Baker Wardell was founded as a family firm by John Wardell in the Liberties toward the end of the 1700s. It’s main business was importing & blending tea. John Wardell was a Quaker by birth, but he was forced to abandon his religion for owning a racehorse, albeit under an assumed name, as this was against the tenets of their beliefs. However, the high principles of Quakerism continued to influence the conduct of the business and the Wardell name was synonymous with trustworthiness and high standards. His son and grandson, both called John Wardell, in turn ran the business. The younger John, fought in the First World War and sadly, his experience during the war (he was mentioned in dispatches and also served time as a German prisoner of war) were to have a lasting effect on this most gentle of men. He took his responsibilities seriously and ran a sound organisation. He recognised the importance that phones would have for business and had one installed, the company number being “Dublin 4”. He and his wife, Dosia had two sons, John and Denny.
The Wardell family was committed to the area around the Liberties. John became involved with St Patrick’s hospital, a very worthwhile if not popular charity at the time, taking on the chairmanship of the board and starting a family relationship with the hospital that was to endure through three generations. Denny Wardell counts his time at St Pats among his best achievements. During his term there, the hospital was modernized and the walls as well as the attendant taboos were lowered.
To ensure the ongoing success of the company, John was most interested in having one of his sons learn more fully about tea. Denny was to spend two years in India, learning his trade. He later claimed that he learnt a lot more besides tea, but nevertheless was to return with talents that would stand to him over the years, when the company would undergo a period of expansion and diversity under his leadership.