Shepherd Neame injects more than £6m into its pub estate

By Rebecca Weller

- Last updated on GMT

Ambitious programme: Shepherd Neame invests more than £6m into pub estate
Ambitious programme: Shepherd Neame invests more than £6m into pub estate

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Shepherd Neame has invested more than £6m into its pub estate in the past 12 months, analysis of data by The Morning Advertiser has revealed.

While some investments and procurements were completed with an undisclosed sum, of the figures released since March 2023, the pubco has invested around £6.2m in refurbishments and new sites.

The Faversham-based firm, which is also Britain's oldest brewer, has a portfolio of more than 300 pubs with and without rooms throughout London, the south east and its hometown, Kent.

Shepherd Neame’s managing director pubs Jonathon Swaine said: “During the past year we have continued to invest in growing and developing our pub estate, which has been performing in line with the best in the sector.

"Demand has been strong all year with recent trade in our pubs encouraging, and we look forward to continuing our ambitious programme of investment in the coming months.”

Going back to April last year, Shepheard announced the Dover Castle pub​ in Teynham, near Sittingbourne, had reopened following renovations both externally and internally.

The makeover allowed the venue to increase the number of covers it could service to 100 and a new team was also introduced at the site.

Speaking at the time, general manager Christian Webber said: “I have a passion for pubs. The Dover Castle is a beautiful historic building, and it looks amazing now, too.”

Later on in 2023, Shepheard Neame, which is also a finalist in multiple categories for the 2024 Publican Awards​, invested a six-figure sum into Chislehurst pub The Crown​.

Big challenge 

In June, the pub operator and brewer injected £1.4m into the venue, which is situated on the edge of Chislehurst Common.

Work at The Crown was ongoing for 12-weeks and included installation of a bespoke bar, a new orangery and renovated outside space, as well as redecoration inside and out, including its nine bedrooms.

A new menu was also introduced to compliment the new look, including British pub classics, breakfast, lunch and dinner as well as light bites and sharing platters.

General manager Gareth Griffiths said the overhaul was the biggest he had dealt with in his career.

He said: “I have reopened a couple of pubs before but never this big a refurbishment. It’s a challenge that I am happy to take on.


“The feedback on the pub itself has been amazing from everyone since it reopened. The quality is there in every aspect of the project, and myself and the whole team are very passionate about making sure we reflect that in our offer.”

Last summer proved to be a season of big investments for the pubco, with a second six-figure sum invested into the Duke of Cumberland in Whitstable just a month after The Crown.

The independent firm transformed the 19th century pub, which welcomed customers back on Thursday 24 August, with rooms after investing £1.8m into refurbishing the historic venue while taking care to retain its original features, including a Grade II listed bar.

During 14-week renovation project, the Duke of Cumberland’s classic wood and leather feel was refreshed with a beach-inspired colour scheme as a nod to its seaside location.

“It is a fantastic to see Shepherd Neame making such a major investment in the town, and I’m excited about welcoming locals and visitors"

The venue’s bar, dining room and courtyard garden was also revitalised, with a new decking area and an outside kitchen as well as the addition of a new external function room named the Boatyard.

In addition, as Whitstable is famous for its oysters, each of the pub’s eight boutique bedrooms were named after a historic oyster fishing vessel known as ‘yawl’ or ‘smack’ built in the town.

The pub also boasted a new menu, which included freshly prepared food using seasonal local produce, such as whole grilled lemon sole served with seaweed butter alongside samphire and buttered Nichola potatoes.

A new manager also took the reigns of the Duke of Cumberland, Tina Kennedy, who said it was a “real honour”.

She added: “It is a fantastic to see Shepherd Neame making such a major investment in the town, and I’m excited about welcoming locals and visitors to see just what we have to offer here.”


The pub was previously renowned for its live music events, and Kennedy, who frequented the pub as a teenager growing up in the area, also planned to retain that tradition with regular jazz and swing nights at the pub, along with sunset acoustic evenings.

Also in August, a husband-and-wife team reopened another of Shepherd Neame’s historic inns, The Railway Hotel in Kent​, after an extensive transformation.

Donna and David Davis took on the Shepherd Neame pub, which is a Grade II listed building dating back to the 1850s, at the end of July 2023.

The couple have three sons and the whole family chipped in to get the business up and running, with their 18-year-old son Ollie and 21-year-old son Ben’s fiancée Sarah taking on front of house positions.

Huge potential 

Reopening on the 18 August, the pub boasted a fresh and spacious bar area with seven en-suite bedrooms, though it’s Carriage Restaurant opened the following month to allow for completion of a kitchen refurb.

In addition, the Railway, which is located opposite Faversham train station, hosted a Hop Festival last summer, which included a full line-up of music and took place over three days.

David, who lives with Donna and their sons in Westgate-on-Sea, said: “The Railway Hotel is such a beautiful building in the heart of Faversham, and we could see it had a huge amount of potential.


“We contacted Shepherd Neame with our ideas for the business, and we were delighted when they gave us the go-ahead to take it on.”

However, last summer’s investments also extended into the car park of Shepherd Neame pub’s, with the pubco having announced the instalment of new electric car rapid charging​ points at multiple sites in the south east.

After investing more than £2.5m in summer last year alone, Shepherd Neame then reopened the Tom Cribb pub in London’s West End​ following a 12-week £800k renovation project, themed around the venues boxing history.

Named after the world champion bare knuckle boxer who used to drink in, and eventually ran the Panton Street pub in the 19th century, the Tom Cribb benefitted from redecoration throughout, as well as a layout change to the bar are to give the venue a more open plan feel.

In addition, the venue also paid homage to one of Cribb’s associates that also used to drink in the pub when it was named the Union Arms, Bill Richmond, naming the newly created first floor room after him.

The décor was also chosen to reflect a Victorian style, using a palette of rich greens and burgundies, in addition to memorabilia paying tribute to the pub’s namesake.

In keeping with the pub’s refreshed look, a new menu was also implemented in the bar area and upstairs, including classic pub dishes such as fish and chips and a range of homemade pies, and bar snacks, such as sausage rolls and scotch eggs.

“The wonderful thing about pubs is they've each got their own personality and have been recreating themselves for centuries."

Shepherd Neame managing director for pubs Jonathon Swaine told The Morning Advertiser it was important for firms to reflect market trends and honour the history of a venue when renovating them.

He said: “The wonderful thing about pubs is they've each got their own personality and have been recreating themselves for centuries. 

“They should reflect the time we're in and the different trends that are out there to bring all that knowledge and creativity together to retell the pub’s story for the next few years.”


The pubco also launched a new beer exclusively at the Tom Cribb, First Drop, a 4.3% session IPA.

Moving to November 2023, the operator expanded its tenanted estate with the acquisition of a historic seafront pub in the South-East, The Ship Inn in Herene Bay​.

Shepherd Neame procured the site, which was thought to have been the oldest building in Herene Bay dating back to 1385, from Stonegate.

Licensees Alan and Michele Clarke, who also run Shepherd Neame site the Chesterfield Barn, described the old smugglers haunt as being in a “fantastic location” with “huge potential”.

“We have received a fantastic welcome from locals and are really pleased with how things are going so far”, Alan said.

Closing off 2023, Shepherd Neame announced its third six-figure investment of the year at the Royal Crown in Rochester​.

The Grade II listed pub, which overlooks the River Medway and is a short walk from Rochester Castle, received a £1.2m makeover which retained its historic features while introducing a new contemporary look and feel.

Pub institution 

Welcoming customers back through the doors, the Dean of Rochester Cathedral Philip Hesketh pulled the first pint at the pub before blessing it with a specially written dedication.


Shepherd Neame chief executive Jonathan Neame also presented representatives from the Medway Queen Preservation Society and the Rochester City Centre Forum with donations of £1,000 each.

The refurbishment of The Royal Crown included the creation of a new entrance lobby, a new feature gas fire in the main bar area, all new furniture and décor with original wood floors and dado panelling retained.

In addition, its first floor was also remodelled to create a spacious new feel, and a new private dining area overlooking the river, named the King’s View, was added.

Neame said at the time: “We are delighted to officially celebrate the reopening of The Royal Crown, after what is undoubtedly a remarkable refurbishment.

“Our team have worked incredibly hard to bring this project to fruition, revitalising a building steeped in history, which is now serving today’s customers with a warm welcome, in a stunning setting.

“I am certain that the Royal Crown, led by General Manager Tom Crackett, will continue to go from strength to strength.”

Most recently, to kickstart 2024’s investment plans the pubco reopened the Zetland Arms​, situated on Kingsdown beach, with a fresh new look and winter menu in January this year.


The pub underwent a stylish external redecoration in blue and white tones in keeping with its seaside setting as well as a full internal refurbishment.

A new menu inspired by its location was also introduced by new licensee Chris Hick, who had taken on the pub six months prior.

Hick said: “Our redecoration hopefully demonstrates our love for the pub, enhancing all its unique features and making it a warm, cosy environment for people to simply drop in for a drink while out on a dog walk or gather as a group for a meal.  

“I love the informality of this place. It feels like a pub institution, as everyone knows it, and it is here to serve the community. I feel very strongly about that – I want everyone to feel welcome here.”


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