/ History File
/ Oldest Brewer vs Brewery
Jason Coulls 25 Sep 2006
I just read this story on the BBC News website with some interest:
It states "Brewing began on the Ram site in Wandsworth in 1581, making it the oldest site in the UK where beer has been continuously produced."
The headline reads "End of the line for oldest brewer", but the oldest brewer is Shepherd Neame, which has been brewing since 1698 on the same site – in comparison with Young's 1831 purchase of their site.
So, wouldn't I be correct in saying that Shepherd Neame is the oldest brewer (1698 vs Young's 1831) and because of the site it bought, it also owns the oldest brewery, even though as an ongoing concern it may be as old as 1525 which still beats the Ram brewery by 56 years?
Jason Coulls 27 Sep 2006
>>Now that Ram has moved, Sheps is unequivocally the UK brewery longest-established on the same site.<<
And the longest-established brewer as well... If Young's didn't start till 1831, then Sheps still has them beaten. Additionally, if Young's were to incorporate the previous owners of the sites into the date and Sheps did the same, then Sheps wins again.
Glad to have cleared up that confusion! :-)
Arthur Percival 26 Sep 2006
This all got a bit out of hand, partly because two things happened more or less at once.
First, it was 'discovered' that Sheps went back before 1698.
Second, because the real estate value of their Wandsworth site was so high, Young's decided to sell it and move production to Bedford.
I've known for years that Sheps went back before 1698, if only because it was Richard Marsh, who then owned the brewery, was the first person to recognise James II when he was brought a prisoner to the town in 1688. I also knew that it went back much further than that, to the 16th century.
However Sheps were very attached to their 1698 'foundation' date, which is prominent in much of their advertising and PR, and I didn't want to upset their apple cart, or mental equilibrium. The date of 1698 appears to have been clutched out of the sky by someone at the brewery in the late 19th century, when it first began to appear as its 'establishment' date on letterheads etc.
My researches led me to correspond with Helen Osborne, Young's archivist. She had found that the Ram Brewery also went back further than the company thought. There was then (privately) a bit of good-natured argument between the two breweries as to which was the older. It was a close-run thing, so close-run that for the time being a 'draw' was agreed, one brewery calling itself the 'oldest brewery' in the UK and the other the 'oldest brewer' ditto.
Then my Faversham Society colleague John Owen, as (now) Sheps' honorary archivist, began to delve even deeper, and found certain evidence that Sheps went back to 1525 or whatever; and Sheps decided to make a press story of it. Who could blame them?
The point is that (till the Ram moved to Bedford the other day) both breweries were brewing on their original sites
, drawing water from the same aquifer. Now that Ram has moved, Sheps is unequivocally the UK brewery longest-established on the same site.