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Continuing the legacy of a proud wine merchant
Findlater Mackie Todd became the oldest branch of the John Lewis Partnership when it was acquired in 1993. It was a momentous moment that marked the Partnership's first plunge into the wine merchant world.
Findlater's proved a natural fit. Coupled with its rich history, Findlater’s mail order business allowed a wider audience to savour the array of wines collected by the Partnership’s expert buying team.
But the move also came with the responsibility of maintaining Findlater’s legacy as a dependable merchant of exquisite wines.
Alexander Findlater c1850
JH Todd, AV Davis, B Todd, 1950s
One of eleven children of a Scottish farmer, Alexander Findlater had little choice but to travel for fame and fortune.
In 1822 he went to Dublin to chance his arm as a wine merchant. It was a natural choice; Alexander’s relation ‘Old Uncle Alex’ was a supervisor of excise at Dumfries, where one of his officers was one Robert Burns. It is even thought Uncle Alexander gave the poet a last morsel of food on his death bed.
Alexander’s wine business flourished and by the middle of the century he was ready to tackle London where the house, trading under the name Findlater Mackie and Company, was established at Wellington Street on the Strand in 1850.
Five years later, with four Partners, his nephew, Colonel John Findlater Corscaden, Ivie Mackie, Thomas Gordon and Bruce Beveridge Todd, Alexander Findlater began trading as Findlater Mackie Todd and Co in Tooley Street, London Bridge.
In 1863 the Company moved to premises under the railway viaduct facing London Bridge. It was a wise choice, the location was thought to be passed or seen by more people than any other spot in London. And it became known to generations of Londoners as Findlater’s Corner.
Findlater, Mackie, Todd & Co.
Alexander Findlater died on 8th august 1873 at the age of 76. He remained a bachelor all his life and after his death his partners bought up his various enterprises. The largest of these was the London firm, which was acquired by Bruce Beveridge Todd and marked the beginning of a long family connection.
Bruce Todd’s three sons, James, Alexander and William followed him into the business and devoted their lives to it. James joined the firm in 1884 and took over on his father’s death in 1893 to remain its Chairman until he died in 1956 at the age of 89. The second brother, Alexander, a well-known Rugby “Blue” and former British Lion, joined the firm when he returned from the Boer War in 1901. He left it to take the First Battalion of the Norfolk Regiment to France in September 1914 and was killed in the second Battle of Ypres in April 1915. The third brother, William, joined the firm in 1894.
Alexander Todd’s son, Bruce, joined the firm in 1927 and became its chairman on his uncle’s death in 1956. He retired in June 1972. One grandson of James Todd, Ronald Todd-Young, and two grandsons of Alexander Todd, Charles Byass and David Byass, were appointed directors in 1961.
In 1924 Findlater’s moved its head office to Wigmore Street, and continued to expand as a retail wine merchant. By the 1960s the company had almost 50 shops in London and southern England, and a cellar in Merton Abbey. But the swinging sixties saw a reversal in the family’s fortunes and the Todd’s sold the company to Bulmers in 1967, which subsequently disposed of the Findlater Mackie Todd retail branches. Three years later, Bulmers sold Findlater’s to the Beecham Group.
Following the acquisition by the John Lewis Partnership in 1993, Findlater’s gave rise to the launch of Waitrose Direct, the forerunner of Waitrose Cellar.
Since its launch in May 2015, Waitrose Cellar has delivered over 3.4 million bottles of wine as it continues the proud Findlater Mackie Todd legacy of bringing top-quality wine to discerning British customers.