New venue in Manchester gets £900k investment

Manchester family brewers, JW Lees, officially opened the doors on Founder’s Hall, Albert Square, last night. The redevelopment takes JW Lees forward and brings the people of Manchester a space to experience the vast line up of the brewery’s beers all in one place, as well as creating 25 new jobs.

Located in Albert Square, Manchester, in the shadow of the work-in-progress Manchester Town Hall, replacing the former duttons Manchester site which opened 10 years ago, Founder’s Hall has a unique but familiar feel and will be a place to meet, eat and drink. With the Brewery at the heart of the business, paying homage to their Founder, John Lees and nearly 200 years of brewing history, Founder’s Hall is a shrine to JW Lees beers, showcasing a vast range of cask ales, craft lagers, traditional brews and small batch Boilerhouse beers.

JW Lees wanted to shout about its heritage, so the décor reflects this and the beers are the heroes – customers will be able to enjoy tasting flights and beer cocktails and the team are knowledgeable in JW Lees beers to create a more immersive experience. Service style will be hands-off, akin to a pub rather than a bar, whereby ordering is done at the bar and customers are welcome to sit, eat and drink where they are most comfortable.

The external area will be extended and feel comfortable enough to attract diners as well as drinkers and, when the weather allows, the bi-folding patio doors open to create a real ‘outside / inside’ experience. The whole site will also be flexible in order to accommodate extra footfall that will be generated by large events on Albert Square in the future.

The menu features nibbles, bar snacks and small plates perfect for pairing with a few pints or sampling something new with beer flights. The main event is the individually hand-crafted pies made on site and packed full of flavour, as well as some JW Lees pub favourites, best of the season dishes and a cracking Sunday roast with unlimited Yorkshire puddings and gravy.

Whether Manchester is pouring with rain or the sun is shining on the square, this is a space to catch up with friends, enjoy your favourite beers, cocktails or a few glasses of wine and drink up the atmosphere. From late February a calendar of weekly and monthly events will start rolling out including quiz nights and ambient DJ evenings, to give city centre workers a place to relax and enjoy after a long working week and a venue to enjoy throughout the weekend.


Independent family brewer and pub company Shepherd Neame has reopened its historic pub in the beating heart of Blackheath Village, The Crown, following a £750,000 transformation.

The former 16th century coaching inn has undergone a seven-week refurbishment which has introduced a stylish new look and feel while also lovingly retaining its unique features.

The pub’s traditional heritage has been celebrated throughout and now has a fresh, modern take on Edwardian décor, with a rich palette of dark blues, browns and vintage-inspired floral wallpapers.

Welcoming drinkers in, as well as surveying the refurbished outside seating area at the front of the pub, is a new traditional swing sign featuring a crown, the design for which took its inspiration from vintage signs on display inside Shepherd Neame’s Old Brewery Store at its Faversham brewery.

The Crown has been fully redecorated inside, with gleaming newly-sanded floors, imposing fireplaces, and leather benches, along with Edwardian tiling and rich, floral fabrics on the upholstery, providing a classic but contemporary feel.

There is a nod to Shepherd Neame’s long brewing history, from the introduction of period pump clips right down to the vintage beer mats featuring The Crown’s new logo.

There are now period tiles in burnished tones on the ceilings, in keeping with the atmosphere of a traditional London pub, while a piano has been installed in the side bar area to be used for weekly sing-a-longs – and impromptu customer performances!

Outside, the building has had a stunning refresh, with a standout gold theme incorporated in the brewer’s logo and crowns around the site. 

More local artistry has also been employed by James Titcher of Aero Arts Graffiti who has decorated an external wall with a quirky depiction of an off-duty royal sentry, enjoying a pint.

The project has also seen a new lease of life for the first floor area, which has been crowned with the new name of the King Charles III Dining Room, as a tribute to the new King following his coronation last year, named through a competition which was won by Crown regular Lee Tester.

As an authentic home of real ale, the pub will serve a wide selection of award-winning craft ales on draught, in glass and pewter tankards. 

And helping ensure an ice cold beer for customers is state-of-the-art energy efficient equipment now installed in the cellar.

Customers can enjoy a wide range of ales and lagers, including one of Shepherd Neame’s Classic Collection draught keg beers, Bishops Finger, along with premium wines and spirits. 

A delicious new menu of homemade traditional bar snacks and pub classics has also been introduced, but with a contemporary twist, using the finest locally sourced produce.

Managing Director, Pubs, Jonathon Swaine, said: “This stunning refurbishment of The Crown, Blackheath, is part of Shepherd Neame’s ongoing investment in our estate.

“We have drawn on our history as Britain’s oldest brewer to bring a new look to a popular pub in a perfect part of Blackheath Village, which is a spectacular mix of old and new. We look forward to welcoming customers back in for them to admire the work we have put in over a pint.”

The pub, led by General Manager Jan Mullerson, reopens to customers this evening (Friday, February 23), while an official opening, led by Chief Executive Jonathan Neame, with local dignitaries and charity representatives, will be held on Wednesday, February 28.


Independent family brewer and pub company Shepherd Neame is launching the third in its series of popular photographic competitions.

Following the success of its first photography contest in 2022, an Autumn/Winter competition was held last year, and it is today launching one for Spring 2024, with fantastic prizes to be won.

To celebrate its current Charity of the Year partnership with FareShare, which fights hunger and food waste, there will be extra marks available for pictures which incorporate food – spring lambs tucking into some breakfast, blue tits picking berries or maybe a tasty treat for your dog while out on a walk.

One winner will receive the top prize of a £150 Shepherd Neame gift card and there will also be four runners-up, each receiving a £25 gift card.

From almost 100 entries submitted for the last competition, the winning image chosen was a fox at Stodmarsh Nature Reserve near Canterbury, taken by Ollie Boughton from Folkestone, securing him the top prize.

Corporate Communications Manager, Kathryn Tye, said: “We were delighted by the fantastic response to our first two photography competitions, and really enjoyed seeing all the excellent and creative entries. We can’t wait to kick off 2024 with more uplifting images.” 

Capture your perfect spring moment and send it to [email protected] with a couple of lines explaining where the photo was taken and any other background information. If there is a Shepherd Neame link, bonus points may also be awarded!

You can enter up to three images by the closing date of Sunday, March 31.

The winning images will also go on show in Shepherd Neame’s brewery reception in Court Street, Faversham.

To find out about Shepherd Neame’s Charity of the Year partnership with FareShare click here:

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