Beers Brewed at Craigwell Brewery

Beers Brewed at Craigwell Brewery

Got an e-mail this morning from Iain Russell the Scottish Brewing Archivist at Glasgow University. He’s going to look out some information about Craigwell Brewery, but he says:

We have some black and white photos of the brewery in the archive, and a short (1 and a wee bit pages!) history of the firm post 1923 which mentions that the brewery produced Heavy Bitter Ale, Scotch Stout, Triple Ale, Unique Scotch Ale and a strong ale called Gay Gordon. I believe we have some old bottles and labels in the archive. I’ll have a look for them when I’m back on SBA duties at the end of next week, and let you know what we have.

How fantastic! Can’t wait to see the labels and old photographs. Search for “Unique Scotch Ale” provides some information on “The Brewer’s Apprentice Website” which shows one Tom Logan is currently brewing:

Logan’s Scotch Ale

This unique Scotch Ale was created by Tom Logan, an Brewer’s employee and experienced home brewer. We used peated malt and Edinburgh Yeast to achieve this traditional flavor. This one is receiving rave reviews. Price: $190.00


in New Jersey, USA! Wonder if he’d be interested to know that there used to be a beer brewed called “Unique Scotch Ale”? What an interesting concept – a micro-brewery where enthusiasts gather to brew their own ale….

And here’s something about ‘Triple Ale‘ – how it’s made.

Scotch Stout – being brewed in Santa Maria, California even now! Wow, this whole brewing thing is quite a hobby in the USA.


There’s an album of labels for beers brewed at the Gordon & Blair Brewery on the Scottish Brewing Archive Facebook page.

Including this one – for the Coronation in 1953:

Beers brewed at Craigwell Brewery

Coronation Ale from Gordon & Blair

Updated: 2017

History of Craigwell Brewery – Gordon & Blair/ John Blair

Doing a search on the internet of  ‘Craigwell Brewery’ turns up an article in the Scottish Brewing archive, which can be accessed here:

John Blair is quoted as the builder of the Craigwell Brewery in 1822.

Update: 2013 – Recently historians have been running tours of the Canongate Breweries – see this article for more.

Old Brewery Garden, Nether Craigwell, Calton Road, Edinburgh EH8 8DR

Dave Fiddimore, who has lived at Nether Craigwell since the conversion to residential properties in 1987, was on duty on the weekend of 5 May 2007 at the entrance to the Garden of Nether Craigwell which was open to the public at the ‘Open Gardens Day’ – Organised by the Cockburn Association in partnership with Edinburgh World Heritage.

Quoting from the flyer which Dave was handing out:

“Welcome to our wild garden behind a development of flats and houses inside the original superstructure of the Victorian Craigwell Brewery, once one of fourteen in a square mile. The name Craigwell was recorded for the area in 1647, describing a section of The North Back of Canongate (now Calton Road) between Leith Wynd, and what is now the boundary wall of the cemetry. The square stone lip of the well (Nether Craigwell – The well beneath the cliff) can still be seen in our courtyard. The longest range of building was the bonded warehouse, and the brewery garden rose behind it on the flank of Calton Hill – accessed via a tunnel, and steps from the courtyard.

It was once a beautiful garden, with specimen trees (Eucalyptus, Fir, apple and Birch) many of which are still there. It had a pagoda-like summer house, where there is now a small patio to the South East, and a ‘folly’ cairn in the North West Corner. The grooves in the gound across the current greens track the original garden paths and flower beds.

What you have come to see are the views – The Craigs, Arthur’s Seat and the incomporable Edinburgh skyline to the South and West. Burns Monument on Regent Road to the North West, and looking over The New Calton Cemetery, the roofs of Holyrood Palace and Whitehorse Loan to the East. [The 1814 New Calton Cemetery is worth an hour of your time. You will find the ‘Lighthouse’ Stevensons there, along with a Polish count and a man killed in 1842 during the British retreat from Kabul – what goes around, comes around. Enter from Regent Road.]

The current owners keep the garden ‘wildish’. Its wild residents and visitors include the Blackbird and Thrush, 4 kinds of Tit (Blue, Coal, Great and Long-tailed), Sparrows, Dunnock, Green, Bull and Chaf-finch, Tree creepers, Sparrow hawk and Kestrel, Starlings, Magpies – an urban Fox, Stoat, Pipistrelle Bats, Grey Squirrels, Field mice…the Hedgehogs are coming (but not here yet) and last week I watched the early arrival of the first Swallows. Sit for a while if the sun is shining, and enjoy its peace as much as we do… and let us know if you have any comment or suggestion re this “Brewery Garden” open day.

[DF 27th April 2007]”

Searching Edinburgh Maps for Craigwell Brewery History

10 October 2007 – visited the Edinburgh Room at Edinburgh’s Central Library on George IV Bridge. Found a great collection of old maps of Edinburgh there, and searched through them for evidence of buildings on the site where Nether Craigwell now stands – EH8 8DR.

Notes made when consulting “An Atlas of Old Edinburgh” in the Edinburgh Room

(subsequent research 1544 Gordon of Rothiemay’s Map)

1647 – Map of Reverend James Gordon

  • Shows “Water Port” where “Watergate” is now at Holyrood.
  • Waverley Valley has stream running thr0ugh it – where Calton Road is now
  • Houses on the Canongate at the foot of the ‘Royal Mile’ have long gardens to the rear
  • Map shows Edinburgh Castle, Holyrood, St Giles, Greyfriars Kirk, Heriots (now school)
  • Calton Hill is called ‘North Craigs’ or ‘Neil’s Craigs’
  • Notes on this map state that it was first published in 1690 in “Theatrum Praecipuarum Totius Europae Urbium” c. 1690 by F de Wit

1742 Map of Edinburgh

  • show ‘Caltoun Crags’ and ‘Caltoun Burying Place’ – now Old Calton Cemetery
  • Calton Road is named ‘Back of Canongate’
  • in this map there are buildings at the foot of Abbeyhill and some on the north side of the North Back of Canongate
  • there appears to be a structure on the site of what will become Nether Craigwell – it looks like a well
  • Map refers to “76 (closes) in the Canongate”

1763 – John Laurie’s Map of Edinburgh

  • shows ‘Calton Hill’ (rather than Caltoun)

1780 – John Ainslie’s Map

  • shows two buildings opposite the bottom of Campbell’s Close and Reid’s Yard, with trees illustrated on the hill behind them
  • closes numbered at the foot of the Canongate between Reids Yard (25) and White Horse Close (34) are:-

(25) Reid’s Yard
(26) Campbell’s Close
(27) Sommerville’s Close
(28) Malloch’s Close
(29) Callendar’s Close
(30) Forsyth’s Close
(31) Galloway’s Close
(32) Ramsay’s Close
(33) Duncan’s Close
(34) White Horse Close

1778 Map which incorporates the design forEdinburgh’s New Town shows three built structures in the region of Nether Craigwell’s site – with the site for the New Calton Burial Ground being marked on the plan

(1816 Map in NLS shows proposal for the Edinburgh – Glasgow Canal running at right angles to the foot of the Canongate and North Back of Canongate – given the steepness of this area it’s no wonder the canal scheme was never realised! See this link to view the map.)

1817 Map shows “Queensbury House Barracks” – this is now part of the Scottish Parliament

1820 Map has the Calton New Burying Ground clearly marked and you can see the ‘North Back of Canongate’ with the Craigwell Buildings on it – the Burns Monument also now appears on this map

1829 – The Murderer William Hare escapes from Calton Jail

(Researching the subject subsequently on the internet brought up the Post Office Map of 1830/31, which has a good image where the buildings are visible, which can be found on the Edinburgh Photo Website)

1823 – Brown’s Map shows the brewery buildings under construction

1833 – Letter from Condemned Cell in Calton Jail

1840 – Post Office Map – need to take a further look at this as the copy in the book I was consulting had the Brewery site on a join in the pages

1842 – Queen Victoria Visits Scotland

(Subsequent research found an 1844 Map on the Edinburgh Photo Website: Link)

(Subsequent research found an 1870 Map on the Edinburgh Photo Website: Link – of interest here is that it looks like a Gas Tank is visible diagonally opposite the Brewery – this is the first sight of the Gas Works which was said to have polluted the face of the Burns Monuments, causing the artifacts stored therein to be removed to the National Gallery)

1894 – 1896 Ordnance Survey Maps first produced – points to note around Calton Hill:

  • “Her Majesty’s Prison” next to the Calton Old Burial Ground
  • Craigwell Brewery is marked, along with the Calton Hill Brewery next to it
  • The Burns Monument is clearly marked

Further research in the Edinburgh Room showed some sketches of 1818 by James Skene depicting areas around Calton Road

  • (12)pYDA2302 (1818) – Low Calton – ECL 223010.TIF
  • (1818) – Low Calton – ECL 223013.TIF
  • (1818) – Tower of the New Jail from the Low Calton ECL 223014.TIF

Also found a couple of books which might prove fruitful for further research:-

  1. E. Patricia Dennison (2005) – Holyrood and Canongate – A Thousand Years of History published by Birlinn (
  2. Ann Mitchell (1993) – The People of Calton Hill – published by Mercat Press

In (1) there is a quote on p134 “On 5 March 1870 The Scottish Standard reported that “the south back of the Canongate of Edinburgh is more famous for breweries than any street in the United Kingdom”

I also found a photograph in one of these books (?) of Rock House, Calton Hill which was the Home of Archibald Burns Photographer – photographed by Alexander Burns in 1874 – maybe it would be worth checking to see if any of his photographs feature the Brewery?

Susan McNaughton
11 October 2007

Researching history of Craigwell Cottage

Craigwell Cottage at 16 Nether Craigwell, Edinburgh is one of 22 dwellinghouses which were formed when old industrial buildings were converted to housing in 1987.

On 26 April 2007 Sandcastle Holidays (Scotland) Ltd purchased the cottage at 16 Nether Craigwell with the intention of using it for holiday letting. Susan McNaughton of Sandcastle Holidays had spotted the property being marketed by Warners when looking for a potential property which would be ideal for self-catering holiday makers to spend a vacation in Edinburgh.

Whilst considering the purchase of the property, and breaking down the resistance of her fellow director to the purchase, Susan happened upon a photograph which was stored on the SCRAN Archive, showing Nick Groves-Raines standing at Nether Craigwell. Other photographs of the property at 65 Calton Road, Edinburgh were featured on the SCRAN Archive:-

1. Craigwell Brewery by Charles McKean
2. Craigwell Brewery, Calton Road, Edinburgh
3. Craigwell Brewery, Calton Road, Edinburgh – although the photograph shows the buildings opposite Nether Craigwell at Campbell’s Close.
4. Former Craigwell Brewery, No 65 Calton Road, Edinburgh
5. Former Craigwell Brewery, No 65 Calton Road, Edinburgh
6. Former Craigwell Brewery, No 65 Calton Road, Edinburgh – again showing the building at Campbell’s Close.
7. Nick Groves at former Craigwell Brewery, 1987
8. Nick Groves at former Craigwell Brewery, 1987
9. Balmoral Brewery Maltings, No 36 Calton Road, Edinburgh – photo is small, but appears to show brewery buildings photographed from somewhere on the side of Calton Hill.

The two photos of Nick Groves suggested to Susan that she should ‘Google’ Nick Groves to see what she could find – and this proved a fruitful search! Nick Groves-Raines was still practising in Edinburgh. He is an award winning architect and designed the Traverse Theatre in Edinburgh, amongst many other successful projects.

His practice – Groves Raines Architects had a website with contact details, so Susan got in touch with a very helpful young lady in his offices, Nicky Jowett, who searched the Groves Raines Archives for photographs of the project. When these had been located, Susan went to the offices of Groves Raines in Liberton and borrowed the photographs, scanning them to make digital images. I think the best place to put these images is on a Picasa Album so that if you are interested you may view them as a slide show.

Here’s the show: