Paten & Co. (Peterborough) Ltd. began in 1928, but the start of today’s Private Limited Company was but a legal step, because Alfred John Paten (1873-1950), had come to Peterborough in 1898, at the age of twenty five, to set up as a Sole Trader Wine Merchant. He was drawing on his experience of working briefly in his family’s wine business “Bradings” in London.
He was born in Islington, London, in 1873, the son of a mechanical engineer, John Alfred Paten and a publican’s daughter, Emily Brading. The Wine Merchants “Bradings” had been founded in 1838 by A.J.P.’s great uncle Henry Brading, who as a man of enterprise, had three years earlier built the Royal Albert Theatre in Islington. A.J.P. ‘ s father died when the boy was only six. His mother remarried and young Alfred attended St.Paul’s School in Hammersmith. However we can only presume that Alfred did not get on with his step father, because at the age of thirteen he ran away to America, probably sailing from Liverpool. He found work in the New York docks. Later, after an accident, he was befriended by a kindly stranger, as a result of which he was offered a post in Boston Massachusetts, where he ran a saloon bar. Returning to Europe in December 1892, just after his nineteenth birthday, he settled into the family business, Bradings, taking over the running of the enterprise from his Uncle Henry Brading (the second), who was then 72. London at the end of the 19th century was a dangerous place: years later in 1935, when A.J.P.was taking his daughter Joyce to see a medical specialist in Harley Street, he pointed out to her a Pub, where he had been Bar Manager in the mid 1890’s and explained that a pistol had been part of his normal equipment for work.
The excitement of London life did not satiate the taste of the young man, however, and ate in 1896 he then travelled in Southern Africa. In Rhodesia he met up with a German explorer Henry Schlichter and together they discovered and named two mountains in Vlashonaland, Mount Markham (named after the then President of The Royal Geographical society) and Mount Keltie. They were helped part of the way by a guide provided by Cecil Rhodes. In 1898 A.J.P. was elected a Fellow of the Royal Geographical Society. During his ears in Peterborough, he visited many parts of the world, including China, becoming a devotee of Oriental art, and shipping home many treasures to his Peterborough house, The Jindens, Lincoln Road.
Coming to Peterborough in 1898 was just part of A.J.P.’s adventurous life, and a shrewd decision. He secured a loan from Bass & Co. with which he began trading at 19, Long Causeway. He bought the property and wine business of Alderman Nichols, three times Mayor: included in the deal was The Bull and Dolphin pub, 94 Broad Bridge Street, ‘here he would also bottle Bass beer. On December 17th 1898 he placed a full page
Nichols & Co. Ltd at the Bull & dolphin, 94, Bridge Street. 1898 advertisement in The Peterborough Advertiser, announcing the new management and prices — the company was launched.
He lived at first in a street called “The Crescent”: (it was demolished in 1913 to make way for the new Crescent Railway Bridge). Nor did he neglect his social life: in April 1900 he married Emily Stokes, a yeoman farmer’s daughter from Warmington and brought her to live in Peterborough, to a house called “Airedale” on Dogsthorpe Road. Between 1901 and 1905 the couple had three children, Henry (known as Harry) Lionel and Joyce. The