John Aitchison and Co Ltd

John Aitchison & Co Ltd was established in 1895 (Scottish Company No 2893) to acquire the business of John Aitchison & Co for £60,000 cash and £50,000 in ordinary shares. The directors were Thomas Stodart Aitchison (who was appointed Chairman and later Managing Director), John Turnbull and A. G. N. Aitken.

The company's trademark was originally a shield with 'JA' on it, but by the 1930s they had adopted a well-fed cellarman holding a tankard of ale.

The company acquired controlling interests in several other businesses in the drinks sector including the Victoria Bottling Co Ltd, Northumberland Hotels Ltd, Hails & Co Ltd, and brewers McLennan & Urquhart Ltd, of Dalkeith.

Despite its expansion the company fell victim to the takeover frenzy of the 1950s and 60s, and was acquired by Hammonds United Breweries Ltd of Bradford. It was then merged with John Jeffrey & Co Ltd to form Aitchison Jeffrey Ltd, with the original company being dissolved in 1962. Brewing ceased at the Canongate Brewery in 1961, and was moved to Jeffrey's Heriot Brewery.

The company produced a wide range of beers including: Best Cellar, Blue Seal Pale Ale, Brown Ale, Christmas Ale, Export Ale, Extra Brown Stout, Extra Stout, Full Brown Ale, Gold Seal Brown Ale, India Pale Ale, Light Pale Ale, Mild Ale, No 2 Brown Ale, Pale Ale, Porter, Rampart Pale Ale, Red Seal Strong Ale, Scotch Ale, Strong Ale, Scotch Strong Ale, Sweet Scotch Ale, and XXXX Ale.

Trademark of John Aitchison & Co Ltd
Trademark of John Aitchison & Co Ltd

Location: Edinburgh

Active: 1895 - 1961

Status: Acquired

Breweries and other buildings

The Canongate Brewery was built in 1828, and was in operation until 1961. The site is now occupied by a development belonging to the University of Edinburgh.


Map of 1894 showing the Canongate Brewery
Map of 1894 showing the Canongate Brewery
© National Library of Scotland, 2016


We hold a number of images of items related to John Aitchison & Co Ltd, but would welcome any other information or images related to the company.

Other Sources of information


The University of Glasgow Archive Services holds papers in its Scottish Brewing Archive from 1895-1961 (Ref : JA)

Books and periodicals

Hundey, I. Privileged Scot, Canadian invader, and Australian convict: the story of James Milne Aitchison. Australian Canadian Studies, 29(1-2), 2011, pp.49-81.