Charles Wells Ltd

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Charles Wells Ltd
Industry Hospitality industry and alcoholic beverages
Founded 1876
Founder Charles Wells
Headquarters Bedford, UK
Key people
Peter Wells, Paul Wells
Products Public houses and beer
Revenue £225.1m[1]
Divisions Charles Wells Pub Company, John Bull Pub Company and Wells & Young's Brewery

Charles Wells Ltd is the holding company of the Charles Wells Pub Company, a pub chain, and of Wells & Young's, a brewing company formed from the merger of the brewing operations of Young's Brewery with Charles Wells.[2] Charles Wells Ltd was founded in 1876 by Charles Wells in Bedford, England.

The Charles Wells Pub Company controls over 200 public houses in England and nine in France (under the name John Bull Pub Company).[3] Wells & Young's brew Charles Wells, Young's, Courage and McEwan's beers, along with contract beers, such as Kirin Ichiban.[4]


Late 19th / early 20th century beer bottle with old Charles Wells starfish trademark, on display at The Higgins.

Charles Wells Ltd (also known as Charles Wells Brewery and Pub Company, and previously as Charles Wells Family Brewery) was founded by Charles Wells in 1876. In 1875, a two and a quarter acre site came to auction on the banks of the River Ouse as it ran through Bedford. This site contained both a coal depot and a brew house; included in the price were 35 pubs, mainly in Bedford and the surrounding area.

Wells thought that beer would always be in demand, and with the help of his father he purchased the site and began work to turn the small brew house into a fully fledged brewery which could serve the county.

As water is an essential ingredient for any beer, good quality water is needed in order to create the best beer. In 1902, Wells climbed a local hill a couple of miles from the brewery and sank his own well to tap into an underground reservoir of water, purified through layers of chalk and limestone. All Charles Wells beer, and with the recent joint venture with Youngs all Youngs beers, are made with water drawn from this well.

By 1976, exactly 100 years since the company was established, the brewing operation moved from the Horne Lane site to a new site, the Eagle Brewery on Havelock Street. The move came about due to an increased demand for the company's beers, spurred on by a deal with Red Stripe brewery Desnoes & Geddes. This offered the company the chance to install the most up-to-date brewing equipment, and a state of the art bottling line.

The company is still in the family's hands, with the fifth generation coming into the business. There are currently three members of the family who work within the company, serving across Charles Wells Pub Company, Wells & Young's and John Bull Pub Company. Charles Wells Pub Company has an estate of more than 200 pubs predominantly based across the Eastern and Northern Home Counties regions, while Wells & Young's beers are distributed through both the Charles Wells and Young's pub estates.[5]

Charles Wells[edit]

Charles Wells, after whom the company is named, was born in Bedford in 1842; he left school at the age of 14 and ran away to sea by boarding the frigate 'Devonshire' which was bound for India. In the late 1860s, Wells was promoted to Chief Officer when he fell in love with and proposed to a Josephine Grimbley. Unfortunately, his prospective father-in-law put paid to his plans when he announced that no daughter of his would marry a man who would be away at sea for months at a time. And so Wells, desperate to marry his sweetheart, left his seafaring career and in 1876 established the Charles Wells Family Brewery to provide beer for the local population of Bedfordshire.

Charles Wells Pub Company[edit]

The Charles Wells Pub Company was formed as a distinct pub estate for Charles Wells Ltd when the parent company merged its brewing operations with London's Young's Brewery to form Wells & Young's Brewery.[6] The pub company controls over 200 houses, all run on tenancy or lease agreements, and declared an operating profit of £6 million in December 2008.[7] In 2013 the pub company announced its move into managed houses, with the first site set to open in 2014.

The company has become well known for the support it gives to its licensees and won the title of Pub Company of the Year (tenanted/leased 200+) at The Publican Awards for two years running - in 2009 and 2010. Charles Wells also won The Retention Award at the Springboard Awards for Excellence 2010 and 2012 and Best Recruitment Initiative in 2011 in recognition of its work in recruiting, training and supporting licensees. A further accolade was achieved at The Publican Awards 2014 when Charles Wells won the Best Pub Operations Team category for companies operating over 50 sites.

Its five-day induction programme (CRISP – Charles Wells Retail Induction Support Programme) helps prepare licensees for every aspect of running their own business and is part of their comprehensive training schedule which is open to everyone.

Wells & Young's[edit]

On 23 May 2006 the company announced that it was to form a new joint venture brewing company with the Young & Co's brewery, who moved their brewing production from the Ram Brewery in Wandsworth. The firm was called Wells & Young's Brewing Co Ltd, with Charles Wells having a 60% stake and Young & Co 40%, it went into operation on 2 October 2006. In 2011, Charles Wells purchased Young's 40% share, moving the company into the sole ownership of Charles Wells of Bedford. Wells & Young's is now responsible for brewing, distributing and marketing Charles Wells and Young & Co's brands at the Brewery in Bedford.

Further acquisition in 2011 saw the company buy McEwan's and Younger's beers as well as the Courage beers, extending its portfolio more widely across the UK.


  1. ^ "Charles Wells Ltd End of Year Results - Charles Wells Brewery and Pub Company Bedford -". Retrieved 2009-07-13. 
  2. ^ "Charles Wells - IFBB". Retrieved 2009-07-13. 
  3. ^ "Pub Guide - Charles Wells Brewery and Pub Company Bedford -". Retrieved 2009-07-13. 
  4. ^ "Wells & Youngs". Retrieved 2009-07-13. 
  5. ^ "About Wells & Young's - Wells & Young's Brewing Company Limited -". Retrieved 2009-07-13. 
  6. ^ "Charles Wells - IFBB". Retrieved 2009-07-13. 
  7. ^ "Charles Wells Ltd End of Year Results - Charles Wells Brewery and Pub Company Bedford -". Retrieved 2009-07-13. 

External links[edit]

Coordinates: 52°07′53″N 0°28′56″W / 52.1313°N 0.4822°W / 52.1313; -0.4822