Arundel Brewery History
Above: Majestic Arundel Castle with mist rising from the nearby River Arun. Present day planning regulations would probably make it difficult for a brewery to set up in such an historic location, so we opted instead for a unit on nearby Ford Airfield Estate, which is to the south of the town. Photo by Steve Clements.
Arundel Brewery was founded in 1992 (see footnote). It was the historic town's first brewery for 70 years, and marked the rebirth of a tradition dating back more than 200 years. The brewery has been under new ownership since 2004, and continues to improve its range of core brands and seasonal beers. In addition, it also brews a range of occasional beers that are available in selected months (see the Beers page for further details). In 2005, the company began to introduce a range of bottled beers, which currently consists of the following:
- Sussex Gold, ABV 4.2% – our popular golden ale
- ASB, ABV 4.5% – Arundel Special Bitter, the bottled version of draught Special Bitter
- Old Knucker, ABV 5.5% – a dark old ale
In July 2010, the brewery doubled the size of its premises by moving into the industrial unit next door, and then three months later installed a brand new, 20 barrel stainless steel brewing plant which was necessary to cope with the ever-growing demand for its products. Next in line was the cool store, which was doubled in size in July 2011.
Arundel's Brewing Past
Like many country towns, Arundel used to possess a number of breweries, the most important of which was that belonging to G.S. Constable & Sons Limited. This business was founded in 1845 at Littlehampton, and operated breweries in both Littlehampton (The Anchor Brewery in the High Street) and Arundel (The Swallow Brewery in Queen Street). However, trade directory entries for the Swallow Brewery are even earlier and date from 1783 – the year of the French Revolution.
Constable's really put Arundel on the brewing map in 1917, when the company switched its two breweries to specialised production: Littlehampton went over to manufacturing mineral water, while Arundel handled all the brewing. Constable's became part of a bigger firm in 1921 when it merged with G. Henty & Sons of Chichester to form Henty & Constable (Brewers) Limited, but this signalled the end of brewing in Arundel. The last brews were mashed in about 1922, when all production was transferred to Henty's Westgate Brewery in Chichester. Henty & Constable closed down in 1955, but are still remembered fondly by a few older locals.
Despite Constable's brewery being the oldest in the town, the name 'Arundel Ales' had been taken by another company, Lambert & Norris Ltd., whose Eagle Brewery was located in Tarrant Street. Lambert & Norris was founded in about 1828 as Puttock & Co., but was taken over in 1910 by Friary, Holroyd & Healy's Breweries Ltd. – a large company based in Guildford, which went on to become Friary Meux Ltd. via the usual process of mergers and takeovers. Friary, Holroyd & Healy kept the Eagle Brewery in operation until at least 1915, but then left Constable's to maintain Arundel's brewing tradition on their own. Nowadays, little tangible evidence remains of these bygone breweries, bar the occasional enamel sign or frosted glass window. These relics are out there for the observant to find, but are extremely rare.
Visitors to West Sussex often wonder why the county had so many breweries, but the beer was safer to drink than the water! (It was boiled for at least 1½ hours.) Country areas received their public water supplies much later than the big cities. For example, Henty & Constable's home town of Chichester did not receive a public water supply until the 1890s, and this helped to keep beer sales high. However, the start of the 20th century must have been a very difficult time for country brewers, when families began to rely on safe drinking water instead of low-alcohol products such as Luncheon Ale or Family Ale. Factors such as these, and the growth of ever larger brewing companies, conspired to keep Arundel without a brewery for 70 years, but now local brewing is back!
Acknowledgement: Norman Barber, Where Have All the Breweries Gone?, Neil Richardson and Camra Ltd., 1981, pb, ISBN 0 907511 112
Further Information: If you are interested in the modern Sussex brewing scene, click the link here.