"Shepherd Neame A Story that's been brewing for 300 years"
By Theo Barker - Professor Emeritus of Economic History
in the University of London
Published 1998 by Granta Editions
Purchase the book via www.amazon.co.uk
Visit the Shepherd Neame website at : www.shepherd-neame.co.uk
and condensed by Lucy Neame
Despite the present company name, the Shepherd and Neame
families managed the company together for only 13 years in its long
history, stretching back more than 300 years. The last member of the
Shepherd family ceased to be involved over a century ago, in 1877. The
first evidence of the Neame family's involvement is found, in the acceptance
of a bill by Percy Beale Neame, on 11 October 1864. He had become a
partner at the beginning of that month in a firm, which was known at
that time as Shepherd, Mares & Neame.
Henry Mares came from Maidstone and belonged to a well-to-do family
of jewelers. His father was the local mayor several times over. He attended
the Proprietory School with James Tassell.
upon leaving school served his articles with a solicitor in Hythe, before
becoming a partner in 1842 in a leading Faversham legal firm headed
by Julius Gaborian Shepherd, whose father, a solicitor in the town before
him, had gone into the Brewery. Tassell very wisely consolidated his
position in the firm of Shepherd & Tassell by marrying one of Julius
Gaborian's daughters, Charlottle Ann.
was James Tassell who came to the rescue of the Shepherd family's
brewery at a time of national financial crisis at the end of the
1840's. A non-Shepherd partner in the business had decided to
withdraw from it. Tassell persuaded his former school friend John
Mares, to leave Maidstone and put about 5,000 pounds (about a
quarter of a million pounds in modern money) into Faversham Brewery,
which then became known as Shepherd & Mares.
original Faversham Brewery dates back to 1698, and was founded
by Richard Marsh, who, like the Neames and the Shepherds,
came from a well-established East Kent family.
Marsh, like his forebears, was in the militia and came to be known
in Faversham as Captain Richard Marsh.
wrote an eyewitness account of James II's arrival in Faversham
in December 1688, which was printed as an appendix to Jacob's
History of Faversham. This would suggest that his connection with
Faversham Brewery may have occurred before 1698. The Faversham
Wardmote Books in fact show that Marsh was already paying the
largest brewer's fine in Faversham by 25 March 1678. A large common
brewery in Faversham was, therefore, in place at least 20 years
the term 'established in 1698' appeared in an advertisement for
Faversham Brewery in the Kentish Gazette of 11 April 1865, the
first time it appeared under the name of Shepherd Neame &
Company. This being 160 years after 1698, by which time any oral
tradition which may have survived, passed on from generation to
generation of the Marsh and Shepherd families to the Neames, had
probably become somewhat vague.
Richard Marsh died approx. 1727. The Faversham Brewery, including
a malting and dwelling house attached in Court Street West, passed
to his widow. His daughter, Silvester Marsh, sold the property
to Samuel Shepherd, who deeds tell us, was in possession by 12
October 1741. Silvester Marsh was buried at Faversham Parish Church
Shepherds were a family of substance, owning land at Great Mongeham
near Deal. Samuel Shepherd being involved in malting in Faversham
since before the 1730's and he served as mayor in 1733 as well
as on two subsequent occasions in later years.
with it's good underground sources of water, containing the appropriate
quantities of calcium needed for making good beer, would have
made it a source of ale for centuries. In the late 17th century,
it became an increasingly important source of beer, supplying
not only the growing little town, but also its hinterland to the
south where the population was also increasing. Faversham was
also the harbour, through which goods from London were forwarded
to Ashford. London was the country's main brewing center, however,
Faversham beer formed a part of this growing traffic, and the
Faversham Brewery acted as agent for some of these London beers.
Shepherd acquired his own pubs in Faversham as well as supplying customers
and various public houses owned by others direct from the Brewery. When
Julius Shepherd who had joined his father in the management in 1755,
inherited the business in 1770, it included 'The Castle' in West Street,
'The Three Tuns' in Tanner Street, 'The Ship' in the market place (acquired
from the Ruck family) and 'The Red Lion' adjoining the Brewery. To these,
Julius added 'The Royal Oak' in South Street, 'The Queen's Head', next
to 'The Hip', and 'The Mermaid' and 'The Anchor' in Abbey Street. So
started the process of acquiring tied outlets to make the Brewery's
output more readily available. In 1787 he bought land in Herne Hill,
which he farmed. He fathered a large family, part of which established
a legal practice in Faversham, which passed into the possession of the
Tassel family. Two of his sons joined him at the Brewery in due course.
Charles (born 1773) unfortunately died at the age of 29. Henry (1781-1862)
succeeded when Julius died in 1819. Henry Shepherd was long remembered
in Faversham for continuing to wear knee breeches long after they went
out of fashion. His son, also called Henry (1816-77) was the last of
the Shepherds to be actively involved in management.
purchased a "sun and planet" steam engine from Boulton &
Watt in 1789, making it the first of it's type to be installed in any
brewery outside of London, and was used to do the work of malt grinding
and pumping, previously done by horses. Making much of it's "modernization"
the Brewery then started referring to itself as "the Faversham
1802 Giles Hilton (1779 - 1867) married Julius Shepherd's niece, Mary.
Giles's father had been a founding partner in the Commercial Bank of
Faversham in 1796, and Giles succeeded him there. Now Giles became a
partner in the Brewery also, and the brewing business of Shepherd &
Hilton weathered the difficult years well enough.
later 1840's was a period when various businesses throughout the kingdom
got into financial difficulties and a number of them went bankrupt.
Faversham Brewery did not escape unscathed. On 24 November 1847 it had
to raise 3000 pounds by mortgaging a large part of its extensive property
to James Blaxland of Tonge in order to inject some cashflow. The loan
was not repaid until December 1863. Matters were not helped when Charles
J. Hilton decided to withdraw from the business.
death in 1862 of the elder ("knee breeches") Henry Shepherd
(the major shareholder), at the grand age of 82, was not unexpected.
Although his son, Henry, was not a businessman of the same caliber,
the firm's expansion continued satisfactorily with Mares at the
real driving force. Percy Beale Neame joined them in October 1864.
death on 28 December 1864 at the early age of 45 was a damaging
and quite unexpected blow. A codicil dated two days before his
death instructed his trustees to allow his share in the firm to
remain in the business for such time as the trustees thought fit.
The freehold value of the firm, now at last, Shepherd Neame, was
put at 52,225 pounds and the leasehold value at 3,974 pounds.
Good will was a mere 2,500 pounds. The value of the whole business
- brewery, public houses and stock - after all debts had been
taken into account calculated at 102,446 pounds, 1 shilling and
10 pence (over 5 million pounds in present day money). Henry Shepherd's
share was 17,810 pounds, the Mares trustees 18,378 pounds and
the Neame's 10,034 pounds.
the time that Percy became the dominant partner, the number of
outlets and acquisitions of property had grown immensely. A surviving
volume detailing the repairs and redecoration undertaken at each
pub, inn or store between 1871 and 1896 shows that during the
1870's alone, no fewer than 115 different licensed premises ,
sometimes with cottages and other buildings attached appear in
its list of holdings. By 1874 Shepherd Neame was running ten of
its own railway wagons on the London, Chatham and Dover Railway.
Each of them bought for 120 pounds and fitted with Chubb locks
as a safeguard against pilfering. Each wagon carried 30 barrels
of beer. In 1874 Shepherd Neame rented a shop in Victoria Station
for 40 pounds a year, which served as a West End office for a
Beale Neame at the age of 28, and with the weaker Shepherd partner,
confronted the great challenge of matching the Brewery's greater
capacity to the possibilities of the wider market. He was a worthy
successor to his brother-in-law who had brought him into management
in the first place. During his long life Faversham Brewery came
very definitely into Neame family ownership.
BIRTH OF SHEPHERD NEAME
1877 Percy Beale Neame became sole proprietor of the Faversham
1881 his eldest son, Harry Sidney Neame, after leaving
Harrow and having already received some training in brewing and
malting, joined the business.
1886 his second and third sons, Arthur and Alick Percy,
also joined their father.
The general manager of the business William Maile, died in 1885
and was succeeded by his son, who left in 1893. George Ernest
Boorman who had been working for the firm for some time succeeded
early 1870s were boom years in England as a whole. Shepherd Neame
seized every advantage of this favourable market and it's numerous
outlets with barrelage output at a nineteenth century peak. The
end of the 1870s however, saw the slump after the boom. It witnessed
a depression, the depth of which was second only to that of the
early 1840s where production had to be reined back. Although the
Brewery traded as Shepherd Neame & Co., it was still an unlimited
private business which could switch resources unannounced, and
at will because it was not yet a registered company. However,
Shepherd Neame continued to make money throughout the more highly
competitive last quarter of the nineteenth century by which time,
because of the general fall in prices, the pound sterling was
worth much more than it had been in 1870.
time also saw competition from it competitor over the road W.E. &
J. Rigden. Extensions to the Rigden brewery building were carried out
in 1874 and 1876. William Edward Rigden (1843 - 1904) and John Rigden
(1846 - 1910) were prominent figures in the area, being keen hunting
men who kept their horses near the brewery, behind Middle Row. The family
also had an interest in the Faversham Commercial Bank, which also added
to their local standing, making them a powerful rival to Shepherd Neame.
increasing competition in the trade, and growing influence from anti-drink
pressure groups, the Brewery continued to make money, with ceaseless
attempts to extend its market and the sale of products over the whole
range. It sent caskets of beer regularly to Colchester via London and
the Great Eastern Railway from 1873. Requests for supply came from further
afield, including Harrogate, which could not be met due to the complexity
of the return of empty casks, and the payment of overdue bills. Shepherd
Neame also developed a lucrative trade in yeast, although nothing of
this was mentioned before 1870, presumably because it was being sold
locally. But in 1870 a yeast press was installed. In September 1872
a London yeast merchant was told that the yeast was being sent dry at
32s 8d per cwt. delivered in boxes. In was dispatched by early train
from Faversham to reach London by 10.00 a.m. A list of six yeast merchants
in Camberwell, Peckham, Limehouse, Caledonian Road, up from King's Cross,
and Cornwall Road in West London appeared in subsequent issues of the
Baker's Record as agents for Shepherd Neame's compressed yeast. Yeast
supplies to London were later concentrated upon one large firm, Scroggie
in Caledonian Road.
1884 Shepherd Neame started to head its advertisements with a
copy of its trade mark. The firm sent selected newspapers a block
from which it could be reproduced. Readers were told of the strength
and sweetness of its compound yeast. The superior flavour was
achieved through using Malt and Hops only in its product. Readers
were also reminded that Shepherd Neame's 'celebrated East India
Pale Ales, Stout and Porter' were also guaranteed to be brewed
"only from malt and the best East Kent hops". A very
lucrative market for its yeast and spent grains developed with
the local farmers for cattle feed which always exceeded the brewery's
capacity to supply. The turnover from this rose slowly from 1551
pounds in 1866/7 to 1910 pounds in 1871/2. The sale of yeast to
bakers also had an immediate effect due to advertising with the
turnover rising to 3618 pounds in 1872/3.
Neame poured much of its profit back into the business, especially
in the 1890's. In 1896/97 the brewing plant was further expanded.
In 1896, 24 year old Alick Neame was given responsibility
for day to day bargaining for all wines and spirits ordered from
suppliers. He had to be vigilant in his awareness of the market
and had to make quick decisions at which price to buy. Alick Neame's
department was located in a building, which had previously been
erected in Mill Place. Three years later (1899) he took charge
of the bottling department, which was previously undertaken by
its Folkestone agent, Underwood, Penfold & Co., wine and spirit
In 1900, No.16 Court Street was altered to match No.17, making
a more impressive frontage to an extended head office.
1899 Harry Neame was in charge of the purchase of malt,
whilst his younger brothers, Alick and Arthur, were taking charge
of wine, spirits and bottling. He purchased malt from Spain, and
pale malt from California. After 1901 he purchased barley from
California too, taking this duty over from his father. The Rigden
brewery joined him in purchasing there, and so the two gained
a quantity advantage. Both firms were then active members of the
Kent Brewers' Union. In later years Harry Neame was to become
a quite outstanding chairman.
Neame died on 5 January 1913, and was buried at Ospringe Church.
He had lived at The Mount, Ospringe. A great lover of sport, he
had maintained The Mount Cricket Ground for use of the Faversham
Cricket Club. His death ended an era in which his branch of the
Neame family came to dominate the business, he himself having
acted as sole proprietor since 1877. He had fathered a large family
of ten children. Four sons (the youngest Leslie Guy, born 1892
did not enter the firm) and six daughters. All of them, daughters
as well as sons, now became shareholders in the private limited
company, Shepherd Neame Ltd. The Company was formally registered
on 1 November 1914 and held its first Board meeting on 16 November,
by which time WWI was in its early stages.
family suffered human losses, though not on active service.
Arthur Neame, a pre war officer in the Faversham Volunteers,
was recalled and took command of the Kent 2nd Heavy Battery,
stationed at Ightham near Sevenoaks. He was promoted to
the rank of major, but he caught pneumonia and died at Ightham
on 17th March 1916. His brother, Alick Neame, died at his
home, Shirley House, London Road, Faversham, on 4 July of
the same year, following an appendix operation.
post war years saw the business continue to flourish. The
year 1921/2 had been a most successful one, returning a
dividend of 30% (not the chairman's proposed 25%).
In 1923 Mrs. Marion Churchward, the eldest of Percy Neame's
daughters, presented the company with an antique English
Wall Clock for use in the boardroom, on behalf of her herself
and her five sisters. They had good reason to celebrate
the way that Shepherd Neame Ltd. had managed to weather,
surprisingly profitably, the transition to peacetime.
interwar years in Britain as a whole were seen as a period of dislocation
and difficulty. Kent, however, together with the other home counties,
fared better than the rest of the kingdom. Shepherd Neame, ably led
by Harry Neame and supported on the Board from November 1925 by his
elder son, Jasper Beale Neame (Jasper), and from April 1931 by his younger
son Laurence Beale Neame (Laurie), continued to do well, helped by the
surge in patriotism.
1933, Harry Neame was able to report that the company used only Kent
hops and 75% of its malt was made from English barley, using English
1925 most of the hops had, in fact, been bought from Lewis Finn who
had married Madeleine, one of Percy Neame's six daughters, and farmed
at Queen Court, Ospringe. An increase in profits was achieved, and the
late 1920's saw a return of 45% on debentures and ordinaries, rising
to 50% between 1929/30 and 1933/34 and 55% between 1934/35 and 1937/38,
during which time an additional 1% was added to the 5% cumulative preference
shares. Prosperity ensured not only the survival of the independent
family business, but also the better conditions and prospects for everyone,
from the chairman to the latest recruit - and for Faversham as a town
as well as for other places where Shephed Neame traded.
WWII broke out, Harry Neame was already 70 years old. Shepherd Neame
was lucky that his two sons, Jasper, and Laurie were still young enough
to stand the pace, yet experienced enough in management to provide leadership
in the business. By 1940, 75 people were already away in the forces.
Others were recruited to take their place, women as well as men.
8 Feb 1940 Jasper Neame took over as managing director
from his father Harry. In 1941 he also became chairman of the
Neame became vice chairman and deputy managing director.
Neame continued to take an interest in Brewery matters and in
the social life of Faverham until his death on 24 February 1947,
after celebrating his 78th birthday.
1945. Shepherd Neame was confronted with an exhausted labour force,
declining sales and an estate in need of a great deal of investment.
The dilemma now being, in striking the balance, between investing
in plant equipment, and the need to modernize and raise the profile
of the estate. During the war the only improvement was the installation
of a new cooling plant for yeast. Labour problems persisted throughout
the 1940s, with again, the only improvement being, the installation
of an electric generator to keep the beer-bottling and cask-washing
plants in operation. However, profits continued at an average
of 55% during this period. On 12 September 1951, Jasper and Laurie
Neame were appointed as joint managing directors for 10 years,
a time in which Shepherd Neame continued to increase its acquisition
of licensed premises.
WWII, pubs were still largely the preserve of working men seeking a
drink and a chat. During the 1950s, 1960s and 1970s, however, pubs were
developed to incorporate more entertainment and a wider range of products.
At the start of the 1960s a further social change was taking place with
the increased ownership and use of the motor car. Soon after that, the
Company began building car parks at all country pubs wherever possible
to accommodate the surge of its weekend visitors.
postwar years saw an increasingly greater demand for bottled beer. There
was more profit to be made from bottled beers than draught beer. In
the late 1930s the Company invested large sums in replacing hand bottling
by a simple form of machine filling. By 1959 bottling took nearly 30%
of Shepherd Neame's output. A subsequent expansion to its bottling plant
was completed in 1967.
1960s were definitely changing times. The public taste for beer and
lager was becoming a major part of the product range that had to be
offered. In 1968 Shepherd Neame took up a contract to bottle Carlsberg
lager for 5 years. An additional benefit was the introduction of Hurlimann
lager which guaranteed the sale of 400 barrels to the Grasshopper at
Westerham, recently purchased by Hurlimann. This arrangement led to
an amicable and lasting alliance between the two companies, which allowed
Shepherd Neame to export its Abbey Ale to 2,500 customers served by
Hurlimann, mainly in Zurich, Switzerland.
1959 the company noticed that competition from the introduction
of Keg beer was damaging its free trade sales. Shepherd Neame
was one of the first brewers to experiment with this introduction,
despite the risk.
The chairman's son Robert Harry Beale Neame (Bobby), was
allocated 1,000 pounds to set up a plant and buy kegs for this
two, 20 barrel tanks from Mr. Roberts of Tottenham, and negotiating
the deal in a Steptoe & Son type yard at the back of the Tottenham
Hotspur Football Club, they sealed it with a meal of greasy lamb
chops on a tablecloth of old newspapers. Despite initial problems
of quality control that produced variable results, the new keg
beer proved popular, especially with young drinkers. Demand forced
the company to install an automatic keg washing and racking machine
investment in farming to ensure a reliable supply of hops, through
its 'Queen Court' farm, and later 'Twitham Court Farm' at Ash,
with the hope of selling the surplus in good years, proved to
be less successful. This all being well and good when the harvest
was good, but when losses were incurred, it was decided that Farming
was for farmers, not brewers.
September 1959 Arthur Rex Beale Neame (Rex) took over the
managing of the farms. His contract was not renewed after September
1966. In December 1967 he took up an appointment with Bulmers,
as Orchard Development Manager, ensuring a long-term supply of
bittersweet apples for cider making.
cutting costs and concentrating on more profitable sales, Shepherd
Neame remained a most successful business. These good results
however, were accompanied by much family tension.
Jasper and Laurie had worked like Trojans together during the
war, with Jasper becoming managing director and chairman in 1940,
with Laurie serving as his deputy. The postwar conditions of the
1950s saw the trade and marketing side of the business placing
heavy burdens on Jasper, which took him away from Faversham for
a considerable amount of time, leaving Laurie to struggle with
next generation faced the same difficulties in the 1960s. Bobby
Neame came to work at the Brewery in 1956. In September 1957
he became a director when Madeleine Finn, due to retire, decided
to step down. Jasper, his father was ill at the time, but Bobby
was back at work in the following January. By the September 1969
AGM he had widened his range considerably and it was said that
he was helping in the Brewery, and was in charge of the free trade,
son, Colin Roger Beale Neame joined the company in October
1959, to help his father in the bottled beer department, a month
after Rex Neame had joined in Managing 'Queen Court'. At the September
1961 AGM after serving a probationary period on the Board, they
both became full members. As the production director, he was in
charge of the more technical side of the brewing business, making
improvements in the bottling plant and keg beer, by utilizing
many labour saving techniques. He also introduced a small biochemical
laboratory employing a laboratory technician.
died on 18 Jan 1961 at the early age of 56, Laurie then becoming
sole managing director. He survived his brother for another nine
years and continued his interest in production.
is his father's footsteps, Bobby took particular interest in the
sales side of the business. This became especially important once
the larger brewers started investing heavily in advertising, especially
on commercial television. Bobby then became marketing manager
in charge of "improving the image of the Company in the eyes
of the public", showing greater attention to publicity, with
advertising on Southern Television in 1970.
1968 the Cobb brewing company in Margate (with its family connection)
again came on the market, together with 38 licensed premises. The Cobbs
found it increasingly difficult to survive independently after the increasing
success of the Butlins hotels group took over much of its trade. It
was taken over by the Whitbreads in Januray 1968 and ceased to brew
in the following October. This now left Shepherd Neame as 'the last
independent brewery in Kent'.
SOLE SURVIVING BREWERY
On 19 Dec 1970, Laurie died suddenly and unexpectedly at the end of
the day, after all the excitement when his second son, Stuart, was married.
In March 1971 Bobby became chairman and Colin managing director.
Stuart Fraser Beale Neame took over as company secretary (after
Ted Coulter retired in 1984), he brought with him over half a decade
of knowledge and experience in computers, which he gained whilst working
at IBM. His insistence that the Company buy a sophisticated "IBM
System 3" computer, soon paid dividends when he designed a number
of programs for telesales and distributions. The success of these programs
soon created considerable interest from other independent breweries,
who bought the software to improve their own systems. Four years later
Stuart earned his position on the Board.
ease tension within the family, after the resignation of family members
from the Board, it was decided to create a Technical Board, employing
a wider range of professionals and services. Whereas before, the Board
was dominated by family members, ensuring control of day-to-day running
of the business, the Technical Board by creating a second tier in the
management structure with the executive family members as the link,
was the key development in the future success of the Company.
1992 the chairman's son Jonathan Neame, a qualified barrister, joined
the Company. He was previously involved through the Coba Group, a firm
of management consultants, who helped to formulate a plan for a joint
development with United Breweries of India, of Kingfisher in the U.K.
He became a full time technical director and was appointed to the main
Board in October 1993, the first great-great grandchild of Percy Neame
to join the Board, and so establishing family continuity to the fifth
1992 the chairman's son Jonathan Neame, a qualified barrister,
joined the Company. He was previously involved through the Coba
Group, a firm of management consultants, who helped to formulate
a plan for a joint development with United Breweries of India,
of Kingfisher in the U.K. He became a full time technical director
and was appointed to the main Board in October 1993, the first
great-great grandchild of Percy Neame to join the Board, and so
establishing family continuity to the fifth generation.
1970s saw a period of rapid expansion of acquiring more property
(65 houses in total), which in turn returned greater profits.
This was also a period of improvement and refurbishment, providing
better toilet facilities and catering kitchens. The private quarters
were also updated and cooling systems were installed in the cellars,
improving the quality of the beer.
continued throughout the 1980's with 46 more houses, and Shepherd
Neame opened the first three of its 'Invicta Inns' to meet the
growing demand for middle priced accommodation and food in the
Southeast. The rapid development of 'Pub Grub' saw a number of
well-known chefs move out of the restaurant business and into
1982, hop production at 'Queen Court', the Brewery's farm, came to an
end, in the face of the need for major investment, falling hop prices
and infection by verticillium wilt. Sales of much of the land raised
considerably more than the farm's profits for the previous two decades.
With this sale the Company withdrew from its other ventures of feeding
yeast to pigs and selling spent grain for cattle, as well as the cultivation
of the vineyard. Shepherd Neame had been the first brewing company to
produce and launch an English wine from its own vineyards. The wine,
named "Queen Court" after the farm, won a number of awards
in the early 1980s. Finally after the BSE cattle crisis of the 1990s,
the Board decided to withdraw from the farm, and the land was leased
out. They continued to purchase traditional Golding hops from East Kent
to maintain its beer's traditional hoppy flavour.
Neame celebrated its 300th anniversary in 1998, by winning its first
Royal Warrant (late in 1997), not for its beer, but for Grant's Morella
Cherry Brandy. Grants was a Kent-based company founded in 1774 at Dover,
bought and revived by Shephed Neame in 1988. As one of Britain's oldest
brewing companies, they celebrated with a series of major events. In
January, a dinner for the family and shareholders was held in the Brewer's
Company Hall. In June and July, special dinners were held for brewery
chairmen and their wives in the Henry VIII banqueting hall at Leeds
Castle. Two dances, each for 400 people (one for licensees and one for
employees), was held at Mount 'Ephraim', the home of Mary Dawes,
the last surviving granddaughter of Percy Neame. These events were a
tribute to the dedication of the family members and employees (some
fifth generation) who have dedicated their lives to the continuing success
of the Company. Also to the pub managers, tenants and suppliers, customers
and shareholders who have given so much support to the Company throughout
Company continues to succeed and is determined to celebrate its 400th
anniversary in the year 2098.