Wine Merchants of Windsor

Her Royal Highness Princess Eugenie of York married Jack Brooksbank on Friday, 12 October 2018. The ceremony took place in St George’s Chapel and the Dean of Windsor officiated and gave an Address.

Brooksbank is the UK ambassador for George Clooney’s tequila company, Casamigos, as well as a wine merchant and the owner of his own company, Jack Brooksbank Ltd. It is a little known fact that for a brief period in the history of the College of St George the Dean and Canons were also wine merchants.

During the first century after its foundation St George’s Chapel used fifty to sixty gallons of wine each year for celebrating Masses (Communion services). While only a small portion was supplied from the college garden in later years, for half a century the College produced sufficient wine in its own vineyards to sell the surplus.

From 1351-1365 the Dean and Canons were granted permission by King Edward III to use a plot of land called the king’s garden – on the aptly named Grape Count Lane, located near the present St Alban’s Street. There had long been vines growing there and the Dean and Canons cultivated these while continuing to grow garlic and onions in a small herb garden within the Castle walls (XV.34.1-2).

In 1365 ownership of the king’s garden was returned to the king in exchange for a house with a piece of ground on one side of Peascod Street and a garden on the other (SGC XV.34.4). The Dean and Canons let the house to Henry and Alice Gardiner and employed them to clear the garden of trees, which the College then sold. That work was completed in 1370 and the Gardiners – with occasional assistance from two garden labourers and two manure carters – replanted the garden with vines (SGC XV.48.1).

The College account rolls for 1375-6 (SGC XV.34.11) are the first to record a sale of wine produced in the new garden: one cask of muscatine wine to a taverner of Reading for £2 13s 4d. In preparation for selling the wine the Dean and Canons had spent 7s 1d on expenses including 8½ days’ labour by John Wolf of Cresswell to make a wine press, purchase of a cask to put the wine in and transporting the wine from the garden into the Castle. This proved to be an effective investment as in 1377 they sold two casks of wine in London for £5 and in 1378 three casks were sold, each to a separate buyer, for 33s 4d each.

In 1393 this business was called to a halt when King Richard II ordered that all goods produced from the Dean and Canons’ garden were to be reserved for the members of the College. There is only one further mention of a sale in 1406-7 (after Richard II had been deposed by Henry IV). Sixteen gallons of red wine were sold to the precentor, all for the cost of 8s.

Kate McQuillian (Archivist & Chapter Librarian)

The Queen's Free Chapel. The Chapel of the Most Honourable and Noble Order of the Garter. The Chapel of the College of St George.