James Aitken and Co

James and Lauchlan Aitken founded James Aitken & Co around 1823, to carry on the business established at the Falkirk Brewery by their grandfather John Aitken.

When James died in 1851 Lauchlan continued in the business as sole partner until his own death in 1862. In his will he left the business to his nephews John Aitken and William Hardie, stating that "the interest in the business shall be made in the proportions of seven twelfths to the said John Aitken, and five twelfths to the said William Hardie".

In 1830 the company took out a patent for a carbonic acid gas plant for the preservation of beer in a bottle, at time when bottled beer was relatively unknown.  This innovation was one of the contributing factors towards establishing a significant business for its beer elsewhere in Scotland and the north of England, and eventually in overseas markets as widespread as Cuba, Burma and Australia. The reputation of its beer was underlined by awards at the Sydney (1879), Melbourne (1880), Calcutta (1884), Adelaide (1887), Melbourne (1888) and Brisbane (1897) Exhibitions.

The company was converted into a limited liability company - James Aitken & Co (Falkirk) Ltd -  in 1900.

The company's trademark was a large letter 'A', and it also used the following brands: Lifebelt, Nun Nicer, and Peacock.

Amongst the beers that were brewed by the company were: 90/- Pale Ale, 90/- Sparkling Ale, 120/- Pale Ale, Brown Stout, Light Pale Ale, Mild Ale, Oatmeal Stout, Pale Ale, Sparkling Ale, Strong Ale, Table Beer, and Three Guinea Ale.

Trademark of James Aitken & Co
Trademark of James Aitken & Co
© Forbes Gibb, 2016

Location: Falkirk

Active: 1823 - 1900

Status: Converted

Breweries and other buildings

The original Falkirk Brewery was located between the High Street and what is now Newmarket Street, to the west of Lint Riggs, and consisted of a group of buildings around a central courtyard. The site is now mainly occupied by a modern commercial complex.  

The company extended the brewing complex to the north of Newmarket Street and this eventually became the sole place of operations when the Falkirk Brewery was rebuilt between 1898 and 1900. The site was cleared in the 1970s and is now occupied by a supermarket.

The company also acquired the former Mains Distillery in Linlithgow in 1855, which it repurposed as the Mains Maltings.


Map of 1860 showing the layout of the new Falkirk Brewery
Map of 1860 showing the layout of the new Falkirk Brewery
© National Library of Scotland, 2016


We have a number of images related to James Aitken & Co, but would welcome any other information or images linked to the company.

Other Sources of information

Books and periodicals

Barnard, A. Messrs. James Aitken & Co, Falkirk Brewery, Fakirk. In: Noted breweries of Great Britain and Ireland. London: J. Causton, 1889. Vol. 2, pp.184-199.

Dean, P. The labels of Jas Aitken & Co, Falkirk. Annual Journal of the Scottish Brewing Archive, 2003, 4, pp.41-43.

Donnachie, I. A history of the brewing industry in Scotland. Edinburgh: John Donald Publishers, 1979.

Gibb, F. The brewers and breweries of Stirlingshire. Stirling: Lomax Press, 2009.

James Aitken & Co. (Falkirk) Ltd. 200 years of progress. Falkirk: James Aitken & Co. (Falkirk) Ltd., 1940.