Findlater Mackie Todd

Alexander Findlater c1850
John Lewis Partnership archive collection
JH Todd, AV Davis, B Todd, 1950s
John Lewis Partnership archive collection


The Partnership and Findlater Mackie Todd

The Partnership acquired the business of Findlater Mackie Todd & Co on 9th February 1993. Findlaters was a long established wine merchant, specialising in mail order. The purchase allowed for the development of opportunities to sell wines chosen by the highly regarded Waitrose buying team to a wider customer base. At that time Findlater’s employed a staff of about 20. The Gazette announced the launch of Waitrose Direct, the Partnership’s new mail order wine service, grown out of the acquisition with Findlater’s.

A history of Findlater Mackie Todd

Times were hard in 1822 when Alexander Findlater, one of eleven children of a Scottish farmer, set out to seek his fortune in Dublin. The following year, 1823 he set up his own business – not surprisingly in the wine trade, for Alexander’s uncle had been a supervisor of excise at Dumfries, where one of his officers was the poet Robert Burns.

Alexander’s wine business prospered and by the middle of the century he was ready to tackle London where the house, trading under the style Findlater Mackie and Company, was established at Wellington Street in 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, a spot which was known to generations of Londoners as Findlaters Corner.

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 most important of these was the London firm, which was acquired by Bruce Beveridge Todd whose family has been connected with the Findlaters ever since.

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, 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. He was a well-known Rugby “Blue”. The third brother, William, joined the firm in 1894.

In 1924 Findlater’s moved its head office to Wigmore Street, and continued to expand as a retail wine merchant, until by the 1960s it had almost 50 shops in and around London, Oxford, Cambridge and Cirencester and on the South Coast.

The next few years were turbulent ones for Findlaters, The Todd family 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.

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.


Comments about this page

  • Most interesting reading. My father worked at the Morden warehouse – very early 60s I think – as the Customs & Excise Officer. I have a vague recollection of visiting him at work on one occasion and I think his office was by the loading bay. I also have a memory of having an illicit ride on a fork lift truck! Was it usual to have an Excise Officer with an office on the premises?

    By Gill Shott (08/03/2024)
  • I worked for Findlaters from August 1966 until October 1968. It was my first full time job after leaving school. I worked in the Muswell Hill branch for a year and in 1967 was transferred to the Winchmore Hill branch. I also did some relief stints in the Highgate Village and Grange Park branches. The range of Findlaters’ own brand Spanish and South African sherries was immense, the most famous of these being “Dry Fly” which was marketed in a mallet shaped bottle as were all the Spanish sherries. Also the brand names all had fishing related names which gave one an idea of the style of sherry. The South African sherries had equally well thought out branding relating to both Afrikaans and native language terminology. FMT also had some own brand brandies but through the mists of time I cannot recall the names of these. And, of course we sold all the well known standard and de luxe spirits, liqueurs, wines from all over the world, beers stouts ciders and soft drinks and mixers to compliment the “hard stuff”! My job was to manage the stock and to ensure we always had an appropriate amount and range to offer our customers. In the mid to late 60’s FMT’s demise was as a result of the main supermarkets being allowed to apply for liquor licenses and with thei superior purchasing power sell wines and spirits at vastly reduced prices. It was a sad end to a quality retailer.

    By Ken BEECHER (01/01/2024)
  • My Grandfather, Eric James Sharp (Lofty Sharp) worked as a sommelier for Findlater Mackie Todd, mostly at Findlater House in Tooley Street and occasionally in head office at Wigmore Street. Sadly, on rum rations in the Royal Navy during WWII through two very bad winters, he lost his palette. He became a close friend of Bruce Todd (Jnr) and their friendship continued even after he emigrated to Australia in 1973. He often recounted the urgency of moving the entire stock down into the cellars during the general strike of 1926 anticipating public disorder and looting – which never actually happened – and then brining it all back up again to restock the shelves.

    By Trevor Gorard (27/12/2023)
  • Very interesting, I have a bottle of wine from this company dated 1973, would this be rare now?

    By Georgina Smith (17/11/2023)
  • I worked for Findlater Mackie Todd (‘Findlater’s’) in the early 1970’s, as a lorry driver. The warehouse and offices above, were situated on an industrial estate between Morden and South Wimbledon, with a fleet of lorries distributing wine, alcohol – even spring water – to restaurants, businesses and executive dining rooms throughout London and the Home Counties. I even delivered a ‘mixed’ pallet to Newcastle!
    Duties included regular collections from the many bonded warehouses along Tooley Street, adjacent to London Bridge and Findlater’s Corner.
    In the latter part of the 20th century, those bonded warehouses were converted to apartments, now commanding £million prices.
    Findlater’s familiar, green and gold livery (with the Queen’s Royal seal of approval) was eventually replaced, all transport refurbished in white, complete with the ‘Campari’ brand name.

    By Dilly Braimoh (13/07/2022)
  • The clock used to be outside Findlater House, 92 Wigmore Street from 1924. It was the headquarters for Findlater, Mackie, Todd and Co. who were wine, spirit, stout and ale merchants.

    It’s elaborately carved teak case represents objects associated with the wine trade. The carvings above the clock face show an early 18th century bottle, a Champagne pupitre, a spirit still, a vintage cart, a sherry solera and a Dry Fly sherry bottle, all entwined with vine leaves and bunches of grapes. Below the dial on one side sails a Douro port wine boat and on the other side is the Chateau Clos de Veugeot in Burgundy. The arm which supports the clock is decorated with hop leaves and barley stooks on one side and grapes and tastevin on the other.

    The teak case was designed by Mr Terence Carr and carved by Messrs Robinson of Kingston, Surrey.

    The John Lewis Partnership acquired Findlater, Mackie, Todd and Co. in 1993. The Findlater clock was removed from Wigmore Street and was restored for the opening of Waitrose Marylebone in November 1999.

    By Hannah Raeburn (18/11/2021)
  • Bruce Beveridge Todd was one of my ancestors, so very interesting to see this page!

    By Clare Quigley (15/05/2021)
  • This is interesting reading as my father worked for Findlaters for 50 years as a van boy, driver and transport manager. He worked at the depot off Albany Road, London and moved with them to Colliers Wood, London.

    By Pam Floyd (nee Bradshaw) (17/08/2020)
  • I have a small waiter’s blue leather bound drinks order pad with tiny pencil from this company, don’t know how old but the ‘tear out’ pages advertise FINDLATERS Fino Sherry at 5/3d a bottle. The inside front flap shows the Royal Warrant by appt, and gives the address as:
    90 – 92 WIGMORE STREET,
    LONDON, W.1.
    TELEPHONE:. Welbeck 9264.

    By LeRoyKinCaid. (23/05/2020)
  • Memories from an anonymous contributor:

    My father, Kenneth Ward, worked for the company during the 1960s. Initially he managed the Islington Branch at 318 Essex Road. It was previously the Merton Wine Stores, before it was acquired by Findlaters. I still have the brass sign that was on the front door. He also looked after other branches at Woodford, Winchmore Hill, Muswell Hill and Crouch End. They offered the most amazing selection of fine wines. Many customers had an account and wines, beers and spirits were delivered. I remember helping him as a young boy to make the deliveries all over north London. He was always very complimentary of the company, especially Ronnie Todd Young. The Islington site was relocated further along the parade when the building was redeveloped along with some adjacent shops and a bomb site together with a small factory. It was replaced by a petrol station.

    By imogen (20/05/2020)
  • Dear Bill,

    From a private journal held within The John Lewis Partnership Archives I can tell you that there was not a Findlater Mackie & Todd store in Seaford between 1931 – 1961.  

    If you have any further questions please get in contact using email address

    By Hannah Raeburn (04/01/2018)
  • To whom it may concern.

    I am looking at the history of the Findlater wine store that was in the High Street in Seaford  East Sussex. The date would be around the early 50s /60s, possibly earlier.

    I wonder if you could help me as I have until now found nothing relating to a store in Seaford. The building is still as it stood in those days when it sold wines and spirits. Not knowing the date I do know that there was a fire in the wine store to the rear of the shop, I was looking out of my bedroom window wondering what all of the noise was about.

    I hope you can help me go back to those times to make my picture of all of the shops that were in the high street at that time.

    I thank you for taking the time to read this and hope to hear from you in the near future. Thank you.

    Bill Purcell

    By Bill Purcell (13/11/2017)
  • Very interesting section on Findlater Mackie Todd. However there is further interest, particularly to customers near the Hove Western Road branch of Waitrose. What you could add to the story is that Findlater bought Robins who were located in Waterloo Street, very close to Waitrose. My Grandfather worked for Robins which then became Findlater which then became Findlater Mackie. There is a strong link between the ideals of the current JL Partnership and Robins in the way that the then Director of Robins looked after their staff through the lean times of WW1. I have access to a notebook written by the Directors of Robins which records the names of those employees that went off to WW1, their regiments and what happened to them. The Directors also made financial awards/gifts of goods needed by the families of the employees one such being my Grandmother who received a “spittoon” for her son (my Father). Very much in the tradition of the John Lewis Partnership.

    By Dr R Inwood (25/08/2017)

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