History of Eastry Brewing


Douglas Welby, Eastry Historian, researched the information about Brewing in Eastry and wrote the attached article. This was put on the website by Michael Kinns

Eastry’s Breweries

‘There is nothing which has yet been contrived by man, by which so much happiness is produced as by a good tavern or inn’

Samuel Johnson

Since pre-Roman times there has been a small settlement at the top of the hill we recognize as the centre of present day Eastry. Small track ways would have linked various settlements or farmsteads together perhaps terminating at a major track which the Romans would choose to construct their road linking the port of Dover to the military fort at Richborough. This section of road entered the village at the top of Dover Hill, continued down to the pond at Buttsole, and up Lower Street to Eastry High Street. It is likely that upon reaching the top of the hill, traveller’s would be seeking to rest their weary legs and have some refreshment, and I am sure that some enterprising person in the community would have realized this and seized upon the opportunity to make a living by constructing a tavern or an inn.

From at least this period ale, beer, or other brewed beverages, were consumed and would have been considered much safer than drinking water from the wells. The three main drinks were ale, beer and mead with many varieties of each. Ale is liquor made from the infusion of malt by fermentation. It differs from beer in having a smaller proportion of hops. The making of malt from barley corn was probably a custom even whilst brews of ciders and honey based meads continued to be drunk.

At first brewing would been produced on a small scale, even made in the smallest of dwellings for their own consumption. As ale houses, inns and shops sprang up in villages and towns and along country roads each needed to supply larger quantities of drink for their customers so breweries began to appear. It is likely that when Eastry was granted a licence to hold an annual fair in 1450, somebody was probably ready to supply refreshment to the crowds of merrymakers assembled on Fairfield.

At the dawn of the sixteenth century there were few industries in towns and villages such as Eastry. As the village was closely connected with agriculture the brewing/malting ingredients would have been readily obtainable from local farmers. These industries, although on a small scale supplied an essential element to an agrarian population. As these industries became established the words ‘brewer / brewery and maltster / malt house’ were introduced.

It is likely that the Flemish immigrants introduced the commercial cultivation of the hop on a larger scale A century later the hop-gardens were one of the features which impressed Celia Fiennes when she made her journey into Kent in 1697, and later described this part of the county as the ‘Mother of Hop Grounds in England’.


An example of small time brewing continued and from the Overseers of the Poor accounts it shows:

10 May 1721 pd. Solomon Brice for a Bushell of Mault for Pamer when they had Small pox …………… 2s. 10d.
pd. Goody ffells for Brewing the said Mault …… 8d.
10 Nov1721 pd. for Beer for men to carry Goodm. Richardson to Church……1s 0d.

A small brewery is thought to have existed from 1675 when the earliest recorded keeper purchased the property now known as the Five Bells, with a barn, stables and six acres of land.

A map dated 1769 shows a long narrow structure which matches where the malt-house stood for many years.

In later wills, the documents show that a substantial malt-house and brewing facility had been established next door to the public house.
This is later described in the extract taken from the will of Elizabeth Rammell, who resided at The Lynch in Brook Street and dated 15 September 1821, which stating:

“To cousin John Hoile of Sandwich, brewer the Public House known as the Five Bells with stable, grounds, etc occupied by Mary Pittock widow, with 2 adjoining cottages occupied by Thomas Bean and the widow Bowles and the malt house with still house, stable, yard etc nearby now occupied by John Bowes and 2 cottages adjoining the malt house occupied by Richard Dixon and widow Bankett and the barn now used as a carpenters workshop adjoining the cottages occupied by Benjamin Moat and arable land called Coopers of 10 acres occupied by Thomas Pettman, all in Eastry.”

It must be noted that owning a brewery was not always a trouble free and locrative business. For example when the barley crop failed in 1782 it was the brewers who went bankrupt! In the late nineteenth century there was a succession of wet and sunless summers which resulted in failure of the hop harvest which suffered severely from mould. The shortage of barley and hops caused the prices to increase considerably, and the Dover Standard reported in their paper in October 1872,

‘that publicans and beer sellers in many districts have resolved to raise the price of beer by ½ d. per quart at the end of the month. The charge of 3 ½ d. per pot in the customers’ own jugs seem likely to become universal.’

To understand the complexities of Eastry’s brewery site from the early nineteenth century, it requires that the different elements be treated separately:

Firstly the Five Bells public house was owned by an absentee landlord as show in the 1821 will above. From this document we see that the public house had an established malt house and still, which had for some time been considered as a brewery. We also note that the enterprise is bequeathed to John Hoile, a local brewer.
From the 1841 Tithe map schedule the pub, garden and two cottages were still owned by John Hoile, but the occupier and publican being John Wilson.


The brewery:
From the 1821 will, the property was owned by the Rammell family, who willed it to their cousin John Hoile.
This document records that: ‘the malt house with still house, stable, yard etc …. now occupied by John Bowes’.
This is confusing because records show that John Hoile had been the maltster from 1806-12, and
John Bowes (b 28 Jan 1792 d 4 Dec 1865) the brewer from 1814-65. It is possible that John Hoile
had served his apprenticeship at Eastry, before becoming the brewer at Sandwich.

From the 1841 Tithe map schedule it shows that John Bowes and his wife Sarah (b May 1830 d Feb 1853) were now the
landowner and occupiers. Other members of the family who lived at the Brewery House were:
1859 Henry Bowes (d Jan 1885 age 49 London)
1861-72 William Bowes
1869-70 Mrs. Susannah Bowes (wife of one of John’s sons) referred to as maltster and brewer in the Post Office Directory.
1892-97 Edward Bowes
1859-97 Richard Bowes - brewer.
In October 1886, there appears to have been a major financial problem. The then owner Richard Bowes had to mortgage the house, brewery and malt house for £1000 with interest of 4%. On 17 July 1895, a reconveyance document shows that the property had been discharged back to Richard Bowes.

The Eastry Brewery

Don’t let beer get the best of you.
But get the best of beer.
And if you want it better than best.
You will always find it here.

From the breweries advertising

In November 1897, this was acquired by Owen Clark from Richard Bowes for £1350. This sale included the house which was in the occupation of Alfred Clark, the malt house with the mill house, stable yard and a parcel of land estimated as half an acre.

The new owner introduced a new era of progress and development with the site managed by John Terry (1897-1901). The brewery was fitted with a capital seven-quarter plant, mash tun, coppers, coolers, and fermenting vessels, etc. Production was conducted on the most advanced lines coupled with scrupulous cleanliness. The highest quality malt was made on the premises and hops were used. Malt was also sold to private brewers, such as farmers and others who made their own beer. The water used in the brewery came from deep wells on the premises; the springs feeding from the underlying chalk formation.


Amongst the improvements made after 1897 was the erection of new engines and a boiler house, which permitted water to be pumped up to the cold liquor tank by steam power instead of the quaint old wooden wheel which was formerly used for the purpose.

The brew house saw significant changes; particularly after the mashing rakes which had also been powered by horses became steam driven. The output at the turn of the twentieth century included light, mild and bitter ales, XX ales, East India Pale Ale, stout and porter in casks, jars and bottles.

Quality control was introduced and from time to time problems arose between the hop grower and the brewer over the quality of the hops supplied.
One such dispute in January 1900 over the purchase of 3 pockets of hops was sensibly sorted out.

Initially Mr.Clark at the brewery agreed on a price of £4.15 shillings per cwt, but due to the quality delivered, was only willing to pay £4. The brewer in his correspondence to the farmer, said ‘The hops were the last of the pickings and inferior’, and he would not pay the top price.

It was agreed that the parties concerned should each send a man to value them, and the price agreed on would be paid.

Beer brewed at the brewery was often delivered to outlying farms and cottages in 4½ gallon barrels.


It is interesting to note that in the early years of the twentieth century beer cost only 4d (1½ p) a pint
whilst best bitter cost just 6d (2½ p) a pint. Occasionally larger orders were much publicised in the press, for example: The Mercury reported on 3rd October 1908 that the Guardians of the Eastry Union Workhouse have accepted the tender from Eastry Brewery for ale, beer and porter, for the coming year. The reporter remarked

‘This is an excellent example to all private families in East Kent, as it is brewed from East Kent malt and East Kent hops’.

But during the First World War brewing declined, and hop acreage drastically fell.

In an attempt to aid wartime productivity the Government increased the tax on beer and reduced licensing hours. Then in the early 1920s Eastry Brewery’s trade was eventually undermined by the big monopolies.

Many of these were London based and had grown very large by taking over the smaller breweries and their outlets, thus forcing the small under funded independent brewers to close down.

Immediately after the demise of Eastry Brewery in 1924, Kelly’s Trade Directory shows that Top & Co. breweries and Ash’s East Kent Brewery Co. Ltd. had interests in the village.

The Malt House

The malt house and still had been occupied by the Bowes family for some years before the 1820s, but they were only tenants. By the 1841 Tithe map schedule they appear to have been able to purchase it from the new owner, John Hoile.

This old structure was a typically a long low building where the cereal grain was converted into malt by soaking it in water, allowing it to swell increasing its bulk by 25%. It was then dried to stop further growth, and then by storing it, developed the required flavour. The malt house in the village would have traditionally supplied the needs of other local alehouse owners and home brewers.

There were by-products from malt making. Wheat straw was burnt by the workers as a means of drying the malt and was sold to the farmers as a fertilizer known as black-ashes to dress their fields. The washed grain after brewing was often used to fatten pigs and give them a good flavour.

It is interesting to note that in 1838 the brewery rented the adjacent Zion Chapel as a temporary corn store because for some reason the chapel was not being used, but was handed back when the chapel re-opened some years later. The Malt House was occupied by the Bowes family until 1897, when Alfred Clark became maltster from 1897-1901

The Brewery House

John Bowes Head age 69 Maltster & Brewer
Susanna Bowes Wife age 62
William Bowes Son age 32 Maltster
Richard Bowes Son age 29 Maltster
Henry Bowes Son age 26 Maltster
In addition they had two servants, one a cook and the other a housemaid. The Bowes family continued to live there up until c1897.

Other later residents: 1897-1901 John Terry – Brewer and site manager
1902 Alfred Clark and his wife Mary nee Chandler.
In 1897, Owen Clark bought the whole brewery site from the Bowes family as an out of date but functioning business for £1350. Mr. Clark a shrewd business man saw the brewery’s potential and poured much money into it to update the business. He built up and expanded the company before selling on to Leonard Aston Fawssett a brewer from Findley’s Brewery, Leeds, in September 1902. Mr. Fawssett appears to have successfully run the brewery up until 1912. He sold the business just before the great recession began to take hold and the dark clouds of the First World War appeared.

Mr. Fawssett was extremely lucky to sell the brewery at this time, selling to another brewer from Littlebourne, near Canterbury. The conveyance between Leonard Aston Fawssett to Thomas Neville Cheatle took place in December 1912. Mr. Cheatle who owned the whole site, quickly realized he could not make it pay. In a desperate attempt he borrowed money by re-mortgaging and finally selling, to get creditors off his back, to Henry William Roberts (Cooper & Vat Manufacturer) for £1250 in September 1920.

Mr. Roberts finding that he had purchased a failing business, resorted to sell the brewery house. A conveyance document exists between Henry William Roberts and Edward Trevelyan Turner dated November 1921, but Mr. Turner (who died in October 1927) appears to have resided there for a short period but, due to financial complications, the sale eventually failed and the property returned to William Roberts’s estate. By 1924 Eastry Brewery had closed and the site was more or less abandoned. The sale of the brewery complex eventually took place between Florence Maude Fishwick (widow of H.W. Roberts) to Douglas Morrison Milne Fraser a medical practitioner in October 1935.

Dr. Fraser and a group of doctors practised in an old building to the side of the big house which was conveniently converted into a surgery. This practise became known as MacCall, Smith and Fraser, and continued until about 1957. A local resident, Rodney Betts, writing in 2015 stated

‘…we lived opposite at Avoca and my sister still lives there. Father and mother moved there in February 1939. Dr Fraser was our family doctor as he was for most of the village in those days. Living opposite Brewery House we saw a lot of him. He was a short Scotsman who chain smoked and wore thick glasses. He always seemed to have a Vauxhall car, in black. He kept a large Old English Sheep Dog. The surgery was a large green shed in his garden under the Horse Chestnut tree. Screwed to his front gate was a brass plate saying “Dr. D.M.M. Fraser. Physician and Surgeon”. To the best of my memory he moved to Trowbridge in Wiltshire in about 1958. I believe he died soon after’.


In December 1957, Dr Fraser sold the house, gardens and surgery to another doctor, John Richard Rose, for £3,250. Dr. Rose took over the practise from Dr. Fraser and the surgery moved to Albion Place in Church Street.

In around 1980 the ‘Old Brewery House’ was purchased by Dr. Raymond Foster, and soon after his arrival he became involved with the Eastry’s Home Defence. It was during the 1980s, serious discussions took place should an emergency arise either from a nuclear attack or some other cause.
The Defence Committee was set up by the Parish Council following a Home Office Circular in August 1981, with the objective of preparing plans for war time organization. A Home Defence Team was formed with each member being responsible for one aspect of the requirements in any emergency such as feeding, medical attention, water supply, general resources in the village and health. The emergency headquarters wereestablished at The Old Brewery, with the cellar becoming the Community Team’s Headquarters. A telephone link was fitted in the cellar to aid communications with Dr. Foster in charge of Medical Services and First Aid.

In c2013 Dr. R. Foster died and his son David Foster became the new owner.

In November 1987 it was Grade II listed, being described as a red brick building with plain tiled roof built in c1800. It is hard to imagine that the area, which is now Hillcrest Gardens in Lower Street, contained a flourishing brewery business.

Properties/workshops adjoining the Old Brewery site : This plot of land appears in 2 parts and recorded in Elizabeth Rammell’s will in 1821-

‘barn now used as a carpenters workshop adjoining the cottages occupied by Benjamin Moat’

.. The second part was in the occupation of Richard Dixon who is mentioned in the same document.

As the above will records it was given to her cousin John Hoile. Shortly afterwards in April 1822, documents show that this plot of land was purchased by William Chandler the elder, who was a painter, plumber and glazier.

By 1841 the Tithe map records remain the same with William Chandler being the landowner and Benjamin Moat still the occupier. In William Chandler’s will of 1843 he bequeathed this plot to his wife Mary for the term of her natural life, and on her demise for the use of his two sons- in- law, Benjamin Moat and George Hurst equally divided as tenants in common.

On 13 November 1849 there is an ‘Indenture of Partition’ between: Benjamin Moat and his wife Ann Evernden and George Hurst and his wife Sarah Smith and Edward Miles. Over the next 25 years the ownership and occupation becomes somewhat confused.

In March 1855 Benjamin Moat bequeathed his real estate to Sarah Ann Moat in his will, but there was a caveat which stated ‘not until his wife Ann dies’. His wife Ann Everden Moat then married William Berry.

At this point in March 1861 there appears to have been is a Deed Poll document. It is difficult to follow.
But in June 1869 there was an indenture document between Sarah Ann Moat and Edward Knocker.

In October 1874, the site which had been subdivided was sold to Thomas Crofts for a total sum of £620 made up by £220.9.0 to S. A. Moat and £399.11.0 to A. Clark and Mary nee Chandler his wife.

This plot of land now owned by Thomas Crofts was sold to Owen Clark in May 1900 for £550.
From a conveyance document dated September 1902:

‘The yard and the blacksmith’s forge formerly occupied by Thomas Crofts.
The carpenter’s shop which was formerly occupied by William Brenchley.’

Finally in November 1935 a substantial part of the ‘Old Brewery’ site was sold to Jesse Betts the local butcher by the new owner Douglas Morrison Milne Fraser, Medical Practitioner. The site, with the exception of the Brewery House land, appears to have been developed in 1936 by a local builder (possibly named Butcher) as a terrace of four houses, known as Hillcrest Gardens.