House of Townend (HOT Wines) was established in 1906, and has remained in the ownership of the same family for over 100 years.
For four generations we have built direct relationships with some of the finest wine producers in the world. Our buying emphasis lies firmly with the smaller, quality led, and often family owned, wine estates and domaines who possess like-minded philosophies. Whilst the traditional wine producer is an important part of our portfolio, we work hard at being at the cutting edge of the wine world, seeking out the new star performers, ensuring we get into the supply chain before they become renowned and obtaining supplies becomes impossible. Our wines are therefore individual and hand crafted, providing you with quality and great taste.
The Founder - Jack Townend (1872-1949)
Jack Townend like so many successful Victorian businessman, had his roots in the working class. He left school and was apprenticed at Earles Shipyard in Hull. He was a fine sportsman, playing Rugby for Hull football club that later joined the Northern League, making him a professional. He then became captain of the club, and the photograph of the team hangs in the Wilberforce Room at our hotel The Willerby Manor.
Jack decided to cash in his popularity as a sportsman, and in 1893 left the shipbuilding industry and became the tenant of the Good Ship Molly public house in Dock Street; he decided to change it to a more appropriate name and called it The Rugby House.
In 1900 he moved to the Bull Hotel on Beverley Road, whilst there he started to bottle Guinness in a near by premises. He then started to sell it to pubs and clubs, including his own despite being a tied house. In 1906 the brewery woke up to the fact that he had not bought Guinness for a year and threw him out. With a young family and nowhere to live he had to act quickly, so he bought a grocery, wine and spirit business that was up for sale called Work Brothers. Soon he stopped selling groceries and specialised in wine and spirits.
However his main interest was his beer bottling company By 1911 he had taken over Faloon & Company, and by 1914 had the largest beer bottling company in the country.During the war (1914-1918) beer supplies were Government controlled and all the Guinness for Hull was consigned to Faloons. After the war Jack was joined by his twin sons, and the business continued to expand and wherever possible he would employ family. In 1924 Jack was elected as an independent councillor representing Park Ward, where he lived and traded. He became Chairman of the Parks Committee and an Alderman. Although he remained Chairman until he died he progressively handed over to the twins.
The Second Generation - Charles Hope Townend (1899-1977)
Charles was the eldest twin and was responsible for developing J Townend from one shop into a significant business. Charles attended Grammar School and wanted to become either a doctor or an engineer, but as was typical of the Victorian businessman, his father wanted him and his brother Jack to go into the beer bottling business.
Both the boys left school at the age of 14 and joined the business, and in 1917, both the twins joined the army. Charles became part of the Royal Flying Corps, he qualified and got his wings just before the end of the war. After being demobbed the two returned to the business, Jack working in the office and Charles out delivering beer to wholesale customers. With the advent of motor lorries, Charles was sent to work at the first ever garage in Hull, to learn how to maintain motor vehicles.
Charles ambitions grew. He persuaded his father to form a wine & spirit company based on the one retail shop at the corner of Cave Street with the intention of developing the wholesale business. They began by buying a cask of bulk port and a cask of bulk sherry, bottled and labelled them by hand, then went out to public houses and clubs. The wholesale business quickly expanded and a small warehouse was built in Cave Street.
By the 1920s and 30s the brewers started buying more and more outlets making life difficult for wholesale businesses, so Charles decided to expand further by acquiring shops, one being Brown Walker & Atkin, and the other J J Rippons. With Rippons the Whisky brand Dalmeny was acquired and was the companys whiskey until recently. It was the acquisition of these fine old wine merchants that the firm got into the fine wine trade, and by 1939 the company was operating six branches.
In the 1940s Charles built up a big trade in rum under the name Red Duster. In 1949 when his father died he became chairman of the company. The company expanded further in the 1950s and three more shops were opened. In 1959, Charles son John joined the company and shortly after took over the day to day running of the company, however Charles never really retired, and continued working right up to his death in 1977, aged 78.
The Third Generation - John E Townend
John E. Townend was born in 1934, and was the only child of Charles and Dorothy. He was educated at Hymers College in Hull, then went on to join Smailes, Holtby & Gray as an articled clerk in Chartered Accountancy. In his finals he won the Plender Prize for the top paper in advanced accountancy. However John always had in mind that accountancy was merely a training prerequisite to going into business, and as soon as he had taken his finals he left the profession.
In 1959 John joined the House of Townend as Company Secretary and Financial Director, and by 1961 had taken over as Managing Director and set about expanding the company further.
He increased the number of retail shops to 35 and developed the importing and bottling of wines, first from Bordeaux and Burgundy and vintage Port and then from most other European wine producing countries.
He opened the first new bond in Hull for 60 years, where whisky was blended, gin and vodka compounded and Keelings Advocaat produced. He also developed the national agency business as well as local wholesaling and established a cash and carry.
However retail shops were his forte. He would walk the pavements assessing which locations would benefit from an off license presence.
In 1966 he founded the first national, voluntary group of independent wine merchants - The Independent Wine Merchants Association Limited, now called Merchant Vintners and he remained as chairman until he retired and took on the role as Life President in 2000.
With the continuing expansion of the company John moved the company from the rear of the Beverley Road shop to the bonded site on York Street. The grand opening was carried out by Comté Robert-Jean de Vogüé, the Président-Directeur General of Moët et Chandon.
The Fourth Generation - John Charles Townend
John Charles was born on Battle of Britain Day in 1965, and according to tradition was christened John.
He began work at the early age of 5, and spent his time delivering orders with the longstanding van driver, Walter Redhead, who was a great character and regaled John with stories about his great grandfather.
After leaving Oundle in1984 he spent a year working in the wine trade in France. This year working in France convinced him that the wine trade was where his future lay and after reading Management Science at Warwick University, joined the company full time in 1988.
At the time the House of Townend was still very much a retail orientated company, but the market was moving very quickly against the independent off license, with the supermarkets becoming far more powerful, meaning the main focus of the company moved to supplying hotels and restaurants.
The move to wholesale was boosted in 1994 with Alan Whitehead joining the force, now the companys Sales Director. Other personalities of the Yorkshire wine trade followed and within a short period of time the company had an exceptionally strong sales team.
John has always strongly believed the future of the business depended on the quality and service it provides. He was determined to improve the wine list so that House of Townend was recognised as one of the leading provincial wine merchants in the UK. The wine offering has seen a continual improvement both in the representation of fine Burgundy domaines to the wide range of superb like minded, family-owned estates from the Southern hemisphere.
Buying trips to all the major wine producing countries throughout the world has led to direct supply links to all our suppliers, thereby ensuring optimum value to the companys restaurant, hotel and private customers.