Greene King - Our History

Our history

In the business for over two centuries

We’ve been running pubs and brewing award-winning beer from our base in Bury St. Edmunds since the company was founded in 1799, so it’s no wonder we’ve got a few stories to tell!  

Our history includes uncovered treasures – like the time we discovered a 75-year-old ale, brewed for Edward VII’s coronation, that never went on sale. Or, if you visit us down in Bury St Edmunds, you might also lay ears on a metal mouthpiece and tube that connects the boardroom to the secretary’s office in the form of a very primitive telephone. 

Have a flick through our gallery to discover the history behind today’s Greene King.

Our history | 1799 - 1899

Greene King was founded in 1799 by Benjamin Greene, who manages the business for 37 years before passing it on to his son, Edward. Our first 100 years also sees our first acquisition – from Greene’s Brewery to Greene, King and Sons. It’s important to acknowledge that after founding the brewery, Benjamin went on to own cane sugar plantations in the West Indies, where he enslaved people and used their labour. Even in the 1800s, his views on slavery were deeply unpopular - he wrote columns in his own newspaper in Bury St Edmunds, criticising abolitionists. Following his father’s departure, Edward Greene grew the business to the point that he merged operations with business rival, Frederick King, and Greene King started to become more recognisable as the brewery we see today.

Greene King - Our History - 1799


19-year-old Benjamin Greene moves to Bury St Edmunds and establishes his own brewing business.

Greene King - Our History - 1806


Greene partners with William Buck, a yarn-maker looking to secure his retirement with a strong investment. Together, they buy the 100-year-old Wright’s Brewery.

Greene King - Our History - 1836


Benjamin passes the business down to his son, Edward, who grows the business, doubling the number of employees to 50 and producing 40,000 barrels a year by 1870.

Greene King - Our History - 1868


Frederick King – that's right, Greene and King are two separate people – acquires the Maulkin’s Maltings in Bury St Edmunds and renames it to St Edmunds Brewery.

Greene King - Our History - 1870s


Edward Greene understands the importance of looking after his employees. He introduces housing benefits and pension schemes, which are practically unheard of elsewhere.

Greene King - Our History - 1887


Frederick joins forces with Edward to form Greene, King and Sons – ending their local rivalry. Together, they establish a regional reputation for producing old ale and bitter.

Greene King - Our History - 1891


Almost 60 years after taking over the business, Edward Greene sadly dies aged 75.

OUR HISTORY | 1900 - 1969

By the time the two World Wars had ended, Greene King had acquired Rayment’s Brewery and opened a new brewhouse. By the 1960s, we’d built a new bottling store and modernised our head office - and established ourselves as a major player in the brewing and pub industry.

Greene King - Our History - 1961


Greene King buys the freehold to the Theatre Royal Bury St Edmunds. Built in 1819, it remains the UK’s only surviving Regency playhouse. Sadly, it closes to the public in 1925 due to fierce competition from two new cinemas, and was used as barrel storage for a number of years.

Greene King - Our History - 1938


We open our new brewhouse to keep up with the demands of Allied servicemen based in East Anglia. We’re proud to say we’re still using it today! 

Greene King - Our History - 1940s


Many women enter the workforce to take the place of men stationed abroad. At Greene King, they form a huge part of our bottling team during WW2.

Greene King - Our History - 1960s


We modernise our logistics, introducing metal casks, beer cans and even forklift trucks into the business. In 1965, the local community raises over £37,000 to restore and reopen The Theatre Royal Bury St Edmunds.

Our History | 1970 - 1999

The century concludes with Greene King adopting Old Speckled Hen, which would go on to become Great Britain's number one premium ale brand.

Theatre Royal Bury St Edmunds


We lease the Theatre Royal Bury St Edmunds, a Grade I listed building, to the National Trust. To this day, it’s the only working theatre operated by the Trust!

Greene King - Our History - 1979


The Morland Brewery brews a special commemorative beer to mark the 50th anniversary of the MG car factory in Abingdon. It’s affectionately named after an old MG car used as a factory runaround, ‘the owld speckled un’ – which later becomes our beloved Old Speckled Hen!

Greene King - Our History - 1984


Greene King welcomes the start of all-day opening as the 1988 Licensing Act extended permissible opening hours. Pubs could open from 11am to 11pm heralding the growth of pub lunches and food sales.

Greene King - Our History - 1996


Here starts a 20-year period of growth through a number of acquisitions. With Magic Pub Company on board, we welcome Hungry Horse to the Greene King family.

Greene King - Our History - 1999


We gain more than 500 pubs by acquiring Marston’s southern estate, as well as Morland. The move also allows us to bring Old Speckled Hen & Ruddles into our beer range!

our history | 2000 - 2019

Greene King’s portfolio continues to increase following a number of acquisitions, including Spirit Pub Company, allowing us to grow even further. In 2011, we launch an apprenticeship programme designed to invest in our team members.

Greene King - Our History - 2001


The early Noughties sees over 100 new pubs via Old English Inns, along with 432 sites from Laurel Pub Company. We secure The Belhaven Group Plc, one of Scotland’s oldest regional breweries, as well as Essex’s T D Ridley & Sons Ltd. 2006 sees us welcome Nottinghamshire’s Hardys & Hansons, and 2007 brings the addition of Loch Fyne.

Greene King - Our History - 2004


We buy 60 high-quality retail sites from Cloverleaf, RealPubs and the Capital Pub Company.

Greene King - Our History - 2005


Time for some milestones! We open our 200th Hungry Horse site – the Royal Horse in Leamington Spa, and our 1,000th Retail site opens – The Walls End in North Tyneside.

Greene King - Our History - 2006


We acquire Spirit Pub Company and bring more great brands into our portfolio – including Chef & Brewer, Flaming Grill, Wacky Warehouse, Taylor Walker & Good Night Inns.

Greene King - Our History - 2007


Greene King sets out an environmental promise as we pledge to reach Zero Waste to Landfill by 2020. We succeed becoming the first pub to achieve the Carbon Trust's Zero Waste to Landfill Standard.

Brand Level - 2018 - Our History - Square - 1500 x 1500.jpg


We celebrate supporting 10,000 apprentices since our apprenticeship programme launched in 2011 – just seven years ago.

Brand Level - 2019 - Our History - Square - 1500 x 1500.jpg


Greene King is bought by CK Asset Holdings in a deal worth £4.6bn. Our 17th Head Brewer, Ross O’Hara, is appointed. In 2018, he became the world’s youngest Master Brewer, completing the Institute of Brewing and Distilling course alongside his role at Greene King.   Belhaven Brewery celebrates its 300th birthday.

our history | 2020 - present

Greene King continues to go from strength to strength and is now the country’s leading pub retailer and brewer, with over 3,100 pubs, restaurants and hotels across England, Wales and Scotland. We’re proud of the commitments we’ve made to our people and community.

Greene King - Our History - 2011


We support our team members, Pub Partners and communities throughout Covid-19 lockdowns and restrictions. Takeaway and delivery, pop-up shops, community support and even virtual quizzes help bring the community together despite physical distance.

Greene King - Our History - 2013


Pubs reopen following Covid-19 restrictions. We launch our Calling Time on Racism manifesto, pledging to embody antiracist values across the company, in part by welcoming more diverse talent across the company, reviewing our recruiting practices and embedding everyday inclusion into our company culture. Greene King partners with the Slave-Free Alliance to help end modern-day slavery. We also pledge £100,000 funding for grassroots sports with our new ‘Proud to Pitch In’ grants scheme.

Brand Level - 2022 - Our History - Square - 1500 x 1500.jpg


Greene King expand into the craft beer market with two new premium beers: Flint Eye and Level Head with more to come in the future. We add ESG as a core strategy driver in a commitment to our environmental, social and governance goals, following our pledge to be carbon net zero by 2040. We also celebrate an incredible 10-year charity partnership with Macmillan Cancer Support, having raised £14 million over the decade.

Brand Level - 2023 - Our History - Square - 1500 x 1500.jpg


We brew a Coronation Ale for King Charles III’s coronation in – which is actually the third Coronation ale brewed by Greene King! The global body, the Science Based Targets Initiative, approves Greene King’s reduction targets: to reduce absolute scope 1, 2 and 3 greenhouse gas emissions by 50% by 2030.

Two cans of Hazy Day and Prior Life


In February we launched Hazy Day, a fruity IPA (4.3% ABV) and Prior Life, an All Day IPA (3.4% ABV). These beers continue to play homage to our 200 years of brewing heritage and the historical myths and legends of Bury St Edmunds.