A Star is Born
1842 – Charles Wells is born in Bedford. His grandfather, Thomas Wells, moved to the town from St Neots at the turn of the 19th Century. Charles’ father, George, established a successful furnishing company under the rather comprehensive title of ‘George Wells & Son, bazaar, general furnisher, carpets, cabinet manufacturer, upholsterers, piano tuning, van owner, etc.’ By the time he left Commercial School fourteen years later, however, Charles was determined to become a sailor.
The High Seas
Charles Wells joins the Merchant Navy and travels the world, earning the rank of captain, before a chance encounter with one Josephine Grimbly whilst on shore leave in the early 1870s changes everything. Keen to win favour with his future father-in-law, Charles leaves his seafaring days behind him to focus on a career involving less risk of imminent death and a lot more beer.
Bedford's New Brewer
1876 – Charles Wells buys the Horne Lane brewery, situated on the banks of the River Ouse in Bedford, and 36 pubs at auction. Armed with the ability to ‘run a tight ship’ thanks to his time at sea, within two years Charles has turned a profit on his new brewery, sold off the adjoining coal business and expelled a family of pigs from the premises (in those days it was customary to keep pigs in breweries to eat the spent grain left over from the brewing process).
Well, Well, Wells
1902 – Water (known in brewing circles as ‘liquor’) is the lifeblood of any brewery, and Charles wanted to ensure that only the very best was flowing through Horne Lane. In 1904 he sank a well at his own expense at Franklin’s brickfields on Clapham Road. There was considerable scepticism when Charles claimed that the site had an abundant supply of fresh water that could be used by both his brewery and the town, but he was ultimately proved right and Bedford accepted his generous contribution with thanks.
1914 – After several years of poor health, Charles Wells dies on 18th April, survived by Josephine, five sons and three daughters. The family’s wish for a quiet funeral was respected, but there was notable turnout of Bedford people nonetheless. An obituary in the Bedfordshire Times described Charles as having ‘the brusqueness, candour and honesty of the British mariner’. We think he would have enjoyed that description.
Time to Fly
1964 – The eagle has landed. The historic symbol of Bedford, a new company logo of an eagle is fixed to all Charles Wells tied pubs. The eagle replaces the previous Wells starfish logo, but several decades later you’ll see that the Brewpoint logo borrows plenty of inspiration from those early days.
Bigger & Better
1976 – With the Horne Lane brewery creaking at the seams and production struggling to keep pace with demand for our beers, it was time for an upgrade. Work began in 1972 on the creation of a much larger, modern brewery site on Havelock St in Queen’s Park. Completed in 1976 and costing £3.6 million, the new brewery was a revelation; no other similarly-sized regional brewer had contemplated taking such a large step from traditional ale brewing to a highly flexible site that could produce cask and keg ale as well as lager.
Spreading Our Wings
1996 – The Bombardier opens in Paris, the first pub in what is now the Wells & Co. France estate. We planned a pub in the French capital with our French beer importer Jean-Pierre Ladet and started looking for a site in 1996. After two sites fell through, we were third time lucky with former restaurant 'Aux Vieux Paris' on the Place du Pantheon, and The Bombardier opened on September 29th 1997. Santé!
2017 – A fresh start. Charles Wells sells Havelock St brewery and most of our beer brands to Marston’s, signalling a move away from higher-volume national sales and a renewed focus on specialty ale and lager brands to delight modern beer fans. The deal also provided us with the resources needed to begin designing the new home of our dreams- now known as Brewpoint.
Wells & Co. is Born
2019 – Charles Wells rebrands as Wells & Co., reflecting the diversity of our modern business. The move away from Charles Wells was not a decision we took lightly, but with significant investment taking place in our pub estates and a new brewery on the way capable of producing a range of beer styles unimaginable to us just ten years ago, the time felt right to make a statement of confidence about our future direction as a company.
Our New Home
2019 – Work begins on our new home, Brewpoint, in Fairhill in western Bedford. So much more than just a brewery, Brewpoint is a £14m investment in our future, a statement of confidence about the direction of our fifth-generation family business, and our new home. We can’t wait to welcome you.
The Triple Bottom Line
We at Wells & Co. recognise that there is more to doing good business than money. We’ve emerged from the pandemic with a new way of operating that puts equal emphasis on our impact both on the natural environment and the communities around us, including our own colleagues.
The model of the Triple Bottom Line is rapidly gaining momentum across forward-thinking businesses and appeals to us here at Wells & Co. Instead of focusing on just a single bottom line – profit – the Triple Bottom Line model, incorporating Planet, People and Profit, requires companies to focus as much attention on social and environmental issues as they do on financial targets.
In pursuit of this goal, fifth-generation Wells family member Ed Robinson has recently been appointed to the new role of Group Planet and Community Impact Lead, providing some dedicated focus to help steer Wells & Co. into this new way of working.
This new approach will mean evolving the ways we currently do business in many respects; no small objective, but it’s a hugely worthwhile goal and we’re up for the challenge.
Learn more about our brand and the range of experiences on offer!