History of Greene King PLC of Bury St. Edmunds in the county of Suffolk. Research is augmented with photographs, beer labels, pump clips, stories of local folklore, newspaper articles and a genealogy connections section for those studying their family history.


Greene King
Greene King

Some History on this Brewery
Greene King has developed into one of the largest independent brewers in the South of England. Established in 1799, Greene King can certainly boast one of the longest traditions in brewing ale. The Greene King brewery stands in Bury St. Edmunds in the heart of Suffolk. The town's association with ale dates back nearly one thousand years, when Benedictine monks began brewing with local barley and water from the area's chalk wells.

Greene King Westgate Brewery

Seven years after Benjamin Greene moved to Bury St. Edmunds to establish himself in the brewing trade, he formed a partnership in 1806 with William Buck, an elderly yarn-maker. Together, they acquired Wright's Westgate Brewery located in Westgate Street. This business had been established for about a century.

William Buck died in 1836 and Benjamin Greene handed over the business to his son Edward. Under his management, the company developed a small tied estate of public houses and increased production to both the firm's houses and to the free trade. The business flourished and grew considerably during the 1850's. By 1870 the workforce at Bury St. Edmunds increased to fifty people with output increasing to 40,000 barrels per annum. Meanwhile, Frederick King acquired the Maulkin's Maltings at Bury St. Edmunds in order to establish the St. Edmund's Brewery.

Greene King Brewery Workers

Further growth of the Westgate Brewery was achieved through acquisitions. In 1868 the company, now trading as E. Greene & Son, bought Henry Braddock's Southgate Street Brewery. In 1882 the firm acquired Philips Brothers of the Stowmarket Brewery. Production of beer increased to 75,000 barrels per annum.

In June 1887 Greene King & Sons Ltd. was registered as a limited liability company in order to acquire and merge the rival firms of E. Greene & Son and F. W. King & Son. This ushered in a period of further brewery takeovers to expand the company's tied estate of public houses.

Greene King Brewery Dray

The Kedington Brewery of Thomas Jenner was snapped up in 1887, Jabez Rankin's Orange Tree Brewery at Braintree was acquired in 1891, along with Charlton's Brewery at Fakenham. More Suffolk and Essex brewery concerns were swallowed up in the late 19th and early 20th century.

A new brewhouse was constructed during the 1930's and, following the Second World War, a new bottling plant was fully operational. In each decade of the 20th century, the company acquired rival breweries in order to grow the business. In 1961 the company bought Wells & Winch Ltd. of Biggleswade which brought 287 public houses into the firm's portfolio. The Biggleswade Brewery, which dated back to 1764, remained in operation for many years after the takeover.

Greene King Bottling Plant

In recent years the company increased their portfolio with the purchase of Morland which brought the Old Speckled Hen and Ruddles beers under their umbrella. Further growth and expansion continued with the acquisition of the Marston's southern estate which brought another 165 pubs into the business. At one point Greene King's estate exceeded 1,700 pubs and the company supplied more than 2,500 free trade outlets.

In May 2002 Greene King announced a £500,000 investment programme to make Abbot Ale the top selling premium ale in the UK. New pump clips accompanied the advertising campaign. Personally, I was disappointed to see the medieval cleric disappear from the counter handpulls. The company's marketing manager claimed that it was looking old-fashioned and that younger drinkers would be attracted to the new clean fresh colours of the revamped clips.

In June 2002 Greene King announced the acquisition of Morrell's of Oxford Limited for a cash consideration of £67 million, including debt of £30.4 million. This purchase brought the 57 managed and 50 tenanted pubs, most of which were freehold and within a 30-mile radius of Oxford, under the Greene King umbrella.

Following an investment programme the pubs generated operating profit, before central overheads, of £6 million in the year to 31 March 2002. Commenting on the acquisition, Tim Bridge, the Chief Executive, said "We are very pleased to have made this acquisition, which will benefit all parts of Greene King. The Morrell's pubs will integrate well into our managed and tenanted estates and provide a very good strategic fit for us. Our Brewing and Brands division will also gain through the distribution of our ale brands throughout the estate. We believe we can drive further profit growth from the business to add long-term value for our shareholders."

Greene King PLC

Greene King Burton Ale [c.1960]            Greene King Pale Ale [c.1960]

Greene King Harvest [c.1960's]

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Brewery mages supplied by Greene King PLC and reproduced with kind permission.



Greene King Abbot Ale [c.1950]

Greene King India Pale Ale [c.1950's]

Genealogy Connections
If you have a genealogy story or query regarding this brewery you can contact me and I will post it here in addition to including your message within the Genealogy website pages.

Kaiser Wilhelm
“Give me a woman who loves beer and I will conquer the world.”
Kaiser Wilhelm

Work in Progress

Greene King Stout [c.1950's]

Greene King Abbot Ale [c.1950's]

Greene King Burton Ale [c.1950's]

Greene King Oatmeal Stout [c.1960]

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Beer and Pipe Smoker


The Young Barmaid by Charles Sillem Lidderdale

Beer is Best

Le Bock by Picasso [1901]

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Public Bar Stained Glass

Woman Serving Beer

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