Our Story

For 150 years, our passion has been for great food, service and above all, wine.
Founded in 1870, we remain a fully independent, family business, which now spans five generations…

FE Davy – 1st generation

Our story begins in 1870 when Francis Edwin Davy opened the Rising Sun just off Strand. Known as a “wine house”, it opened at a time when the area around Strand and Charing Cross was changing fast with pubs and theatres – and our wine house – springing up to cater for customers arriving via the new railway station.

The Rising Sun thrived so more establishments soon followed.

The wine merchants’ side of the business grew quickly too, with sales particularly strong to upmarket, West End hotels. A new headquarters and warehouse was established in Barking, East London, to cater for the demand.

In 1902, F.E. Davy introduced our first own-label wines.  Over 100 years later, they remain the cornerstone of our range, much-loved by our customers and representing our view on how the best wines of each region should taste.

JHH Davy – 2nd generation

This was a challenging period in the company’s history, not least with World War I, between 1914-1918 and the General Strike in 1926. J.H.H. Davy kept his focus on the company’s core values of quality wine and service and Davy’s continued to prosper.

It was during this time that Davy’s established a reputation as major shippers of Port, which remains strong to this day, with a wide range and many old vintages available from the Wine Merchants.

SJE Davy – 3rd generation

Times were no less difficult for S.J.E. Davy who led the company through World War II.  Customers had to bring their own glasses and a number of premises were lost during the Blitz, which led to openings outside London, such as the purchase of the White Hart Hotel in Exeter in 1943, which was run by Davy’s for 57 years before being leased to another operator.

Back in London, the spirit of “Keep Calm and Carry On” ran through the business, as illustrated in this photograph showing a lady cleaning the front step of The Alfred’s Head, a Davy’s wine house at 140 Newington Causeway, while men repair bomb damage just outside.

In addition to the wine houses, the wine merchants and shops continued to develop.

JSV Davy – 4th generation

1964 saw the birth of what would become the UK wine bar phenomenon, thanks to 4th generation chairman, John Davy. He recognised the country’s growing interest in wine and opened The Boot & Flogger near London Bridge, cleverly using the Vintners’ Privilege to get around the all-powerful breweries who tried to stop him obtaining a license. Offering a wide selection of fine wines served by the glass, accompanied by a selection of quality food such as cold cuts of meat and fish, patés, and cheeses, it quickly became a fashionable destination for food and wine lovers.

The Wine Merchants business continued to grow and in the late 1960’s larger premises were needed.  The Company’s Cellars and offices moved from Barking to Greenwich where it remains today.

Wine shops were sold during the 1970s to allow the company to focus on the wine bar business which was growing at pace. The majority of the new openings were in and around the City, but in 1980, Davy’s opened in the newly refurbished Covent Garden.  Customers queued out of the door to enjoy a glass of Davy’s wine in an area that was in the global media spotlight.

The wine bar and restaurant scene evolved dramatically through the 1990s and despite ever-growing competition, expansion continued as the Davy’s offer of simple quality fayre with good wine and excellent service remained very much in demand.

James Davy – 5th generation

With a strong Wine Bar business spanning from Greenwich in the East to St. James’s in the West, attention returned to developing the Wine Merchants side of the business, which had been focused on supplying Davy’s Wine Bars for over 30 years.  The late 1990s saw the first forays into online retail with direct sales and a private cellars division offering en primeur and fine wine sales to leading blue chip institutions.

The wholesale operation expanded too, firstly through the acquisition of established Wine & Spirit Merchant, Mayor Sworder. Wholesale operations have continued to grow with Davy’s now supplying both some of the most established and exciting up and coming restaurants and bars in London.

In 2015, Davy’s purchased the famous Fleet Street-based wine merchants, El Vino. There are now five El Vino Wine & Tapas Bars, which are flourishing with a revamped wine list focusing on Spain, Portugal and South America with full-flavoured tapas to enjoy with it.

Today, Davy’s remains one of London’s oldest family wine merchants and operators of wine bars, maintaining the family values of excellent wine, quality food and outstanding service which have stood for 150 years.