Newbury Connection Spotted in London?
Sometime last autumn, I had the pleasure of filming inside the Hope & Anchor pub (1936-2012) in Hammersmith. It is remarkably well-preserved in its inter-war condition, must and all, and continues to be a popular filming location.
It was here that I noticed something curious on display. The crate pictured above is stamped with the brand name of Job Wells & Son, a wine and spirits merchant originating in the bustling market town of Newbury in West Berkshire.
How did this Newbury-London connection come about?
First of all, it would be wise to offer some historical background on this business, which spans several generations of established local families. Note, there are many individuals named Edward, John, and Job, so take it slow...
• The wine merchants began under the ownership of Edward Pointer (?-1794).
• In October 1786, Edward was succeeded by his son-in-law, John Haskins Snr. (1745-1816).
• John's son, Edward Pointer Haskins (1791-1841), then inherited the business. However, by November 1830, Edward was facing financial difficulties and transferred control of the business to his brother, John Haskins Jr. (1789-1861).
• In April 1835, John retired due to ill health and his nephew, Job Wells (1813-1874), assumed full ownership of his maternal uncle's business. The pair had been business partners beforehand under the trading name, Haskins & Wells.
Job's father, Job Wells (1777-1831), a Wallingford man, became married to Ann Wells, a member of a longstanding Newbury family. Marrying into the Haskins family ergo meant that Job Well's descendants became the new proprietors of the Haskins family wine business. Sometime before the death of Job Snr. in 1831, the family relocated from Wallingford to Newbury.
1871 census records list that the wine merchants employed three resident servants and overall it seems to have been performing well. Meanwhile, Job Jr.'s family life was marred by tragedy. Out of his eight children, only one lived to see old age. This was Edward Wells (1847-1927). Edward's youngest sibling died at just twenty weeks of age! Edward had been assisting his father with running the business and therefore became his successor following Job's death.
Eventually, the business passed into the hands of Edward's son, Edward Giffard Wells (1873-1941). Berkshire Electoral Registers dated between 1920-1935 register Edward and his family as living at 14 Market Place in Newbury, presumably the same address as his wine business. The business previously operated out of Northbrook Street when it was owned by Edward Pointer Haskins.
Edward Giffard Wells retired in 1939, after which time the business appears to have left the Wells family.
Returning to the Hope & Anchor pub. This venue opened in 1936, three years before Job Wells & Son ceased trading. The present owner of the pub informs me that the crate I photographed was acquired online for decorative purposes. He further added that he cannot rule out a historical connection between this Newbury business and his London establishment.
If you feel like you've been catfished so far, then trust me, you're not alone. I too was disappointed to learn that there seems to be nothing further to this connection besides that the owner bought a crate on eBay. The internet is heavily populated with historical reproductions and memorabilia available for purchase. That being said, now consider the following press clipping about Job Wells & Son from the Newbury Weekly News.
This snippet is promising as it implies that the company maintained trading under the Job Wells & Son name until at least late 1944!
It stands to reason then that the company established trade links between Newbury and London at some point during this period. Whether the business was still with the Wells family or under new ownership is unclear. In the absence of further evidence, all we can do is speculate.
Either way, this was an interesting and unexpected find, at least for me.
Thanks and acknowledgement are owed to Gerald Wells for kindly permitting me to use his excellent research into the Pointer, Haskins, and Wells families.