Bedford born Charles Wells was a Chief Officer in the Merchant Navy. In the early 1870s he met his sweetheart Josephine Grimbley while on leave and the pair later became engaged. However Charles’ prospective father-in-law wouldn’t give his daughter’s hand to a sea-faring man so he took a drastic career change. In 1875 Charles bought a brewery and thirty two pubs for £16,700 in his hometown of Bedford.
Charles was very industrious and went on to remodel the brewery on Horne Lane and get it working smoothly. In his first year Charles made a profit of £829 and within four years he had increased the number of barrels brewed from 3,229 to 5,632 and had bought six more pubs. The brewery continued to expand rapidly and by 1890, Charles Wells owned 80 pubs and was brewing 12,552 barrels of beer per year. By the 1900s, profits had increased to £15,000.
By 2000, the company’s main cask beer brands were Wells Bombardier, which was steadily growing on a national basis, and Wells Eagle IPA, which is without doubt the official beer of Bedford, and an enviable portfolio of world lagers, Charles Wells was flourishing. But the biggest change was yet to come.
In 2006, Charles Wells and Young and Co of Wandsworth in London merged their brewing and brands divisions to create the UK’s largest family owned brewery. Wells and Young’s was formed in September 2006 and created a significant force in the brewing world. The merger also included the acquisition of Young’s wine importing company – Cockburn & Campbell.