Watney Combe & Reid

Watney Combe & Reid
Industry Brewing
Fate Acquired
Successor Watney Mann
Founded 1837
Defunct 1958
Headquarters London, United Kingdom
Products Beer

Watney Combe & Reid was a leading brewing business in London. At its peak in the 1930s it was a constituent of the FT 30 index of leading companies on the London Stock Exchange. It produced the beer brand Watney's Red Barrel.[1]


Watneys Red Barrel logo
The Stag Brewery, Mortlake in 1989.

The Watney family were the main partners in the Stag Brewery, Victoria, for much of the 19th century.[2] In 1837 James Watney became a partner in the brewery, followed by his sons James and Norman in 1856.[2] On his death in 1884, the brewery became a private limited company.[2]

In 1889 James Watney & Co., acquired the Mortlake Brewery (latterly referred to as the Stag Brewery of Mortlake), which had been owned by Charles James Philips and James Wigan since the 1840s.[3]

In 1898 the company merged with Combe Delafield and Co. and Reid and Co., and was subsequently known as Watney Combe and Reid.[4] The amalgamated company was the largest brewer in London.[4] The Combe brewery in Longacre and the Reid brewery in Clerkenwell closed almost immediately, and production was concentrated on the Watney Stag Brewery in Pimlico.[5] The company had an annual output of 1.8 million hectolitres (some 39.5 million imperial gallons).[5]

Watneys Red Barrel key fob

Watney Mann was formed in 1958 with the merger of Watney, Combe, Reid & Co. Ltd with Mann, Crossman & Paulin Ltd.

When the Stag Brewery in Victoria was demolished in 1959 the name was transferred to Mortlake Brewery.[6]

The business acquired other brewers, including Wilsons of Manchester, Phipps NBC of Northampton, Samuel Webster & Sons of Halifax and Ushers of Trowbridge, before being taken over by Grand Metropolitan, a hotels and catering group, in 1972 and closed in 1979.[7]

Watneys Red Barrel

Watneys Red Barrel was a bitter which sold highly in the United Kingdom during the 1960s and 1970s.[8][9] It was introduced in 1931 as an export keg beer that could travel for long distances by being made stable through filtering and pasteurising – as such it was the first keg beer.[8] It was renamed to just "Red" in 1971.

A 3.9% abv pale lager with the name Watneys Red Barrel was sold by the Sleeman Brewery until 1997[10] and a 6.0% beer with the same name is still brewed by Alken-Maes.[11]


For many years, Watney's advertised with the strapline "What we want is Watney's".[12]


  1. Dougherty, Philip (1986-10-23). "Biederman Is Named For Watney Red Barrel". The New York Times.
  2. 1 2 3 "Industries: Brewing". british-history.ac.uk.
  3. "Watney Combe Reid & Co Ltd records". nationalarchives.gov.uk.
  4. 1 2 P.L. Cottrell (5 November 2013). Industrial Finance, 1830–1914: The Finance and Organization of English Manufacturing Industry. Routledge. p. 170. ISBN 978-1-136-59735-0.
  5. 1 2 "Shut up about Barclay Perkins". blogspot.co.uk. 16 August 2008. Retrieved 28 February 2014.
  6. The Brewing Industry: A Guide to Historical Records, 1990, Richmond L. and Turton A. (eds.), p.263
  7. "Watney Mann Ltd". quaffale.org.uk.
  8. 1 2 "Watneys Red Barrel". RetroWow. Retrieved 25 June 2008.
  9. "Critics' choice". The Sunday Times. 1 September 2002. Retrieved 25 June 2008.
  10. "Watneys Red Barrel from Sleeman Brewing & Malting Co. (Sapporo) – Ratebeer". ratebeer.com. Retrieved 13 July 2009.
  11. "Belgian Beers – Belgium Travel Guide – Eupedia". eupedia.com. Retrieved 21 February 2011.
  12. "Advertising Slogan Hall of Fame". AdSlogans.co.uk. Retrieved 28 February 2014.
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