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Posted: 23 January 2012
Blog category: News
The Neame family has run Kent’s Shepherd Neame brewery for five generations but whatever happened to the Shepherds?
Following the discovery of two previously unknown ledgers, brewery archivist and historian John Owen is now able to answer that question with a new book, The Shepherds of Shepherd Neame 1737-1875.
John has used information from the ledgers and researched insurance policies and ecclesiastical records to reinstate the Shepherds in the historical record, marking their considerable achievements in the story of the brewery.
He tells the story of how Samuel Shepherd, John Shepherd, Julius Shepherd, Henry Shepherd and Henry Shepherd Junior steered the business through some of the most turbulent years of British history.
John said: “Through the shortages of the Napoleonic Wars to the coming of the railways, each generation consolidated trade and seized opportunities for growth in staff, equipment and property, consistently outperforming rival brewers.”
But on 30 July 1877, Mrs Ellen Shepherd sold the half interest in the brewery of her late husband, Henry, to Percy Beale Neame. The Shepherd family ceased to have any interest in the brewery and no Shepherd ever again lived in Faversham.
With the exception of the surname, retained in the company name, little of the family survived. Nearly all the business records of the early Shepherds disappeared; the ledgers, cash books, rest books, waste books, brewing books and correspondence once needed to manage the business. All the early deeds of the brewery site were lost during the Napoleonic Wars, when a mortgagee buried them for safe keeping and later discovered they had rotted away.
Originating from Peasmarsh, Sussex, in the 16th Century, the Shepherd family acquired the brewery by marriage in 1732. Then it was valued at a modest £1,000 but in two generations they had become one of the wealthiest merchant families in Faversham. Within four generations, in 1875, they were joint partners in the brewery with a gross asset value of £165,000.
They formed valuable partnerships with Charles Jones Hilton, John Henry Mares and Percy Beale Neame but there is little evidence that Henry Shepherd planned for his family to continue as partners or that his children were interested in succeeding him. In his will, written in 1868, there is no reference to the brewery. Thus, despite generations of success, there was no Shepherd family legacy, only the brewing legacy, which continued through the Neame family to the present day.
The Shepherds of Shepherd Neame 1737-1875, price £13.45, is available from the Shepherd Neame Visitor Centre shop, online at www.shepherdneame.co.uk/shop and at good bookshops in the Faversham area.