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Harvey’s Brewery is the oldest independent brewery in Sussex. We are a family business, and the brewery has been in the custodianship of John Harvey’s descendants since 1790, with five family members from the seventh and eighth generations working here today.

Still a privately owned limited company, Harvey's has no shares marketed for external investment.


In the Beginning

1790-1850 | In the Beginning

Our brewing heritage began in the time of George III, William Blake and Jane Austen, and in Lewes, a rebellious little town nestled in the Sussex Downs.

The name of Harvey has long been associated with the supply of beers, wines and spirits in Sussex. The family originated from London, but records of the 1790's recall the delivery of Old Red Port, Sherry and Claret in Lewes and its surrounding villages.

John Harvey started brewing as a seasonal sideline activity in Bear Yard, opposite the current brewery, by about 1820. Brewing would have been a natural extension of his business. There were five other breweries operating in Lewes at the time.

Harvey married Eliza Button and had several children including three sons. With his sons, John Harvey acquired the current Bridge Wharf Site in 1838 for the price of £3,100. It consisted of a coal wharf, timber yard and private dwellings. He added coal merchant to his business activities and built an eight-quarter brewhouse on the site.


Harvey & Son

1851-1900 | Harvey & Son

John Harvey's sons, Henry, Edwin and William developed "Harvey & Son" at the Bridge Wharf Site (acquired in 1838). By 1859, Henry Harvey was brewing Porters, Stouts and strong Mild Ales for distribution among 17 family owned public houses mostly located in the Eastbourne and Hailsham areas of Sussex. These were prosperous days for enterprising brewers.

The Original Harvey Houses

The Alma Arms, Uckfield

The Arlington Arms, Eastbourne

The Blackboys, Nr Heathfield

The Cricketers Arms, Berwick

The Foresters Arms, East Hoathly

The Golden Cross, Nr Hailsham

The Grenadier, Hailsham

The Halfway House, Isfield

The Hurst Arms, Eastbourne

The Lamb, Eastbourne

The Polegate Arms (Dinkum)

The Red Lion, Turners Hill

The Red Lion, Stone Cross

The Terminus, Eastbourne

The Victoria, Eastbourne

The White Hart, Crawley

Tragedy Strikes the Harveys in the 1860s

Shortly after John Harvey's death in 1862, Henry and Edwin died within days of each other, leaving William alone to run the business. He was not a brewer, so he hired Henry Titlow-Barrett from Wethereds Brewery in Marlow to take over the company's beer production and also went into business with John Maxfield-Smith, the husband of his daughter (Alice Harvey). William too died unexpectedly in 1868.

The transition to the third and fourth generations of the family (the Harveys-Smiths) proved to be far from ideal for the company's prosperity. The next 60 years witnessed a gradual decline into an effective recession at Harvey's. However, prior to this slump, the present Gothic Victorian brewery was built under the supervision of Titlow-Barrett, having been designed by famed brewery architect, William Bradford.

Harvey's business setbacks were in high contrast to many other contemporary brewing companies. A few of these were to experience phenomenal growth and become national brewing giants, companies such as Watneys, Charrington and Whitbread.

At the turn of the 20th century, Harvey's was so insignificant that it fell 'below the gaze' of the large companies that would have swallowed a more dynamic business.

We believe it may have been Harvey's very lack of expansion at this time that led to the company's long-term survival.


Women in Charge

1901-1980 | Women in Charge

By the 1920s, the Company was heavily mortgaged and its few pubs were in a poor state of repair. At the time of its incorporation in 1928; Alice, Elsie and Nora, three of John Maxfield-Smith's daughters, were running Harvey's Brewery. Alice May Harvey-Smith was the firm's first Chairperson in 1929. It was she and her sisters who decided to make two crucial appointments that ultimately lead to Harvey's survival and long-term prosperity.

One other sister, Beatrice Harvey-Smith, had married a doctor and talented musician from Kent, Frank Carlyon-Rundle. Their only son Eric had recently returned from India and joined the company. Then, in the late 1930s, his Aunt May (Alice) decided to interview some technical brewers and a newly qualified young brewer called Anthony A. Jenner was hired.

Harvey's Revival

It was these two men who were to strike up a lasting business relationship which over the course of the next 40 years gradually took the firm out of debt, repaired the pubs, brewed award-winning beers and developed a respected reputation throughout the local community.

Following the Second World War Eric Rundle became the Chairman and the last sole proprietor of Harvey's Brewery; Anthony Jenner was Head Brewer and became Managing Director.

Prior to his death in 1980, Eric Rundle had made arrangements to divide the brewery among his three daughters. Anthony Jenner purchased a shareholding stake in the company, the only non- Harvey family member ever enabled to do so, in recognition of his contribution to the recovery of Harvey’s fortunes. Anthony Jenner became the firm's Chairman and partnered the Managing Directorship with Eric Rundle's son in law, W.K. Saunders.


We've experienced three major catastrophes in the form of one fire and two floods. During each we have endeavoured to get back to our usual business of brewing as quickly as possible, #wewuntbedruv.

FLOOD: October, November, 1960

Cliffe High Street was under water for nearly a week. The brewery carried on as well as it could but there was significant disruption to production and distribution at the time.

FIRE: July, 1996

Causing £2,000,000 worth of damage, offices were temporarily moved to what is now the John Harvey Tavern. The brewery was restored in 1998 but, many important and historical files were lost to the fire. We brewed Bonfire Boy, originally known as 'Firecracker', in tribute to the fire brigade who fought the blaze.

FLOOD: October, 2000

The flood of 2000 caused another £2,000,000 worth of damage to the brewery. We were told that the brewery wouldn't be up and running again for nine months due to the damage, but we were brewing in nine days later with thanks and assistance to the brewing community. The abandoned beer was put into bottle as 'Ouse Booze' and sold to raise money for the Lewes Flood Appeal.

1980 - Present

Current Custodians

1980 - Present | Current Custodians

In the 1980s Eric Rundle's daughters Audrey, Eileen and Joan took seats on the Harvey's Brewery Board and Anthony Jenner's son Miles joined the brewing room, after learning his craft at Greene King. A year later Hamish Elder (son of Audrey and a seventh-generation descendant of John Harvey) joined the firm from Independent Distillers and Vintners and his cousin Adele Smith (daughter of Joan) also spent some years with the company in the Pub Estate.

Audrey Elder became Harvey's second female Chairman in 2002 succeeding Anthony Jenner. Adele Smith and Julia Prescott (sister of Hamish, daughter of Audrey) came to sit on the company's Board of Directors in the 2000s.

Hamish Elder became Company Chairman in 2008. He is also Joint Managing Director with Miles Jenner, Harvey's Head Brewer.

Generations 8 & 9

There are 11 eighth generation descendants, two of whom currently work at the Brewery; Zoë Prescott our Brewery Marketing & Design Manager, and Peter Nicholas our Senior Sales Manager.

We are delighted to have four ninth generation descendants (aged five and under), which we hope provides plenty of scope for the continuation of Harvey's as an independent family business for generations to come.

As we say in Sussex: We wunt be druv.

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