A local man, William Wren, was once a grocer on Stockton High Street in the 1850s, working next door to what is today Lloyd’s Bank. Throughout his life he had 10 children, and 3 would start their own businesses.
Harry Horace Wren, William’s second eldest began training from 1861 to be an engine fitter, but soon decided that this line of work was not for him. Instead he chose to learn how to manufacture mineral and soda water. By 1871 Harry had founded his own business manufacturing drinks and brought his two younger brothers, Edmund Cecil and Charles Herbert into the business with him.
The brothers also tried their hand as corn flour millers, but this business was not as successful – in 1883 the brothers liquidated this business and their premises, Victoria Flour Mills at West Hartlepool was auctioned off. The brothers instead decided to dedicate their efforts to brewing. By the 1890s Charles Herbert was working as a mineral water manufacturer and Edmund Cecil was a commercial traveller for the company.
H. Wren and Co. glass bottles, dated 1870-1910, bottle cap detail. Image courtesy of Preston Park Museum.
Wren Brother’s Mineral Water Works was located at West Row in Stockton, and a wide range of drinks were produced and bottled there, including soda water, lemonade and ginger beer. The premises were particularly big, at 3 storeys high and had enough room to house horses and transportation to make deliveries of their drinks. A disused chapel next to the building was also converted into extra storage. By 1890 the Wren Brothers were employing 35 people.
The warehouse of Cecil Wren and Co. at Yarm. Image courtesy of Preston Park Museum.
Around this time changes in the family and business began to occur. In 1895 Charles Herbert Wren died when he was only 44. Edmund Cecil Wren then decided to start his own family business, Cecil Wren and Co., alongside his sons, Henry Cecil and Wilfred Athelstan, who had both trained as vinegar brewers. Cecil Wren and Co. manufactured vinegars, sauces, pickles, wines and cordials, as well as soaps, varnishes and inks. Their premises were at an old mill at Yarm which had previously been used by Tees Paper Mills.
When Edmund Cecil Wren died in April 1907, his sons took over the running of the business. The Cecil Wren and Co. vinegar breweries at Yarm continued as a company until Wilfred died in 1977 at the age of 96.
Label for Cecil Wren and Co.’s brewed vinegar. Image courtesy of Preston Park Museum.