries before the business merged with a rival in 1955 and was eventually closed for good in the 1970s.

The Anchor Bankside pub, the original taproom of the brewery, is still serving customers on the site to this day.

Our relationship with the brewery industry is still going strong


Our relationship with the brewing industry, however, is still going strong. Marston’s have long since taken over from Barclay Perkins as the world’s biggest brewer of cask beer. Their Wolverhampton brewery was founded – in a neat twist of linguistics – by a man named Banks in 1875 and is still producing beer for Marston’s under the Banks’s brand.

Marston’s Beer Company’s Managing Director, Richard Westwood, explains how the company uses the productivity and efficiency of being a major business with the local touch of being embedded in a community.

We have 6 breweries dotted all over the country. We now sell 1 in 4 of the premium bottled beers that you buy in supermarkets. In total, if you include the 1600 or so pubs, we have 14,000 people and turnover of around £1.2 billion and growing. You’ve almost got the best of both worlds.

The relationship between Marston’s and Barclays goes back over a century. Although Marston’s certainly didn’t come to Barclays for our knowledge of hops and barley, at least they can look towards our forefather’s history to know that we’re deeply committed to their industry.

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