Members of the Barclay family continued to be involved in the brewery’s management into the 20th century. A letter written in 1799 by David Barclay to his son-in-law Richard Gurney, now held in the Barclays archive, questioned the wisdom of finding a position in the business for his grandson, Hudson Gurney. He writes that he does not want “my dear Grandson… placed so young in a situation dangerous to youth”.
In 1832, a fire at the brewery caused £40,000 worth of damage, destroying a number of buildings and resulting in extensive rebuilding. The new brewery attracted international interest and a string of famous visitors, including Napoleon Bonaparte, the German statesman Otto von Bismarck and the Italian general Giuseppe Garibaldi. The writer Samuel Johnson, better known as Dr Johnson, had his own room at the brewery, and his favourite chair was kept in the boardroom for some time after his death.
In one notorious incident, the Austrian General Julius Jacob von Haynau - known as “the hangman” for his brutal suppression of uprisings in Italy and Hungary – toured the London brewery in 1850. News of his presence spread, and a crowd of local residents gathered, booing and heckling him, ripping his clothes and even flogging him with brooms. An eyewitness recalled: “Nearly all the labourers and draymen ran out with brooms and dirt, shouting ‘Down with the Austrian butcher’ and other epithets of rather an alarming nature to the marshal.”