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Kent Breweries

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Shepherd Neame

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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.

Faversham Brewery Painting 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.

Court Street c.1617 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.

Faversham Court Street 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.

Faversham 1830 As a result, the company's name was proudly refashioned as the Faversham Steam Brewery.

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.

Percy Beale 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.

Brewery HQ c.1900 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 Laurie.

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 Delivery Van 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.

Robert Neame 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 production director.

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.

1698 - 1998 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 come.

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