Started by DW's grandfather in the 1880s, the Wheatley wine business was housed at 26/27 South Audley Street from 1893 until it was taken over in 1931.
When the Grosvenor Estate decided to rebuild part of South Audley Street , 'Ready Money' Wheatley decided to apply for a lease. He was granted a site in the middle of the block but by means fair or foul managed to exchange it for the more valuable corner plot next to the Grosvenor Chapel.
The lease allowed DW's grandfather to build a ground floor shop with three residential floors above and a single tier basement. In the excavations, silver sand was discovered, and this fetched a hefty price. Without permission, 'Ready Money' instructed the builders to excavate down further, sold the sand at a large profit, and created a double basement for himself. How he compensated the Grosvenor estate is not on record.
While the firm started out by making a decent living from selling mineral waters (they were the principal West End agents for Schweppes) and beers, their clientele became steadily 'up market'. When Sir Louis Newton (who was to marry DW's mother when his father died) became Lord Mayor of London in 1923, Wheatley & Son became his exclusive supplier, and in the same year DW was negotiating with the Rumanian Ambassador over the wines to be served at a dinner for King George (for DW's own account of this purchase, click here). By the time DW left the business, he could claim his clientele had included three kings, a score of dukes and princes and many millionaires.