The Shepherd Neame story began in 1698 when
Capt. Richard Marsh of the Cinque Ports Militia, a mayor of Faversham,
founded a brewery over an artesian well in the town.
At that time, the town of Faversham was a bustling port and already
enjoyed a brewing tradition dating back to the 12th century when King
Stephen founded a Benedictine abbey just yards from the present brewery
site. It didn't take the Cluniac monks long to discover that Faversham's
pure spring water could be combined with locally-grown malting barley to
produce a particularly fine ale.
Records indicate that Richard Marsh was a brewer of some size, far removed
from the innkeepers of the town who brewed on their premises.
When Marsh died around 1727 the brewery,
which by this time included its own maltings, passed to his widow Mary and
eventually to their daughter, Sylvester, who managed the business until
her death aged just 24.
In 1741 the brewery was acquired by Samuel
Shepherd, a member of a prominent land owning family and already active
for some years in Faversham as a maltster.
With a growing population to serve, Faversham was becoming an increasingly
important brewing town when Samuel Shepherd was joined in the business by
his sons Julius and John. It was at this stage that the family began
buying pubs, several of which are still owned by the company today.
Julius Shepherd became a key figure in the
growth and modernization of the brewery.
In 1789, he bought a steam engine from
Boulton & Watt - the first to be installed in any brewery outside
London. It revolutionized the production: grinding malt and pumping water,
wort and beer around the brewery - work previously done by horses.
As a result, the company's name was proudly refashioned as the Faversham
Julius Shepherd was joined in partnership
by his sons, Charles and Henry, until 1819 when the business was left
solely to Henry.
As various partners joined the firm, so the
name changed to Shepherd & Hilton, Shepherd & Mares and, finally,
when John Mares died and 28-year-old Percy Beale Neame joined the
partnership in 1864, Shepherd Neame.
By 1877 Percy Beale Neame (pictured left) was in sole control and
over the next 10 years he was joined by his eldest son Harry and his
brothers Arthur and Alick.
Young Harry had trained as a brewer; Arthur
established a bottling department; and Alick concentrated on the wines and
spirits side of the business.
It was in the late 19th century that the
Court Street offices were extended into the handsome hop-fringed frontage
that stands today. And the acquisition of pubs accelerated so that by the
time of Percy Beale Neame's death in 1913, the brewery owned 85 tied
houses. The following year, Shepherd Neame became a private limited
company in which all of Percy's 10 children became shareholders.
When Percy died he had laid the foundations of today's successful brewing
concern. Harry continued to run the business on his own until 1925 when he
was joined by his son Jasper and six years later by his younger son
Jasper Neame became managing director in
1940 and chairman the following year - with Laurie as his hard-working
deputy, who took over as sole managing director in 1961 when Jasper died.
Under the leadership of Jasper and Laurie
Neame in the mid-1950s, the company had bought Mason's Brewery in
Maidstone together with its 50 tied pubs and also purchased historic Queen
Court Farm at Ospringe to grow its own hops.
Shepherd Neame realized the need to acquire more tied outlets for its
beers soon after the war. At the end of the 1940s, the company's freehold
properties were valued at £460,000; following the Mason's purchase this
rose to £1 million.
The Seventies saw another 65 houses added
to the estate and another 46 were bought in the next decade. In 1986 the
brewery opened the first three of its Invicta Country Inns with their
excellent food and reasonably priced, comfortable accommodation.
At the outset of the 1990s, the company
owned 264 pubs of which 206 were tenanted. A major round of acquisitions
in the past eight years has seen this rise to 366.
Current chairman, Jasper's son Robert (Bobby - pictured left),
joined the company in 1956 and was followed three years later by his
younger brother Rex, who managed Queen Court Farm until 1967.
Laurie's eldest son, Colin, also arrived in
1959 to help his father in the bottled beer department and when Bobby
Neame was appointed marketing director in 1967, Colin assumed the role of
Colin left the company in 1984 after 25
years service but in 1972 Laurie's second son, Stuart, had joined the
company after working for five years with IBM.
Stuart started as company secretary and is
currently vice-chairman. Then in 1991, Bobby's barrister son Jonathan
arrived and now sits on the Board as trade director.
So three centuries after its foundation,
Shepherd Neame remains an independent family brewer committed to its core
activities of brewing and pub retailing.
And as Shepherd Neame celebrates its 300th anniversary and we all approach
the turn of the millennium, no brewer is doing more to ensure that Kent's
unparalleled brewing heritage survives and flourishes for generations to
Why not visit
our own website at www.shepherd-neame.co.uk