Former Derbyshire and England Test cricketer John Morris opens wine shop in Duffield
PUBLISHED: 00:00 30 January 2019
Alex Cantrill-Jones, ACJ Media
Cricketer John Morris has transformed an empty bank into a stylish wine shop in the heart of Duffield. David Marley reports...
‘From the earliest days of my professional life as a competitive sportsman to more recent times as a businessman earning a living overseas, work has taken me away from my family and home,’ reflects former Derbyshire and England Test cricketer John Morris. ‘So for the first time in what feels like an age, it’s fantastic to have a permanent working base near home, where I can spend more time with my family as well as devoting my energies into nurturing my new wine enterprise.’
Morris, who played over 360 competitive first-class county cricket matches, including spells with Derbyshire, Durham and Nottinghamshire, and scored over 21,500 runs and 52 centuries, is settling in to his new life as the proprietor of Bradmans Wine Cellar in Duffield, near Derby.
Fashioned inside the former NatWest bank building, Bradmans runs as a wine shop by day and a tasting venue in the evenings. ‘I have a problem with seeing characterful buildings sitting empty on the high street – especially in the village where I live,’ John says. ‘I was sitting opposite the old NatWest bank enjoying a coffee one day and thought, “I have to get into that building to see if there’s something I can do to get the place open again.”’
Within weeks Morris had approached the property owner and, with considerable encouragement from his son Tom, signed a commercial lease and applied for planning permission to Amber Valley Borough Council for a licence to operate a wine merchants and tasting cellar.
‘I’ve always had an interest in wine. During my cricketing life I visited numerous vineyards and as my palate developed really grew to appreciate the great variety of wines we have,’ he explains.
Morris’ decision to open his business appears to have tapped into a growing resurgence in wine sales. According to figures produced by industry experts Kantar Worldpanel, people in the UK spent an eye-watering £5 billion on wine in 2017. This included a four per cent growth in white wine sales, while the UK’s desire to consume sparkling wine – including prosecco and champagne – continues to expand year-on-year.
‘Drinking wine has never been so popular. Whether you prefer white, red, rosé or sparkling, there is something for everyone to enjoy,’ John says. ‘We offer a tasting menu of six wines – two red, two white, a rosé and a sparkling – for customers to sample each night. It is proving to be extremely well-liked.’
John’s wife Sally came up with the creative inspiration to help name the business Bradmans Wine Cellar – a nod to the late international Australian cricket idol Sir Don Bradman – and the business has rapidly gained popularity with the residents of Duffield since it started trading last May.
‘Bradman had always been a cricketing hero of mine,’ John reflects. ‘I was privileged to meet him when I was playing for England in Australia in the early 1990s and since then I’ve gathered a large collection of Bradman cricketing memorabilia.’
John turned to one of the best-known faces from the cricketing world to open the business officially last summer. ‘I asked my good friend David Gower to pop in and cut the ribbon. It was a great occasion.’
Three decades earlier, Gower and Morris famously made international headlines during the 1991 Ashes Tour of Australia when they flew a Tiger Moth plane over the pitch as England were playing a warm-up match against Queensland. Both players were heavily fined.
Sitting in the spectacularly-designed wine room in the heart of Bradmans, John points to a framed cartoon of the flying escapade, signed by Gower, that hangs on the wall. ‘We never really understood what all the fuss was about – we just wanted to lift the spirits of the team. But the practical joke backfired when the management did not see the funny side,’ he recalls. ‘I had the opportunity to play in the end-of-tour One Day International matches in Australia but following this I was never asked to play for England again – which was a bit frustrating.
‘I don’t dwell on it. I feel I was very fortunate to play for England – there were many other equally good players who never got the opportunity to represent their country. With hindsight it was a wonderful time and a great honour to be part of it all.’
The notoriety of this media high seems a long way from when John first came to the crease as a teenager in the early 1980s, commuting daily from his hometown of Crewe to play second-team cricket for Derbyshire.
‘My father, who was a major influence on my life, worked in the railway industry. So from the age of 16 I could use a free rail warrant to travel from Crewe every day to practise with the Derbyshire second eleven during the school holidays,’ he recalls.
Morris’ natural cricketing talent – as a thickset, right-handed, middle-order batsman – made an instant impact with the Derbyshire coaching staff of the era and by the end of the 1981 season he was offered a three-year contract to play first-class county cricket.
‘All I wanted to do was play county cricket,’ he says. ‘I did have offers from other clubs but my Dad felt that I could have a much greater impact playing for Derbyshire, and he was right.’
Under the team captaincy of Kim Barnett, Morris flourished in his new surroundings and gained a reputation as an effective player. ‘To begin with I lived in a house-share over a butcher’s shop in West Hallam, which was great fun,’ he laughs.
‘This was a very special period of my life, playing cricket and visiting so many amazing grounds and towns throughout England. One day I could be playing in Taunton against the great Viv Richards and the following week I could be batting against the bowling of Imran Khan.’
At the end of the 1980s Morris’ fluid cricketing style and excellent professional form caught the eye of the England team selectors and by 1990 he was picked to play for the national team. ‘I was really enjoying my cricket and it was a great honour to be picked to play international matches,’ he says.
By the end of 1990 Morris had married his partner Sally and after a long playing career with Derbyshire he decided to move and join Durham in 1994. ‘I loved the North East and its people. Durham was an exciting team and we played great cricket and I made some amazing friends, including many of the Newcastle United football team who I still keep in touch with today – including Alan Shearer, Shay Given and Robert Lee,’ John explains.
In 2000 John moved back to the East Midlands to play for Nottinghamshire and retired from cricket in 2001. Outside cricket John set up a sports management company, representing football clients as a professionally-qualified licensed FIFA agent. ‘I did a number of football transactions but my heart was always in the world of cricket, so when Derbyshire County Cricket Club chairman Don Amott offered me the chance to re-join Derbyshire as head of cricket in 2007 I jumped at the opportunity.’
Over the next four seasons John led Derbyshire first-team cricket operations and introduced a number of changes to the running of the club. ‘We did so many exciting and positive things, including moving the wicket round. Cricket was changing so fast and I am disappointed things did not work out as I had hoped,’ he says.
By 2012 John swapped the world of sport for a business career, taking a senior role as a consultant in the oil and gas industry. ‘For the next four years I was away from home travelling around the world and visiting some amazing places, such as South Africa. It was during this time that I continued to build on my passion and interest in wine.
‘A pal told me about the potential of investing in wine – in a similar way to buying stocks and shares – as a means to generate income. I was asked to help promote business development operations for a wine investment company and learned a lot, so when I came back to Derbyshire it seemed natural for me to show all the lovely wines we have in the world in a dedicated shop – and from that Bradmans Wine Cellar was born.’
Morris continues to sell wine to high-end business dealers and wine collectors. ‘Some of my clients can pay anything up to £100,000 for six bottles of wine but the focus of our wine cellar in Duffield is to make buying and tasting wine a more accessible leisure experience for people.’
At Bradmans purchasing a bottle of wine resembles a five-star hotel experience. Customers are guided to a handcrafted wine room, which is racked with over 300 bottles of carefully-selected red, white and rosé wines from every corner of the globe. Sleek black tiles imported from South Africa act as the perfect backdrop to bespoke wooden cabinets and fridges filled with some of the finest champagnes and sparkling wines the industry has to offer.
‘At Bradmans buying a bottle of wine starts from as little as £20 – and the selection is extensive,’ John says. ‘It is quite quirky to be drinking and tasting wine in the former vault of the NatWest bank! We offer free olives and cheese on certain nights which is all part of our commitment to enhancing the customer’s experience.’
Bradmans is open for private parties and celebration evenings and in addition to the wine cellar tasting, John sells directly to trade clients in restaurants, pubs and hotels.
‘My son Tom has joined the business and I hope one day he will take it on. As a family we are keen to expand the Bradmans brand throughout the country – but the secret to this business is not to overstretch and to make sure you are providing outstanding service and high quality wines for everyone to enjoy,’ he says.
‘After all my years of travelling throughout England playing cricket and overseas in business I now feel my work and home life balance is perfect – and for that I am very grateful.’
For more information about Bradmans Wine Cellar call 01332 840258 or visit www.bradmans.co.uk