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History of the Old School House
The Old School House at Tittensor that now houses Old School Wines was built in 1861 as a school building for the children of Tittensor and Barlaston.
It was commissioned and paid for by the Duke of Sutherland of Trentham Hall, the entrance to which was at Tittensor.
Andrew Wilson’s Great Grandmother Gertrude Sant-Lymer was a pupil at the school back in the 1880’s.
It closed as a school in 1968 as new housing was built in Tittensor and a new larger school was required to cope with the greater number of children.
Once redundant as a school, the building was purchased by the neighbouring Bassett’s Transport company and survived the 1970’s and 80’s when many a Victorian building was pulled down, because Bassett’s used it as a storeroom for old tyres!
In the late 1980’s the Bassett’s restored the School House to its former glory and won a conservation award from Stafford Borough Council for the sympathetic and true nature of the restoration. This award can still be seen in the school house today.
During the following 15 years the Old School House was home to Bassett’s Coachway’s, being both an administrative offices and reception for coach travellers. When Bassett’s divested themselves of the coach business in the early part of this decade the building became surplus to their requirements.
Andrew & Clare Wilson had already built a successful wine importing and agency business and were looking for somewhere near to their Staffordshire home to relocate the business to, says Andrew “The Old School House provided the near perfect location for our offices and the main hall of the School House looked ‘made’ for conversion into a shop and wine tasting centre”
It opened in December 2005 as ‘Old School Wines’ as a play on both the fact that it was an old school building and also as a play on words in that ‘Old School’ describes many of the wines that they stock; good, sound, ‘proper’ quality wines.
History of Old School Wines
Andrew Wilson Wines (AWW) was formed as an Agency wine company supplying 'the trade' back in 1998. However, under pressure from their friends Andrew & Clare started a small 'by-the-case' mail order service a few years later supplying friends, family and a handful of others with the wines that they loved.
This small venture soon grew and grew in the best way possible; by word of mouth! And in no time at all, they had hundreds of customers all over the country who received there regular offers.
At this time Andrew largely spent his time travelling abroad handling the agency trade business and buying ‘ace’ parcels for the mail order clients to enjoy.
The basis of all their wine selections is very simple: they will not sell anything that they would not serve themselves to friends who came to dinner.
This ‘ethos’ has continued following the opening of Old School Wines retail store back in December 2005.
With a much larger customer base and a wine range of around 550 wines they still insist on tasting every wine, often tasting and drinking them with food 3 or 4 times prior to deciding to list them. Equally this broader base has given Andrew even more opportunities to buy first class limited quantity ‘parcels’ or ‘bargains’ as they become available.
One of the most ‘unique’ aspects of Old School Wines is the knowledge and passion that Andrew & Clare have for every single wine that they stock. Knowledge that they are happy to dispense to any who ask, freely and with the utmost honesty. Their recommendations for wines are all backed up by their ‘no questions asked’ guarantee. The ethos of which is that they want you to enjoy every drop of every wine that they recommend to you, so if you are anything less than delighted with any wine they supply simply let them know and they'll replace it.
Chairman, Managing Director, ‘Font of all Knowledge’, Taster, Buyer & Part-Time Sales Person.
Interests: Fast Cars, French Restaurants, anything made of wood, lawn tractors, Labradors & Led Zeppelin.
Favourite Wines: White Burgundy , Red Bordeaux, Sauternes
Pet Hates: Sulphury wines, spurious supermarket ‘deals’, D.I.Y, tedium of any kind, monopolies, jobs worth’s…..(the list gets longer each day!)
It’s almost true to say that Andrew has spent all his working life in the wine trade. He in fact joined the Licensed Trade in 1979 training to be a pub manager and then switched to wine in 1981.
Andrew started the business back in 1998 after spending the previous 6 years as Commercial Manager of the Grand Cru Classé Bordeaux chateau of Chateau Lascombes in Margaux ( a dirty job, but someone had to do it!) During the 1980's he was first a retail manager for the then famous Wine Merchants 'Augustus Barnett' and latterly was Product Group Manager for Table, Sparkling and Fortified wines for the by then 600 strong chain of stores.
Company Secretary, Finance Director, Buyer of wine related goods, Full-Time (ace) Sales Person, ‘Lay’ Wine Taster, Part-Time Domestic Goddess.
Interests: Chocolate, Interior designs, looking at other peoples houses on the internet, other people’s babies, anyone from Lancashire, Spontaneity.
Favourite Wines: White Burgundy, N.Z. Sauvignon Blanc, Sauternes, Moscato.
Pet Hates: Cats, feathers, rude or coarse people.
Clare has spent most of her working life in sales. Everything from Carmen Hair Rollers to Car Rentals. Until 1996 when Clare and Andrew were married, Clare had worked for many years in the educational toys industry, supplying schools and workplace day nursery's with equipment. Perhaps this is why the Old School House has a box of toys for visiting children to this day!
Clare joined the business in 2000, initially as a part-time bookkeeper but soon she took on a much wider ranging responsibilities. Since the Old School House opened she has really found her ‘niche’, both buying wine related goods (gift boxes, plaques, cards & wine related gift’s etc) and using her superb skill at finding just the right wine for every customers needs. (not to mention her magnificent skill at wrapping presents!)
Sales & Marketing Manager, literary genius (undiscovered), part-time Scot, knower of far more about wine than one so young should.
Interests: Reading books (allegedly Waterstones #1 customer) writing novels, well versed ‘foodie’ & grappa expert, Italian girls (& harpists) all things vinous.
Favourite Wines: Cru Classé Bordeaux, White Burgundy, Northern Italian’s, varietal Semillon’s
Pet Hates: Bus drivers (especially on the 101 from Stafford) spiders, Spain in general, American wine critics, bland wines.
Rupert joined the Old School team during 2007 after several years in the wine trade, mostly funding him through university but latterly with Reserve Wines of Manchester and a whole 2 weeks with Laithwaites (apparently around 13½ days too long!)
He hopes (expects) one day to be a famous and highly paid novelist, however for the meantime he is working his way through his Diploma and fulfilling his fascination with the produce of the vine. Many of the more extreme tasting notes on this site are from the ‘pen’ of young Rupert.
Sales & Marketing Assistant, I.T. Manager, Pick-Pack & Dispatch Manager, Part-Time Pallet-Buster
Interests: His big new shinny gaming P.C, music, tea & biscuits, Labradors.
Favourite Wines: Not Yet!
Pet Hates: His brothers, exams, Labradors that chew through cables
Josh is currently funding his way through sixth form by working part-time for the family business. He hopes one day to maybe take over the running of the business either by sending his parents off to travel the world and do ‘the buying’, or perhaps more likely by simply forcing them into a home as soon as possible!
He’s the back-room ‘force’ that prepares all the orders for dispatch each day. He’s also responsible for receiving and breaking down all the hundreds of pallets of wine that arrive from all over the world. Small but dynamic!
Company Arbitrator, a ‘soft-ear’ to listen to all the troubles of the world whilst on the daily walk, also in charge of security.
Numerous French Students
Old School Wines regularly employs French Students for a ‘stage’ of 3 or 6 months as part of their Degree Course in Sales & Marketing.
They come to learn English, the English way of doing business and return to France raving about Chilean and New Zealand wines much to their parents disgust!
Many of them go on to fame and fortune. A few are pictured below.