Portslade Brewery

Who on earth is Lee Carbon and why should I do a piece on him?

As I came to find out, Lee Carbon is the name given by locals to the former brewery on the north-east corner of the South Street/High Street junction in old Portslade which now houses a manufacturing firm – Le Carbone.

The brewery, covering almost one acre, was built in 1881 for John Dudney. 1881 is clearly stated on the massive chimney surrounded by carved bunches of hops and eaves of barley. The original building was an imposing five storey yellow-brick structure, towering menacingly over the tiny neighbouring shops and houses. Coopers’ shops, a cask-washing shed and stables were all on the site. The sixth storey (counting the basement as the first) was added later. When Dudney was in charge, the brewery was capable of producing one thousand barrels per week.

John Dudney was a well-known prize-winning local brewer who specialised in the production of pale ales. In 1884, by which time Dudney was in his seventies, the brewery was sold to two brothers, Walter and Herbert Mews. Two of the finest properties in Portslade were built for the brothers. Whychcote was built for Herbert in 1895 and Loxdale around the corner for Walter a few years later. Whycote and Loxdale, along with Easthill House, Portslade Manor and Portslade Lodge, make up a fine and little-known collection of beautiful buildings in the old village area of Portslade. One wonders why the rest of Portslade wasn’t built in a complimentary style.

Lee Carbon, or Le Carbone (Great Britain) Ltd as it known at Companies House, is a division of Carbone Lorraine Worldwide, a French company which designs and produces various electrical components including motors and industrial fuses. The firm was founded in 1891 and is today one of Europe’s leading electrical specialists. They acquired the brewery in 1947 following extensive army use during the Second World War (for training, not alcohol production) including the 1st Canadian Division.

Part of the reason behind Dudney’s choice of this particular location as the home for his brewery was the natural spring that flows beneath the premises. He dug a well which was extended several times until it was 249 feet deep. Even now, the well floods and, in 1988, after several days of heavy rain, there was thought to be 1.5 million gallons of water sloshing around in the basement!