In 1698, the company now known as Berry Bros. & Rudd was started by a woman. She was a widow and a mother, with at least two daughters, but only her last name is known: Bourne. The Widow Bourne established a grocer’s in the prestigious neighbourhood opposite St. James’s Palace, which in that year became the official principal residence of the monarch.
The Widow’s daughter Elizabeth married William Pickering (d.1734), and their family continued to run the business. As the Pickerings supplied the newly-fashionable Coffee Houses of St James’s, it is unsurprising that the shop chose an image linked to this prestige commodity as the sign of their business. To this day, Berry Bros. & Rudd still trades under the ‘Sign of the Coffee Mill’, an image that has remained outside the shop for centuries.
During this time, both No.3 and Pickering Place (previously Stroud's Court) were rebuilt by the Pickerings, reflecting the family’s success. No. 3 remains very much the same today. Elizabeth herself ran the business alone after her husband died, until her two sons (an earlier pair of brothers) ran the shop at No. 3, along with a business painting heraldic coats-of-arms next door, catering to the gentry. When John Pickering died in 1754, his brother William Jr. brought in a relation, John Clarke, to be his partner.
It was in the time of William Jr. and John Clarke that the famous grocer’s weighing scales began to be used to weigh the shop’s many notable customers, a fashionable pastime that continues to this day.
In 1998, two years before the start of a new century, Berry Bros. & Rudd celebrated 300 years in business. The run-up to the 300th anniversary celebrations was marked in 1997 with the award of Berry Bros. & Rudd’s second Royal Warrant by H.R.H. The Prince of Wales.
If the second half of the 20th century had been characterised by expansion of the traditional business, the 21st saw new sides of the business established. The beautiful historic cellars below the shop and rooms in Pickering Place were gradually renovated to facilitate private wine events and the highly-respected wine school.
Berry Bros. & Rudd’s business in Asia continued to flourish, with new websites and a physical presence in Japan and Hong Kong. In 2013 Berry Bros. & Rudd was the first major UK retailer to give the wines from China a permanent place on its shelves.
Today, with two Royal Warrants, over 300 years of history and six Masters of Wine, Berry Bros. & Rudd is Britain’s original wine and spirit merchant. While the firm embraces progress, traditions are also valued. Everyone is welcome to the Widow Bourne's shop by the Palace, whether they want one bottle or a cellarful. We are run by members of the Berry and Rudd families and we continue to supply the British Royal Family, as we have done since the reign of King George III.
Berry Bros & Rudd pictures