Mail on Sunday
October 29, 2006
Brewery Loses Medieval Joust
by Simon Fluendy
It started over the pints served in a popular local pub. Now the row between
the ale drinkers of Lewes and brewery giant Greene King is being hailed as a
classic case of a local community taking on a national chain - and winning.
The salvation of the proud burghers of the county town of East Sussex turned
out to be medieval laws and the little-known Court of Chivalry founded in the
Greene King likes to see itself as a defender of local ales and it boasts of
a 200-year heritage.
Drinkers in Lewes, backed by their Liberal Democrat MP Norman Baker, clashed
with the £1 billion FTSE 250 company after one of the town's pubs, the
Lewes Arms, owned by Greene King, kicked out the locally brewed Harveys beer
and introduced its own 'local' brew called Lewes Arms.
Mayor Merlin Milner said: 'Lewes has kept its character while many other towns
have lost their own. Anything that erodes that feeling of difference is bound
to be resisted.'
A boycott and a petition failed to shift the brewing group, but then the town
clerk Steve Brigden found that the company's use of the Lewes town's coat of
arms on the beer's labelling was a potential offence in the eyes of the ancient
Court of Chivalry.
This court, convened under the Duke of Norfolk, last ruled in 1954 when Manchester
Corporation used it to stop a local variety theatre using the city's arms. Brigden
challenged Greene King, claiming it had no right to user the coat of arms and
threatening to drag it before the court.
Greene King backed down and dropped the Lewes Arms beer - allegedly for 'commercial
reasons.' The rival beer, however, remains banned from the pub.
Lewes is famous for Bonfire Night celebrations in which unpopular characters
are burned in effigy. Local sources suggest that Greene King chief executive
Rooney Anand may feature next weekend.