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Thursday, August 30, 2007

British wine merchants

One of the great things about doing a small bit of research is the new venues that it opens up. I doubt for a variety of reasons that I will be writing anything centred on the Regency wine trade any time soon, BUT I find it fascinating. Also wine, spirits etc are luxury items so one can sometimes find fascinating things out about the customers.
So who was around in the Regency period?
There is, of course, Berry Brothers with their famous weighing books. The practice of weighing customers started in 1765. There are references to earlier books but none have survived. The most famous incident is probably when someone purporting to be Brummell is weighed in 1822. Was he actually in London? It is the only record of his trip. But there again there is no reason to doubt that people would have known.
Berry Brothers remains a family firm.
Then there was Sheridan's wine merchant Chalie which was founded in about 1700. In approximately 1817, it became Chalie Richards when the second son of the Chief Baron of the Court of The Exchequer, William Parry Richards joined the firm. His brother, an eminent QC married one of the Chalie. Chalie Richards is now part of Justerini and Brooks.
A now near neighbour of Berry Brothers in St James is Justerini and Brooks. They began as Justerini in 1749 when Giacomo Justerini travelled to London because he was in love with a beautiful opera star. He had no money but papers from his uncle about distilling. He joined forces with George Johnson, a wealthy gentleman and Justerini & Johnson was born -- trading in the Pall Mall in a little shop on the south side of the Italian Opera house. They continued in that shop until sometimes in the 1950s.In 1760 Justerini went back to Italy but Johnson continued to run the business. In 1830 Alfred Brooks, a very wealthy young man invested in the business. And the business became Justerini and Brooks. I have been unable to discover IF Alfred Brooks is related to the man whose gentleman's gentleman started Brook's. Customers included Charles Dickens. Justerini and Brooks were the first London merchants to blend their own house whisky -- sometime in the 1850s. It is still sold today under the J&B label. The type they supplied to the London clubs was simply called J&B Club. The first Justerini & Johnson advertisement for whisky was in 1779, placed in the Morning Post, but I am uncertain of the types they carried during the Regency.
And this brings me rather neatly back to my original topic -- whisky.
I could go on about the Dartmouth wine merchants or the Bristol sherry shippers such as Harvey's and Averys. Or the Scottish shippers JC Thomson & Co Ltd of Lieth.
But space doesn't permit and I have a wip to write.


liz fenwick said...

I've really enjoyed these posts. Thanks :-)

Michelle Styles said...

I am glad you enjoyed this. Thus, you have given me encouragement to continue with them!

Nick MacSwiney said...

Hi Michelle

I have just left the company ChaliƩ Richards after 13 years of employment there.