Watney Combe & Reid

London brewery business

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Watney Combe & Reid
PredecessorThe Stag Brewery
SuccessorWatney Mann
HeadquartersLondon, United Kingdom

Watney Combe & Reid was a leading brewery 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 Watney's Red Barrel.[1]


Watney's 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]

Watney's Red Barrel key fob

Watney Mann was formed in 1958 with the merger of Watney, Combe, Reid & Co. Ltd with Mann, Crossman & Paulin Ltd.[6]

When the Stag Brewery in Victoria was demolished in 1959 the name was transferred to Mortlake Brewery.[7]

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.[8]

Watney's Red Barrel

Watney's Red Barrel was a bitter which sold highly in the United Kingdom during the 1960s and 1970s.[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.[9] It was renamed "Red" in 1971.[10]

A 3.9% abv pale lager called Watney's Red Barrel was sold by Sleeman Breweries until 1997[11] and a 6.0% beer with the same name is still brewed by Alken-Maes.[12]

In Monty Python's "Travel Agent Sketch", Eric Idle's character, Mr. Smoketoomuch, mentions Watney's Red Barrel many times in his rambling tirade about cheap holiday packages.[13]


For many years, Watney's advertised with the strapline "What we want is Watney's".[14]

The company sponsored the Watney Cup association football tournament from 1970 to 1973.[15]

A mirror advertising Watney's London Ale can be seen over the head of a bed at the beginning of the 1974 hijack thriller Panic on the 5:22.[16]


  1. ^ Dougherty, Philip H (23 October 1986). "Biederman Is Named For Watney Red Barrel". The New York Times. Retrieved 17 December 2018.
  2. ^ a b c "Industries: Brewing". british-history.ac.uk.
  3. ^ "Watney Combe Reid & Co Ltd records". The National Archives (United Kingdom). Retrieved 12 March 2019.
  4. ^ a b 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. ^ a b "Shut up about Barclay Perkins". blogspot.co.uk. 16 August 2008. Retrieved 28 February 2014.
  6. ^ "Watney, Combe, Reid & Co. Ltd and Watney Mann Ltd". National Archives. Retrieved 20 August 2020.
  7. ^ The Brewing Industry: A Guide to Historical Records, 1990, Richmond L. and Turton A. (eds.), p.263
  8. ^ "Watney Mann Ltd". quaffale.org.uk.
  9. ^ a b "Watneys Red Barrel". RetroWow. Retrieved 25 June 2008.
  10. ^ "Brewing Watney's Red (not Red Barrel), 1971". Boak and Bailey. Retrieved 7 January 2019.
  11. ^ "Watneys Red Barrel from Sleeman Brewing & Malting Co. (Sapporo) – Ratebeer". ratebeer.com. Retrieved 13 July 2009.
  12. ^ "List of Belgian beers". Eupedia. Retrieved 27 May 2019.
  13. ^ "Monty Python – Travel Agent Sketch". Retrieved 5 May 2017.
  14. ^ "Advertising Slogan Hall of Fame". AdSlogans.co.uk. Retrieved 28 February 2014.
  15. ^ Ballard, John; Suff, Paul (1999). World Soccer The Dictionary Of Football. Boxtree Ltd. p. 635. ISBN 0-7522-2434-4.
  16. ^ Panic on the 5:22, written by Eugene Price and directed by Harvey Hart. It was produced by Quinn Martin, Anthony Spinner and Russell Stoneham for Quinn Martin Productions, and first televised on Wednesday the 20 November 1974.

External links

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