In the 1860s Charles Wells decided that the only way to see the world was to go to sea. So at the age of 14 he joined the frigate Devonshire as cabin boy on his first trip to India. By 1868 he had become qualified as a steamship captain, and had seen some great sites having sailed to Australia and around the Cape of Good Hope. However, during one of his infrequent trips home he went to a party in Oxford and met the woman of his dreams, a Miss Josephine Grimbley. Love blossomed and before long Charles asked for her hand in marriage. She was delighted, he was delighted, Mr Grimbley senior wasn't! No daughter of his was going to marry a seafaring man who would spend so long away from home. So he gave Charles an ultimatum. His daughter or the sea. Fortunately his love for Josephine was too strong and he agreed to hang up his sea boots. He then had to find a way of supporting his bride.
In 1875, a two and a quarter acre site came to auction on the banks of the River Ouse as it ran through Bedford. The site contained a coal depot and a brew house round the back. Included in the price were 35 pubs, most of which were in Bedford and the surrounding area . It was this that caught Charles' imagination. Beer.
Charles figured beer would always be in demand, even in the hardest of times. So with the help of his father, Charles bought the site and began work turning the small brew house into a fully fledged brewery which could serve the county. Founded in 1876 to provide beer to the local Bedfordians.Water is an absolutely vital ingredient and has a huge impact on the beer's flavour. So to produce the best beer you need the best water. In 1902 Charles climbed a hill, just 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. Today all Charles Wells beer is still made with water drawn from the well sunk by Charles 90 years ago.
Charles Wells is now the largest independently owned, family run brewery in the country and is in fact the UK's fifth largest brewery. Over five generations the Wells family have worked at the brewery, and there are currently three members of the Wells family involved on a day to day basis.
Charles Wells First Brewery
Early Delivery Trucks
By 1976, the growing demand for Charles Wells beer meant the original Charles Wells site was just not big enough to allow for any expansion. The move to the Eagle Brewery in Havelock Street, Bedford gave the company the opportunity to install the most up to date brewing equipment.
Charles Wells Brewery
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Last Updated on: 15 March 2000
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