Our History

Ed and Fred have been mates for many years. Both had a handful of leased pubs from the old pub co’s we see going bust all over the country today. They used to drink together occasionally, bonded by a mutual love of local quality cask ale, and a frustration of the lack of it, as almost all the pubs were on the old “brewery-tie” and unable to serve it.

As the recession loomed back in 2008 their conversations grew more emotive, and as they both suffered at the hands of the pub-co’s they started to (whilst drowning their sorrows somewhat) talk about buying their own freehold pub: bricks and mortar, no pub co in the middle. “Freedom”.

It was a pipe dream, banks weren’t lending, cash was tight.

It was at the end of 2009 that a little dingy boozer called The Royal popped up at auction. Fred and Ed went along to have a look, it was lot 32 on the list, so they decided to go for a pint and wait. Four pints later, and full of bravado, they found their hand going up during the bidding (not a brass wazoo between them).

To their horror and glee, the hammer came down and Fred’s hand was in the air.

Once their wives calmed down and let them back in the house (“you did what? You went and got pissed and managed to come home having bought a pub?! GET OUT!”), they set about turning their poor tired little pub into the pipe dream they had envisaged.

Oak floors and doors, old pictures of the area in times gone by, smart tidy leather seating, 7 cask hand pumps featuring their own favourite beers, and renamed it “The Cock and Pullet”, because it made them laugh.

They had no intention at the time of doing much more, they just wanted to break free from the pub co’s,  have some fun with it. The snowball started to roll.

The Cock was an overnight success. Doing twice as much as they had expected, and winning awards for it’s cask ales.

Fred bought a Porsche and increased his account at William Hill. Ed cleared the arrears on his mortgage, and bought the kids some new shoes. We were all winners!

Being the shy retiring types, they bought their second freehold pub 18 months later. A former pub lease and now available for freehold sale, The Open Arms was born. A much bigger pub, with food and extensive outside areas.

The Open was a hit with the locals, and they flooded back through the doors, the pub having been shut for over a year.

So we’re up to 2012 now, in the pits of recession, and Ed and Fred are having some fun, but realise they could do more with this.

AtWill pubs was born. We decided the only way to expand quickly and take advantage of the glut of pubs on the market was to take things a little more seriously. Although we were happy growing organically at about 1 pub a year, we felt the time was right, and we didn’t want to be stopped by the banks unwillingness to help.

We extended our board of directors to give us more support and expertise, sought private equity from new shareholders, and here we are today in 2015, with 11 pubs and counting. We aim to have 20 this time next year, and who knows after that.

At this point, we should mention our wives, Annie (Fred) and Clare (Ed), thank you for being so supportive, patient, and generally putting up with our nonsense for so long. We love you dearly.