20 January 2016

Portslade Brewery

Judy Middleton 2001 revised 2023
copyright © J.Middleton
This old postcard view shows Portslade Brewery at its elegant best and with the original roof, which was removed in the 1920s.

The first mention of a brewery at Portslade occurs in 1789 when on 27 January George Arnold, wheelwright, sold a house and a ‘brew house lately erected in place of a barn’ to John Rice of Southwick. It is also on record that on 2 April 1796 Henry Ayres, yeoman, of the brew house, Portslade, took out a mortgage of £100 with Joseph Loraine, the younger, of Alderney in the Channel Islands.

John Dudney Arrives

Most authorities agree that John Dudney founded Portslade Brewery in 1849 but from the facts recorded above it seems likely he was continuing with an established tradition.

John Dudney (1810-1895) was born at Shermanbury, Sussex, but he lived at Henfield for a number of years before he moved to Portslade. His wife Sarah was a couple of years his senior and they had five children, two sons and three daughters. He started off at Portslade in a small way because in 1851 he was only employing two men.

In 1857 he leased some buildings and a house standing on what is now the east corner of South Street and Drove Road. A few years later the house was known as Five Elms Inn. From the 1860s onwards John Dudney began to buy up plots of land.

copyright © G.Osborne
With thanks to Mr G. Osborne for granting permission for the reproduction of the above photograph from his private collection.  
Early 1900s photograph of the brewery in the High Street looking west 

Buying the Necessary Land

On 6 September 1869 he purchased some land (part of plot 181 on the Tithe Map of 1841) from Edward Blaker for £180. On 5 February 1875 he bought a plot of land (another part of plot 181) from George Miles, builder, for £250.  On 17 February 1876 Dudney purchased some land from Edwin Arnold for £550; this land was bordered on the south side by the public highway to Hangleton (High Street). At the time the road between High Street and Drove Road was known as Frederick Terrace, and there were five properties. Before number 3 was the entrance to the old pump house and Arnold’s sale to Dudney included the right to the pump and well. This right of course was vital to Dudney’s enterprise.

Also in 1876 Dudney bought the freehold of Five Elms Inn. In 1878 he purchased the Stag’s Head and the following year added the shop next door to the pub to his property portfolio.

On 1 November 1880 Dudney was obliged to part with the large sum of £1,000 in order to consolidate his holdings and also because the land in question contained a natural spring. It was William Reed, market gardener, who sold the land to Dudney. No doubt Reed was a happy man because he had only paid £165 for the land in 1869.

Excellent Water

A Victorian journalist writing in the Brighton Gazette (1 December 1882) could not help dipping his pen into some purple prose when describing the water at Portslade.

‘Unknown to all but John Dudney, who is an archaeologist, Portslade has a spring of rare water, and he, in his amateur efforts at brewing, preparing beer for the village, for such was his wont, discovering in this water elements of excellence beyond those of neighbouring streams, diverted the friendly tributary, flowing in unseen courses, unto himself, and thus had a ready handmaid.’


copyright © J.Middleton
The decorative base of the tall brewery chimney is covered
 with fine mesh to protect it from the attention of pigeons.
The original Brewery buildings were on the west side (of Frederick Terrace, later South Street) but then John Dudney decided upon a large building programme on the opposite side of the road. By 1881 John Dudney had been living at Portslade for over 30 years, his land deals were completed and the Malt Tax had been repealed. It therefore seemed to him that the time was ripe for expansion.  

There is some debate as to the identity of the architect of this astonishing building that ‘rose cathedral-like amid the cottages’. It has been attributed to Samuel Denman or Scamell & Colyer but it was the latter names that appeared in 1881 in Brewer’s Journal and apart from a few roof details it looks virtually identical to the structure as built. The new building covered nearly an acre, thus making it one of the largest breweries in the south. The soaring chimney became (and still is) a local landmark and at the base Dudney stamped his mark to be admired by posterity. It is a shield bearing the initials D & S (for Dudney & Sons) surrounded by bunches of grapes and ears of barley. In recent times, someone has decided to add colour to this plaque but historically it was uncoloured and chalk-like. There can be no doubt as to the year the Brewery was built for the date 1881 is visible to all.

Once John Dudney had seen his plans realised, he was content to hand over the running of the business to his sons. Besides, he was also in his seventies and could look back with satisfaction on his achievements.

In 1875 at an Exhibition of English and Continental Beers at the Royal Albert Hall, London, Dudney’s won a prize medal for their bitter ales. Later on the Brewery specialised in creating pale ales and it was capable of turning out 1,000 barrels a week.

The Malt-house

copyright © J.Middleton
The malt-house was photographed on 25 September 2014 and
looks in fine fettle; the roof has been re-tiled in recent years.
The malt-house situated in Drove Road, Portslade is the only one in Hove and Portslade still standing today. It is not clear whether or not this structure was erected in 1849 but the date usually given is mid-19th century. On the other hand the roof was covered with machine-made tiles not thought to be generally available until the 1890s. If there was an earlier malt-house, it might have been re-built when the substantial new Brewery with its tall chimney was erected.

The malt-house is an attractive-looking building and adds greatly to the charm of Portslade Old Village. The projecting part was not put there for decoration but had a practical use; wagons could be positioned directly underneath in order that raw barley could be winched up or malted barley dropped down. The cowl at the top of the building allowed air to circulate without letting the rain in.

The first action in preparing the barley for brewing was to soak it with water after which it was heaped onto the malting floor. It was then turned over by hand to encourage germination. When it was deemed ready, heat was applied and this prevented further growth while drying the malt.

The Cellars
 copyright © G. Osborne
With thanks to Mr G. Osborne for 
granting permission for the reproduction
 of the above photograph from his private collection.  
The cellars were situated on the opposite side of the road to the Brewery.

In 1891 it was stated that the beer cellars contained ten arches and were around 70 feet long.

In 1988 David Beal, who ran a small business in the western buildings, reckoned the cellars measured some 9,000 square feet. In February 1988 the underground springs began to flow after days of heavy rain and Mr Beal estimated the amount of water swirling around the cellars was 1.5 million gallons.

It is rumoured that the Brewery cellars once had a connection with the cellars of the Stag’s Head. This theory stands to reason when both premises had the same owners and barrels of beer could be conveniently rolled to the retail outlet.

Brewery Workers

The 1881 census notes the names of several men working at the Brewery. Henry Butt, brewer’s assistant, lodged with John Dudney.

Brewer’s labourers living in the village were:

Abraham Long, aged 27 (born in Norfolk)
Benjamin Beach, aged 32 (born at Croydon)
John Mitchell, aged 53 (born at Shoreham, Sussex)
James Hills, aged 19 (born at Southwick, Sussex)
Portslade-born Henry Wadey, aged 39,
Edgar Betts, aged 27 (born at Hastings)
George Henry Munday, aged 15 (born at Wick, Sussex)

There were also two workers who came from Henfield where John Dudney once lived. They were:

Charles Ward, aged 50, brewer
John Marshall Patching, aged 40.

Patching lived in Western Road (now Old Shoreham Road) with his son Henry Marshall Patching, who was also a brewer’s labourer and was born at Portslade.

Edwin Caswell, aged 26, cooper, hailed from Somerset.

The Dudney Family

By the time John Dudney and his wife Sarah moved to Portslade from Henfield they had a family of two sons and three daughters, all born at Henfield; they were William, Ellen, John, Harriet and Elizabeth.

After Portslade Brewery was sold, John Dudney and his family did not leave Portslade. The 1891 census finds them comfortably ensconced in Easthill House. By this time John Dudney was a widower but sharing the house with him was his son John and daughters Ellen Blaker (widowed) and Harriet. There were four servants.

The spacious grounds of Easthill House were often used for fetes and bazaars held in aid of church funds and there was a special celebration there in honour of Queen Victoria’s Golden Jubilee.

John’s son William Dudney (1831-1896) married Fanny Hudson in the 1850s. Fanny’s father, Mr Hudson, was bailiff to Farmer Fuller of Wish Farm and owner of a considerable amount of property in Aldrington. Mr Hudson must have had a close working relationship with his employer because when Mr Fuller died he bequeathed his land to his bailiff and wife.

William and Fanny’s first child Horace was born on 10 August 1856. He died on 14 April 1859 and was buried in the churchyard in Portslade belonging to St Nicolas; the tombstone inscription read ‘Not Lost but Gone Before’ but today it is indecipherable.

copyright © J.Middleton
Horace Dudney died at the age of 2 years and 8 months and his grave is in the foreground of this photograph.
Note the brewery chimney in the background.

The Dudneys went on to have six more children, two boys and four girls, all born at Portslade; they were William Hudson, Arthur Hudson, Mary Maria, Sarah Jane, Fanny Elizabeth and Edith Ellen.

The Dudney family lived in Lindfield House in South Street, on land next to what is now the Village Green; the Baptist Church and car parking space now covers the site.

William Dudney was elected to East Sussex County Council in 1887 and was a member of Steyning Board of Guardians, being vice-president in the later years. He was a churchwarden at St Nicolas from 1883 to 1887. His brother John and his son W.H. Dudney also served as churchwardens at the same church. William was a member of Portslade Parish Council but had to resign in 1895 through ill-health.

William Dudney suffered from Bright’s Disease for many years and despite the best advice from London and local doctors, he became progressively weaker although he was not compelled to take to his bed until Boxing Day 1895. He died at 9.30 a.m. on 5 February 1896 and was buried in Portslade Cemetery because by that time the churchyard of St Nicolas had been closed to further burials.

copyright © G.Osborne
With thanks to Mr G. Osborne for granting permission for the reproduction of the above photograph from his private collection.  
Early 1900s photograph of the High Street in Portslade's Old Village looking east 

In 1900 his widow Fanny decided to move away from Portslade back to Lindfield. It was a great loss to Portslade people because the family had been indefatigable workers for the church. The vicar, Revd Vicars Boyle, wrote in the church magazine ‘a parish can ill spare a family, which furnished one churchwarden, two Sunday School teachers, four district visitors and managed a mother’s meeting, a library and a coal club.’ All this apparently was just some of the work carried out at Lindfield House. 

William Dudney’s sister Ellen married William Fraser of Brighton who went into partnership with his brother-in-law John Dudney (junior) as Fraser & Dudney, wine and beer merchants, at 1 St Andrew’s Terrace (now 148 Church Road, Hove) which they owned. But the partnership did not last long and was dissolved in 1879, the assets being transferred to Dudney & Son. John Dudney at last joined the family firm. Young Dudney had experienced another failed business enterprise before the partnership when he attempted to run his own butcher’s and grocer’s shop, near the George Inn in the village. In 1890 he embarked on another enterprise by building a pickle factory in Drove Road and two houses in Crown Road in 1902.

William and Fanny’s eldest son William Hudson Dudney (1860-1922) was educated at Cranleigh. He became a keen cricketer. According to the Sussex Daily News (17 June 1922) ‘Mr Dudney took to cricket as a duck takes to water, and as far back as May 1879 he was playing in an important match on the Queen’s Park Ground, Brighton. The promising form he displayed on that occasion gave him an introduction into the ranks of Brighton Brunswick and subsequently he was the foremost ‘bat’ in the Portslade and Southwick Club.’

In one of the trial matches Lord Sheffield arranged in 1882 Dudney was one of the thirteen Gentlemen and Young Players and punished Mr Mycroft’s  bowling with a vengeance. Dudney was in New Zealand in 1883/1884 where he took part in an inter-colonial match for Canterbury against Tasmania and apparently he ‘hit hard and vigorously’.

Back home in 1887 Dudney headed the batting averages for both Brighton Brunswick, and Portslade and Southwick Clubs. Then he was chosen to play for Sussex and was a member of the team for 29 matches between 1887 and 1893. He was described as a middle order right-hand batsman. His highest score was 97 but he only averaged 14.47. He also played as a wicket keeper and he took 38 catches and made six stumpings. ‘Many old-time cricketers owed their departure from the field to the nimbleness and quick-sightedness displayed by him.’

Like the rest of the Dudneys, he was interested in church matters and served as churchwarden at St Nicolas Church, Portslade for ten years. In 1901 he built four houses in Drove Road.

W.D. Dudney died in June 1922 at his house called Somerville, Western Lawns, Hove. Naturally his funeral was held at St Nicolas Church and on the day the flag was flown at half-mast at the Sussex County Cricket Ground.

copyright © J.Middleton
The Dudney family memorial complete with draped urn in Portslade Cemetery.

A memorial slab in Portslade Cemetery records the following details:

John Dudney born 10 February 1810 died 26 March 1895
Sarah Dudney (wife) born 21 August 1808 died 2 December 1885
Ellen Fraser (daughter) died 16 November 1900 aged 66
Harriett (daughter) died 29 August 1904 aged 64
Elizabeth (daughter) born 2 February 1843 died 27 July 1888

Another Dudney memorial in Portslade Cemetery records the following details:

William Dudney born 29 December 1831 died 6 February 1896
Fanny (wife) born 16 December 1831 died 24 November 1915
Mary (eldest daughter) born 22 December 1857 died 29 September 1901
William Hudson born 8 January 1860 died 16 June 1922
Arthur Hudson born 12 January 1867 died 10 May 1939
Edith Ellen died 12 August 1959 aged 90

New Owners – the Mews Brothers

On 8 April 1884 the Dudney family sold Portslade Brewery to Walter and Herbert Mews. Signatories to the deed were John Dudney the elder, William Dudney, John Dudney, and Sarah Dudney (wife of John Dudney, the elder) all residing at Portslade.

At the time of the transaction Walter and Henry Mews, brewers, lived at 107 Westbourne Terrace, Hyde Park. When they moved to Portslade, 27-year old Walter Mews occupied Dudney’s old property, once a pub, now dignified with the name Elms Villa while 25-year old Herbert Mews lived initially at a property called Raglan Villa.

The Mews brothers must have been wealthy because the transaction cost them £17,000. The total was split into two parts because of the advalorum stamp duty; thus £16,250 covered the cost of the freehold hereditaments while £750 covered the copyhold hereditaments.  

The deal included all the land on both sides of Frederick Terrace (now South Street) with the exception of the property on the south west corner.

On the same date and with the same parties, there was another transaction. The Dudney family sold to the Mews brothers sold for £6,700 the following properties:

Stag’s Head and cottage, Portslade
Victoria Hotel and cottage, Portslade
Cricketers’ Arms, Broadwater
Piece of land at Hove abutting Seafield Road on the east.

copyright © J.Middleton
When the Dudney family sold Portslade Brewery to the Mews brothers, part of the deal included the Stag’s Head,
seen here in June 2009.

The Hove property was then known as 6 St Andrew’s Terrace, being opposite to St Andrew’s Church but later became 148 Church Road.

Although Portslade Brewery had new owners, it continued to trade under Dudney & Sons because the name was well known. The Brewery became celebrated for their Southdown Ales and India Pale Ale. In 1886 the Brewery had stores at 66 Western Road, Hove, where customers had the choice between five different size of casks and prices varying from 1/- a gallon to 1/3d or 1/6d a gallon. By 1891 there was another sales outlet at 136 Church Road, Hove. You could purchase a barrel of India Pale Ale for 54/- and the same price would also secure you a barrel of Dudney’s extra stout.

It is pleasant to record that when Queen Victoria celebrated her Golden Jubilee in 1887, the Mews brothers presented every adult in Portslade Village with two pints of their product.

Deeper Well

In the 1880s the Mews brothers engaged Messrs Docwra to extend the depth of the well to 87 feet.

The Brewery in 1891

In 1891 a detailed description of Portslade Brewery was published and the following details are taken from it:-
On the east side of the Brewery there was a spacious yard and grouped around it were the coppers’ shops (where all the company’s barrels were made on the premises), cask-washing sheds and stables. The stables were large enough to contain fifteen stalls and two loose boxes for the company’s horses plus three stalls and one loose box for horses belonging to visitors. There was a special harness-drying room in order that horses should not suffer chaffing on their necks because of damp equipment. There was also a shoeing forge.

On the opposite side of the road on the west side were the bottling department, the beer cellars and the spirits stores. An elevated iron bridge connected the buildings on either side of the road and today you can still vestiges of the bridge supports.

The fermenting room measured 96 feet by 42 feet while the brew house was 70 feet high and open from floor to ceiling. The topmost gallery contained the cold-liquor reservoir; the second gallery contained the hot-liquor tank, which could hold upwards of 100 barrels; the mashing stage was carried out on the first floor.

The copper house contained two coppers set in massive brickwork and heated by fire; one vessel could hold 120 barrels, the other one could hold 50 barrels. The racking room on the ground floor measured 96 feet by 55 feet.

The engine room housed a 20 horsepower horizontal engine and next to it was the pump room. Underneath the latter was the well with a depth of 100 feet. Water was shot up to the top of the building at a rate of 10,000 gallons an hour.

The Mews Brothers and their Magnificent Residences 

copyright © J.Middleton
In this view of Whychote from the Village Green 
you can see Portslade Brewery and chimney 
in the background.
By the 1890s the Mews brothers felt they could treat themselves to a brand new house each built to their own specifications. Herbert’s house was the first to go up next to the vicarage in South Street and it was called Whychcote; it was occupied by 1895. It is a charming fantasy of a house with no less than five steeply pitched and gabled roofs, decorative half-timbering and a suitably impressive chimney-stack. A massive, twelve-panelled door leads into an entrance hall measuring 25 feet by 10 feet. There is also a large fireplace in the hall, which must have been a welcome sight on a cold, winter’s day. Red tiles line the fireplace, which has a grey-veined marble surround. The staircase has carved, newel posts and a fine balustrade.  The floors, panelling and beams of the house were constructed of oak although one bedroom boasted a maple-wood floor. There were five bedrooms and spacious south-facing reception rooms. There was an extensive cellar and because the house was built into a slope, you enter the cellar on the west side at ground level while the east side was underground. The cellar contained a large, iron cage, which led some later observers to conclude they were looking at the village lock-up. In reality it was where a cautious Herbert could keep his wines and spirits under lock-and-key and safe from the possible pilfering tendencies of servants. There was a fine view from the front windows overlooking what is now the Village Green but in those days was an ordinary field. Upstairs, you can catch a glimpse of the sea while the view to the north is equally of interest where the slope of the Downs is apparent. 

copyright © J.Middleton
The four houses on the left of Whychote in this photograph were not there when Herbert Mews was in residence.
They were built on part of the grounds of Whychote at a later date.

As far as Herbert was concerned the only thing wanting about his new abode was the smallness of the garden. This defect was remedied when he purchased a group of old flint-built cottages at the east end of High Street called Hangleton Court and demolished them to extend his grounds. But he did not take down the back flint wall, which borders the church twitten to this day.

copyright © J.Middleton
Loxdale was the name of the house in Locks Hill built for Walter Mews.

The new residence of Walter Mews was erected not far away on Locks Hill and it was called Loxdale. The architect Samuel Denman of 27 Queen’s Road, Brighton, designed Loxdale and Portslade Council approved the plans in 1899 although the house was not ready for occupation until 1902. The building was adorned with a porch, gables and a massive chimney-stack and a dome, which became something of a landmark. The basement contained a beer cellar, a wine cellar, an ordinary cellar and a boiler room. There was a morning room, a drawing room, a dining room, and a library on the ground floor. West of the library were the servants’ hall, scullery, larder, pantry and kitchen. On the north side of the house there was a low building containing the coal store, wood store, knife room and boot room. Upstairs there were five bedrooms, two bathrooms and a dressing room. In the attic were four bedrooms, a bathroom and a box room. Provision had also been made in the lobby for a lift. Walter filled his house with a quantity of mahogany furniture.

Walter was also passionate about his garden and in 1915 the full-time gardener was a Mr N. Higg. It seems Mr Higgs was regarded as something of a local expert on matters relating to gardening and he was one of the judges of the exhibits displayed by the Portslade & District Allotment Holders’ Society at St Nicolas’s Church Hall in Abinger Road in 1915.

copyright © J.Middleton
Walter Mews threw open the grounds of Loxdale for Portslade Carnival on 26 May 1920. 

Walter was not averse to throwing open his grounds in aid of a good cause. For instance on 26 May 1920 a carnival was held there in aid of St Nicolas’s Church funds. There were stalls and competitions to cater for everyone and you could buy anything from an ice-cream to a live chicken. The children’s sports included running, sack race, three-legged race, bun eating race and an egg-and-spoon race. For the adults there was a slow bicycle race, cigarette-lighting race and a needle-threading race. The band from Portslade Industrial School provided the music.

The Sussex Daily News (27 May 1920) commented ‘One recalls visits to Loxdale gardens in mid-summer, when everything seems ablaze with colour for Mr Mews is a great lover of beautiful flowers, and although there were not many blooms to be seen yesterday … yet the gardens looked wonderfully bright, the hundred and one different shades of green and the rich-looking soil made a picture.’

More Property Acquisitions

 copyright © Brighton & Hove City Libraries
This unique drawing allows us to see what Fraser’s Court
 looked like with its cobbled yard and narrow twitten. 
To the left of the twitten is a small shop and the George
while the cottage to the right of the twitten is still in existence.

The Mews Brothers purchased two small properties adjacent to the Stag’s Head, one in 1886 and the other in 1888. They also bought a block of property between High Street and Drove Road including Northerlea and eight cottages known as Fraser’s Court. Fraser’s Court was a group of flint-built cottages and access was by a narrow twitten between the George Inn and a shop. The twitten is still there although Fraser’s Court was probably demolished at the time the present-day St George was rebuilt in the 1930s. There were also three cottages known as Lisbon Cottages but later renumbered as 3, 4 and 5 South Street. In 1888 Walter purchased some land north of the Brewery and more land was acquired in the 1890s. .

 copyright © G. Osborne
With thanks to Mr G. Osborne for granting permission for the reproduction of the above photograph  from his private collection.
  Portslade Brewery as viewed from the north with its malt house and associated buildings.

Model Employers

The Mews brothers were model employers and men stayed with them for years.

The Mews built accommodation for their brewery workers, which remain to this day. The twelve cottages were built in 1898 in what was then North Lane but today is the south east side of North Road. The cottages were brick built and the occupants also had an allotment at the back measuring around 16 rods where they could grow their own vegetables. One satisfied tenant was Philip Packham, head brewer, whose individual length of service was 51 years.

Civic Duties 

The Mews brothers were both Freemasons and active in civic life. They served on the Steyning Board of Guardians and both became vice-chairman at different times. Herbert was an East Sussex County councillor, attended Hove Bench regularly and in 1920 became a member of Hove War Pensions Committee.

Walter had a long association with Portslade Council and was vice-chairman at one time. He served on Portslade Council for six years, retiring in 1903 but he returned in 1910 and continued for another nine years before being defeated at the polls in 1919. Walter was also active in securing a recreation ground for Portslade (Victoria Recreation Ground); he was a member of New Shoreham Port Sanitary Authority and for many years he was chairman of Portslade and Southwick Outfall Sewerage Board. In addition Walter was a Freeman and Liveryman of the City of London.

copyright © J.Middleton
The funeral of Herbert Mews was held at
St Nicolas Church, Portslade,  which
after all was right next door to Whychote.
Walter was married and their sons were named Ewan and Bryan. Walter was the first to die aged 65 on 11 March 1922. He was buried on the north side of St Helen’s Churchyard, Hangleton, and his memorial took the form of a rugged, upright granite cross. The Sussex Daily News commented ‘Wherever he served he had a knowledge and business acumen, which was of great value and undoubtedly his passing causes a gap not easily filled.’

Herbert Mews was born 19 September 1858 and died on 5 March 1929. His wife Florence was born on 21 June 1862 and died on 25 November 1934. The couple had two sons, Roy and Errol. In March 1918 Lieutenant Errol Mews of the Royal Field Artillery married Ruby Evelyn Ionides at St Andrew’s Old Church, Hove. Her father was Constantine Ionides, a wealthy man of Greek extraction who installed his own private art gallery at his home in 23 Second Avenue.

Herbert’s funeral was held at St Nicolas Church, Portslade and three priests were in attendance. They were Revd Donald Campbell (former vicar of St Nicolas) Revd Noel Hemsworth (vicar of St Nicolas) and Revd H.T. Mogridge, rector of Aldrington. The Archdeacon of Lewes was present plus Captain A.B. Wales, Mayor of Hove and a detachment of Queen’s Nurses. Herbert was buried at St Helen’s Churchyard next to his brother on 8 March 1929. But his tombstone was a complete contrast because it was an oblong slab adorned with an ornate, incised cross.

 copyright © D.Sharp
The tombstones of Walter and  Herbert Mews in St Helen's Churchyard, Hangleton.

Smithers become New Owners

In 1919 Kemp Town Brewery acquired Portslade Brewery. But perhaps they did not really need a brewery because they quickly sold on Portslade Brewery to Smithers while keeping hold of some of the pubs.

Smithers brought in more modern ideas and a scheme for expansion. Unfortunately, this involved the loss of the charming steep-graded roof with iron embellishments at the top. Instead an extra storey was squeezed on top of the building above the frieze of Tudor-style roses topped off with a boring flat roof.

copyright © J.Middleton
This view looking west was photographed in the early 1900s. The flat roof of the new extension can be clearly seen.

When Smithers looked into the subject of well depth, they discovered that it was not 100 feet deep as claimed in the article of 1891. In fact it was still 87 feet deep from the last deepening in the 1880s. They engaged Messrs Isler & Co to sink a borehole 162 feet deeper, thus making a total depth of 249 feet. This yielded 10,000 gallons an hour. At the new level the water was pure and to avoid contamination from pumping machinery, the water was blown from the bore hole to the surface by compressed air and from there it was pumped electrically to the top of the building.

In 1920 Smithers produced 43,213 barrels of beer and they had to pay £129,383 in duty.

It is a coincidence that, just like the Mews brothers, two brothers who were close friends and business associates with one called Herbert, should have founded Smithers Brewery. They were Herbert Welsford Smithers and Edward Allfree Smithers and their brewery was founded at Brighton in 1906. But the family brewing tradition went back further because their father Henry Smithers who lived in Hove, was recorded in 1851 as being a brewer and coal merchant. Henry later built a family home called The Gables at Furze Hill, Hove, which was occupied by the Smithers family until 1917.

The Smithers brothers were active workers for the Unionist cause and, like the Mews, they were both Freemasons with Edward becoming Provincial Grand Warden in 1905. Edward was connected with various charitable organisations and was a trustee of the Sussex Eye Hospital. He was also a keen sportsman in his younger days and during the 1870s was an accomplished batsman for the old Brighton Cricket Club. It is not surprising to find he was an enthusiastic supporter of Sussex County Cricket Club of which he was chairman of the committee and honorary treasurer. In addition he served for many years as honorary secretary to Brighton Rugby Club. His wife was the daughter of Edward Waugh of Haywards Heath and they had one son and three daughters. 

But tragedy was in store for the family when Herbert died on 9 June 1913 and his brother Edward was so distraught at his loss that he died on 5 February 1914. The Sussex Daily News reported ‘This tragic breaking up of a family that had lived on the most affectionate terms must excite widespread sympathy.’ Then Edward’s only son Lieutenant Edward Henry Keith Smithers died in the Great War on 11 July 1916 while Herbert’s son Captain Reginald Cuthbert Welsford Smithers was killed in action near Ypres on 16 August 1917; he was only 19 years of age.

copyright © A.L Shepherd

Motor Vans

Smithers introduced a fleet of motorised, solid-wheel delivery vans to Portslade Brewery. But they still kept a few horses and horse-drawn vehicles as back-up. The motor vans were valued at £8, 378.

On 24 April 1924 famous Sussex cricketer George Street was killed when his motorbike swerved at Southern Cross and crashed into the garage wall. It seems he was avoiding a motor lorry belonging to Smithers driven by George Hudson. But the jury at the inquest attached no blame to Mr Hudson who had been driving very cautiously and stopped at once when he spotted the approaching motorbike. The speed limit at Southern Cross was ten miles an hour but the motorbike was travelling at 18 eighteen miles an hour.

Visitors ‘Cordially Invited’

During the time of Smithers’ ownership, Portslade Brewery was open for public inspection every Wednesday from 3 p.m. ‘The public are cordially invited to inspect the Brewery and Plant to see for themselves under what perfect and hygienic conditions the beers of the company are produced.’

copyright © Royal Pavilion & Museums, Brighton & Hove
An advert from the Brighton Season Magazine

In a Smithers’ advertisement for 1922 it was claimed ‘all the latest scientific appliances have been installed at immense cost.’ Apparently, the resulting ale and beer was bottled at Brighton. 

Benefits for the Workers

In 1920 a profit-sharing scheme was started and the company also had its own pension scheme. The happy atmosphere was further enhanced by the men being allowed to take home a gallon jar of the Brewery’s product every day. In the summer there were annual works outings in a charabanc to villages such as Amberley or Bury.


A long-standing employee was the wonderfully named Henry Edward Sebastopol Jupp. Perhaps his father was a veteran of the Crimean War in the 1850s and there is another reminder of that war in the village, namely Alma Cottage. Jupp was taken on as a copperside boy. He boiled wort for the first time in 1882 and stayed on to juggle malt and hops under four different employers and he was still working in 1936.

John Greenfield lived in a house on the west corner of Southdown Road and Drove Road. He enjoyed roaring about on his powerful motorbike and he had a great interest in local history. He built up a collection of photographs of old Portslade and when he died he left the collection to Hove Library. His father was an engineer at the Brewery and Jimmy May was the electrician.


In 1929 Tamplin’s took over from Smithers and brewing ceased at Portslade on 21 August 1930.

Eric Stanford 
 copyright © G. Osborne
With thanks to Mr G. Osborne for granting permission 
for the reproduction of the above photograph
from his private collection.  
 Stanford & Co of Portslade

Eric Stanford was once a pupil at Smithers Brewery. After he was made redundant from Jude Hanbury & Co at Canterbury in 1931, he acquired a small portion of Portslade Brewery, which had been used for cask filling. Stanford made some alterations and in 1932 installed a roof to cover the yard. In 1934 he submitted plans to turn 29 and 35 South Street into shops. At first Portslade Council refused consent but later accepted an amended plan.

He began trading as Stanford & Co and produced three sorts of ‘near beer’. Later on he produced full-strength beer. But by 1938 the company was bankrupt.

Shepherd’s Industries 

copyright © A.L Shepherd

In 1937 Shepherd’s Industries acquired the main building and on 28 August 1937 they moved from their previous premises in Davigdor Road, Hove, to Portslade. Three ambitious young men from the Nottingham area were behind Shepherd’s Industries. They moved south with the aim of making high-quality shirts for the luxury market. They had managed to find a backer in wealthy Mr Miller who lived in Art Deco splendour in an extraordinary grey mansion on Hove seafront, now numbered as 157 Kingsway.
copyright © A.L Shepherd
Thomas Lewis Shepherd

Thomas Lewis Shepherd was head of Shepherd’s Industies and his portrait reveals a handsome man with a determined look on his face. A new Shepherd Shirt was heavily advertised in the 1930s and the campaign started with the front page of the Daily Mail. The shirt was sold in a wide range of patterns and with two detachable collars. The collar was in fact an innovation. Whereas an ordinary shirt with detachable collar needed two studs to keep it in place, a Shepherd shirt boasted a special rim on the collar that automatically rested under a rim on the neck-band. There was thus no need to use a back stud although a back-stud hole was incorporated in case you needed to wear a different collar. The prices ranged from six shillings and sixpence to twelve shillings and sixpence.

At one time the company employed almost 200 people making a variety of items from fine shirts to castors, and there was a rubber thread that was incorporated into woven cloth. The company also made a food product called Frittles Crisps; it was a delicious combination of cheese, potatoes and spices that customers purchased to fry at home.
copyright © A.L Shepherd
One floor held continental-made looms and many refugees from Nazi Germany worked there under the direction of a German charge-hand. When war broke out in 1939, the market for their products collapsed and Mr Shepherd sacked the entire workforce, telling them to return a week later to receive a portion of their wages. In fact they only received one-third.
Mr Shepherd re-employed just six men; one of them being John Ramus who was young and therefore earned a modest wage in the first place. They began working on a secret inflatable craft but this turned out not to be a great success. They then switched their efforts into making protective clothing against poison gas.

T.L. Shepherd died suddenly at the early age of 39 in 1943. Mrs Shepherd struggled on with managing the firm until the end of the war.

Second World War

CVA Ltd occupied part of the Brewery from 1940 to 1946. Their usual line of production was electric irons and vacuum cleaners but for the war effort the female workforce manufactured shells and bullets.

The Army was quartered in another part of the Brewery. The 10th Army Field Force under Captain Caffyn was stationed there early in 1940 before being sent to France in March. In 1940 the Brewery also served as the headquarters of the 5th Territorial Army Battalion and the local Home Guard shared the premises.

There followed a succession of military units who shared the same habit of always leaving the place in a terrible state and John Ramus was given the task of trying to make the place ship-shape again.

The Argyll & Sutherland Highlanders was one unit stationed there and the Battalion Pipe Band used to play the Last Post every evening in the road outside the Stag’s Head.

In 1942 the Edmonton Regiment, part of the 1st Canadian Division, were located at the Brewery. They were not the only Canadians to be stationed at Portslade either because the Calgary Highlanders and the Queen’s Own Rifles of Canada were here not to mention members of the Australian Air Force. Some of these men found sweethearts in Portslade and the marriage register of St Nicolas bears witness to the fact.

On top of the Brewery an anti-aircraft gun was stationed. On one occasion the caretaker was showing someone around and he put his hand on a blade of the siren to make it revolve slightly. But at that moment someone downstairs activated the siren and the caretaker’s fingers were damaged.

copyright © G. Osborne
With thanks to Mr G. Osborne for granting permission for the reproduction of the above photograph  from his private collection.
A 1950s view of the old brewery

Le Carbone

The company was founded in London in 1892 and was known as Lacombe and it was a French enterprise. In 1893 the company took out a patent for producing polycrystalline graphite from amorphous carbon by passing it through an electric arc. The technique was used to manufacture carbon brushes for electrical machines.

In 1924 the company purchased premises at Aldrington Basin from Allen West & Co. It was a temporary structure, which had been built for Allen West in 1918 and involved frequent planning applications to Hove Council to allow it to continue. The building was 53 feet in length, 12 feet in width and 9 feet high.

In 1926 Hunter & Bedford built a store for the company of the south side of Aldrington Basin.

In 1930 Lacombe merged with another company and became Le Carbone-Lorraine. The connection was maintained by the company’s logo, which displayed a cross of Lorraine within a capital C.  

The workers in the Aldrington Basin factory assembled wet cells using French centre carbons and locally purchased jars. But French supplies dried up during the Second World War and the dry cell was developed.

In 1947 Le Carbone took over the old Portslade Brewery building.

In 1948 Le Carbone-Lorraine amalgamated its primary battery division with Thomson-Houston to form Companie Industrielle des Piles Electriques (CIPEL). This was sold in 1976.

In 1956 Le Carbone-Lorraine Powder and Metallurgy Division merged with that of Ugine Carbone, part of the state-owned Pechiney Group.

Le Carbone went on to become a world-wide group with a network of industrial and commercial plants in 29 countries. In addition there were agencies and representatives in 71 countries. In 1989 Le Carbone-Lorraine contributed a turnover of FF. 1,939 to its parent group while Pechiney’s turnover was FF. 88,472 million.       

Besides carbon brushes for electric motors, Le Carbone also produced fuses, switch gear, products for the aerospace industry, textiles for refractory applications, vitreous carbon products for laboratory applications, heat exchangers, and corrosion-resistant piping.

Le Carbone-Lorraine also owned Lucien Ferraz et Cie.

In May 1996 it was stated that Le Carbone had taken a lease on unit 8 of the Sackville Trading Estate in Hove.

Meanwhile at Portslade the company were vigilant in trying to protect their building from the attention of paint-spraying vandals. The lower cream-painted wall of factory and offices was a regular target but a special paint was applied and as soon as a tag appeared, it was painted out. The company also undertook extensive restoration work when harsh winter frosts caused the charming frieze of Tudor roses at the top of the building to crumble. Likewise, the tall chimney receives regular attention and it is quite a familiar sight to see a steeplejack at the top. What a view he must have!

copyright © J.Middleton
Photo left:- Work was being done on the chimney on 16 March 2009 when this photograph was taken. The intrepid steeplejack climbs up the fixed ladder on the left.
Photo right:- This photographs was taken from the top deck of a bus on 13 June 2010 and shows the factory shrouded in plastic sheeting while maintenance work is carried out. 

Making Boxes in the 1970s
In the 1960s and 1970s Le Carbone employed many women workers on a part-time basis with the shift ending at 3 p.m. so that children could be collected from school.

Before complete mechanisation and until the 1970s there was an old-fashioned box-making department near the top of the building. Emmie the charge-hand reigned supreme here while women stood at their tables the entire time, making and covering boxes to hold batteries. Each worker had a set of different size wooden blocks on which to mould the boxes according to the size required. The brown liquid glue was in a wide tray and resting on top was a canvas stretched over a wooden frame. The glue was then applied to the covers and hopefully stuck to the box without too many wrinkles. On Friday afternoons the old glue had to be poured away and the canvas left to soak in water until Monday. This made Monday a tricky day for production because the water in the canvas diluted the glue somewhat making box-making more difficult. Fortunately, the management took responsibility for laundering the overalls, which by the end of the week were liberally bespattered with glue.

Now and again workers were timed against the clock to check if they were making boxes fast enough. Box-making was not kind to the hands but then neither was work in other departments where tiny shards from brass nuts and screws could imbed themselves in fingers and thumbs. The management provided the sort of cleaning gel used by car mechanics to clean the hands. Workers enjoyed a large fried breakfast at break time.

The Annual Dinner & Dance was eagerly anticipated.
After all, it was a chance to dress up and see you colleagues
in a different light because you were used to them
glad in sturdy overalls, often smeared with oil or glue

copyright © J.Middleton
This view looking west was photographed on 2 June 2009. 

Recent Times 

copyright © J.Middleton
The factory was photographed on 26 February 2014
and the ‘Mersen’ sign can be seen. 

The large doorway underneath it 
(with the shadow of the cottage chimney-pot on it)
 was painted bright orange at one stage. 

Did conservation officers object? 
Today it is painted subdued battleship grey. 
One well-known employee was Portslade councillor Bob Carden who retired in 2001 after working for Le Carbone for the last fifteen years of his working life. He was a shift inspector and worked on a variety of components for different industries. In a way his time at Le Carbone was a neat rounding off. This was because in his first job at CVA in Portland Road he learnt his trade on a CVA no. 8 Auto machine, which had been developed at Le Carbone after the Second World War and became eventually one of the most popular machines of this type. When Carden visited the factory in 2006, he was given a tour of the machine shop and was amazed at the high quality of the machine tools produced there.

In the summer of 2001 Sir Cecil Parkinson became chairman of the company taking over from Sir Michael Gryles. Sir Cecil had also been chairman in previous years.

In recent years the firm has been known not as Le Carbone but as Mersen. It is not that the building has changed hands but rather the parent company has rationalised the name of its various holdings.

In 2014 it was revealed that Mersen planned to close down its operations at Portslade at the end of March 2015 with the loss of some 70 jobs. It will move production up to Teeside. Redundancies were already taking place in September 2014 and in October some heavy machinery was hoisted out of the factory. Meanwhile, Portslade residents await news of what will happen to their old, familiar landmark.

Councillor Les Hamilton took up this issue with Brighton & Hove City Council and received the following reply ‘because the Mersen building lies within the Portslade Old Village Conservation Area it already benefits from statutory protection and planning  permission would be required to demolish it or alter it externally… both national and local planning policy would support its retention
Sixty-two Flats 

On 25 November 2015 Brighton & Hove City Council received three separate planning applications regarding the re-development of the Brewery Building. The firm presenting the applications is PGMI (Finchley) Ltd. of 100 Cannon Street, London and the agent is Iceni Projects Ltd. Flitcroft House, 114-116 Charing Cross Road, London. The documents are as follows:

BH2015/14291 – Prior approval for change of use of cottages, drying hall and the first and second floor of the tower building from offices (B1) to residential (C3) to create 45 self-contained flats.

BH2015/04293 – Prior approval for the change of use of the third, fourth and fifth storeys of the tower building from storage (B8) to form eight residential dwellings.

BH2015/04288 – Prior approval for change of use of workshop building of former Brewery on South Street from storage (B8) to residential (C3) to form nine residential dwellings.

The words ‘Prior Approval’ imply the idea of converting the building into residential use has already been passed. The Planning Committee of Brighton & Hove City Council is therefore constrained in their consideration of the planning applications and they may only turn it down under certain conditions.
While most residents would be delighted to see their landmark building put to good use, particularly in view of the drastic housing shortage, it seems the developers have entirely overlooked the vexed question of parking. It would be unrealistic to expect none of the new residents to own cars. And so where would the vehicles be parked? In the small streets surrounding the old Brewery building, parking is already at saturation point.

copyright © D. Sharp
June 2018 view from St Nicolas Church tower of the demolition of the former factory buildings on the Old Brewery's east side

Plans Passed

On 9 August 2017 Brighton & Hove City’s planning committee passed new plans for the Brewery and its associated buildings. There was some opposition, particularly with regard to an industrial building being lost to housing whereas if it could continue in commercial use as many as 135 jobs might be forthcoming. Unfortunately, no tenant was found for such an enterprise.

 copyright © D. Sharp
The demolition of the east side 20th century factory buildings as viewed from Drove Road in August 2018, the third photograph shows the former brewery manager's house which has not been seen from South Street for nearly a hundred years as this gap between the brewery and the house was filled by a former 20th century entrance lobby to the factory

The other intractable problem was traffic in such a confined area. Councillor Leslie Hamilton was unhappy about resident access being from High Street, which contained twelve listed buildings. He would have preferred access to be from Drove Road but was told it would be very difficult because of the 2.4 metre difference of the site.   

The plans included the following:

37 self-contained flats
11 new homes
674 square metres of community space / arts studio / café

The developer also agreed to pay the following sums:

£100,000 to improve local parks
£48,000 towards sustainable transport
£21,000 for city sports centres
£16,000 for a local employment scheme

 copyright © D. Sharp
The new buildings in the process of construction on the east side of the old brewery as viewed from Drove Road in August 2019

In addition two new homes were to be set aside as ‘affordable accommodation’ for local people or if this could not be done £126,000 would be paid towards affordable housing elsewhere.

 copyright © D. Sharp
The demolition of the south side's (High Street) 20th century factory buildings in June 2018 and the building of the new houses in August 2019.

The idea for arts studios was warmly welcomed because there was a desperate need for such facilities in Brighton and Hove.

(Argus 11/8/2017 / Brighton & Hove Independent 11/8/2017)

A Pause

In March 2018 there came the surprising news that the freehold of the Old Brewery was up for sale through Oakley, billed as ‘Your Sussex property expert’. The advertisement stated that the iconic building had full planning permission for a major residential development, thus:

48 residential units (mix of houses and flats)
47 dedicated parking spaces
Commercial B1 space (7,254 sq-ft)

(Argus 6 March 2018)

copyright © D. Sharp
New houses in Drove Road on the site of the Brewery's former associated buildings in November 2021

Carbone House

Carbone House was to be the name of a new project to be undertaken at the Old Brewery to the great astonishment of Portslade residents who only heard about it in early October 2022, shortly before it was supposed to be happening.

The behind-the-scenes planning must have been going on for some time. The plans were for supported accommodation with 57 beds for those with complex mental health problems, and those recovering from substance or alcohol abuse. The scheme would be funded by Brighton & Hove City Council and NHS Commissioners. It would be run by the charity St John of God Hospitaller Services, which is based in Darlington. There would be round-the-clock supervision and CCTV in operation. The delicious irony in the situation is that in May 2022 NHS Sussex had agreed to sign a document advocating accountability and transparency.

There was no transparency at Portslade. Even the Portslade councillors were only given seven days warning before the first ‘clients’ were due to move in. The resulting uproar was inevitable. As Councillor Peter Atkinson put it so eloquently ‘What has happened in the case of the Old Brewery is not transparent in any form… local residents … feel they are being both taken for granted and taken for a ride.’

Two public meetings were held – both very well-attended. But the atmosphere at the first meeting became so heated that representatives of the parties involved refused to take part in the second meeting. Finally, Peker Holding London Ltd, the company owning the Old Brewery, resolved the situation by pulling the plug and withdrawing from any more negotiations. It transpired that Peker Holding was as much in the dark about the ‘clients’ as were Portslade residents. Niyazi Albay, the boss of Peker Holding, commented that their priority was for the people already living in the Old Brewery complex, and the company would ensure that the development would be completed to the highest standard. Mr Albay said, ‘We are pleased that this chapter is now closed.’

It later became apparent that the circumstances surrounding this future use of the Old Brewery were quite bizarre. It seems that council and NHS bosses had awarded a contract to St John of God Hospitaller Services without any suitable premises having been secured beforehand. Then the Old Brewery came into the picture, and, quite wrongly, the Hospitaller Services thought such a project did not need planning permission, further more the premises were not ready for occupation, and the owner of the building had not even signed a contract.

The council took due note of the ensuing storm, and resolved that such a debacle should not be allowed to happen again because councillors agreed that something had gone ‘terribly wrong’. In future, the Procurement Advisory Board would need to ‘sign off prior information notices before they are sent out’. One councillor called for a proper investigation, and has written to Geoff Raw, chief executive, on the subject.

(Evening Argus 5/10/22 8/10/22 11/10/22 14/10/22 22/10/22 / 15/11/22)

New Homes

In mid-November 2022 advertisements were produced to inform people that show homes in the new development were ready to be viewed. There are 37 apartments that come on a 999-year lease plus a ten-year guarantee that the workmanship should be up to scratch, and claiming that the apartments were ‘expertly designed’. Prices for a one-bedroom apartment start at £220,000, but no doubt considerably more money would be needed to secure a rare ‘gated parking’ space.

New Gym

By early December 2022 a new gym called Intent91 opened its doors in the Old Brewery, occupying a spacious ground floor site on the corner of High Street / South Street. There has been a major refurbishment over several months but the youthful business people in charge, George Branford and Emily Riggs, are delighted with the result, and are particularly pleased with the high ceiling and unique surroundings. There has been a great deal of interest in the venture, and 50 people have already signed up even before the opening. Intent91 claims to be Brighton’s best personal training gym, and from the images posted on-line, the interior certainly looks sleek and modern. (Argus 6/12/22)

The Final Discrepancy

In January 2023 it finally came to light that the new gym had been assembled before Brighton & Hove City Council had given formal permission for such a change of use, and therefore no customers had been through the doors although everything was ready inside. This debacle seemed to some people to be most regrettable, while others dismissed it as a mere detail. The developers are now said to be PGMI Portslade Ltd.

But actually, it was a serious flaw because the original planning consent for the conversion of the rest of the building into flats had a clause stating the ground floor should include ‘arts studio, and ancillary galleries, shared community space and cafe.’ Local people had put up with all the noise and commotion of building operations in the fond hope that the promise would be honoured.

Alas, since then planning laws have changed, and the insertion of a gym must be seen as a fait accompli, while the opening of number7 cafe in the village scuppered the need for another cafe. The councillors were equally divided on the issue, with three being for the change of use, and three against. Indeed, the change of plan was only passed because of the casting vote of Leo Littman, a Green councillor. But is still leaves a sour taste in the mouth, with many inhabitants mourning the loss of a community space, and the opportunity to bring art into the midst of Portslade Old Village, a conservation area. (Argus 18/1/23)

Hot Cakes

On 2 February 2023 it was learned that the apartments were selling like hot cakes, which is quite a surprise in this time of general financial woes. Apparently, there are only five apartments left for sale, and all the rest have been sold. On the date just mentioned some interested local people were allowed inside the building to see for themselves the quality of the newly created apartments. They were taken up to the fifth floor and viewed a two-bedroom apartment. It was an open-plan environment with a double aspect and superb views through the windows – to the south you could glimpse the sea, and to the north you could look over Portslade to the Downs. Such views must be worth a great deal of money, not to mention all the history of a unique building. By all accounts the courtyard has been well-designed, and has dedicated spaces for car owners.

copyright © D. Sharp
'We Thank the NHS' banners
around the brewery's chimney
May 2020

Argus 21 May 2019
Argus 26 November 2019 Barnard, Alfred Noted Breweries of Great Britain and Ireland Vol. 4 (c. 1891) Census Returns
Hove Council Minutes
Kerrigan, M. Paul Nash: Masterpieces of Art (2018)
Lawrence, Timothy Portslade Brewery (1996)
North Portslade Community Newsletter October/November 2014
North Portslade Community Newsletter December 2018
Viva no. 19 November 2019

Original Deeds

(When I studied the following items, they were located at the East Sussex Record Office, Lewes. They are most probably now to be found now at The Keep, Moulescoomb).
HOW 11/8-9 Articles of Association Smithers & Sons (1906) West Street Brewery (1895)
HOW 105/6 Smithers & Sons, Portslade title deeds
HOW 113//3 Portslade Brewery and adjoining land 1801-1884
HOW 113/5-6 Property in Portslade belonging to Portslade Brewery
HOW 113/6-7 Conveyance of Stag’s Head and Victoria Hotel 1884

Copyright © J.Middleton 2016
page layout by D.Sharp