Our home, locally known as Eastlays Mine, has a fascinating history from its origins in stone quarrying to its contemporary use in fine wine storage.

How The Wine Vaults Came To Be

Initially known as Eastern Monks Park Quarry, it began operations in 1887 under Pictors Monks company, providing high-quality Bathstone used in buildings as far as Capetown and Saffron Walden. The quarry ceased operations around 1934 and was repurposed by the Ministry of Defence in 1936 into a Central Ammunition Depot,  known as CAD No. 2 sub-depot, encompassing roughly 24 acres of underground space.

After being mothballed in 1962, various proposals for its use included a mushroom farm and a nuclear bunker, which failed due to planning rejection and financial difficulties respectively. The site also found brief use as a filming location for the  BBC in 1983 for ‘The Fourth Arm’ TV series in which special agents were sent to destroy a V1 flying bomb facility in an underground bunker in Northern France.  (Somewhat surreally, parts of the staging and signage created for that filming are  still in place.)

The Beginning of Octavian Vaults

In 1985 technology entrepreneur Nigel Jagger made what seemed like an unconventional investment by purchasing this vast old mine in the English countryside.

“I was driven to create a business that would endure”, says Jagger. “My father had  sold our family business – which he built – just as I was leaving school, and that affected me.”

The material resilience of the vast stone tunnels resonated with Jagger’s imagination, beyond the pragmatic. That which remains. “Whatever happens in the world, when the smoke clears, that place would endure.”

How We Achieve Near Perfect Storage Conditions

Despite initial scepticism about the venture’s potential, Jagger, with his engineering background and expertise in property, saw the space’s potential for fine wine storage. The stable underground environment at Octavian, consistent temperature and humidity, absence of UV light, and stillness provide the ideal conditions to maintain the integrity of wine over time. (These conditions are also ideal for Formula 1 racing tyres, which Jagger also stored in Octavian’s early days.)

Octavian’s air circulation system was pre-existing and uniquely durable, reaching throughout the huge complex. The Ministry of Defence had galvanized the ducting system, which had prevented the ducts from crumbling over time. Most old mines are not treated in this way, and it made all the difference for Jagger, as the contemporary costs of installing ducting are prohibitively expensive. “It would cost about £150 million to install that galvanised ducting today. And you simply couldn’t justify it as an investment”, he says.

To enhance the control over the storage environment, Jagger had sensors installed to monitor humidity, dew point, and temperature both inside and outside. He also introduced an automated system designed to prevent outside air from entering  Octavian when external conditions could compromise the controlled internal climate. This level of environmental regulation is essential to maintain the high standards required for Octavian‘s operation and to ensure the economic feasibility of storing fine wine and whisky.


Today, Octavian is led by managing director Vincent O’Brien. He joined the company, then known as Cert Octavian, in 2009 during the global financial crisis, as the financial director. His contributions to turning the business around were recognized by Jagger, and he was offered a leadership role when the company decided to sell off its general logistics segment to concentrate on the fine wine sector.

The most rewarding aspect of his job, O’Brien says, is engaging with the dynamic and fast-evolving fine wine industry. He values the increasing recognition of wine as an investment and enjoys interactions with wine enthusiasts. He is a passionate advocate for the need in the wine trade to honour the importance of storage and logistics in maintaining the value and trust in fine wine.

O’Brien is keen to dispel misconceptions about his role; it’s not just about offering space in a warehouse but also about providing optimal conditions, insurance, and meticulous stocktaking to safeguard the wine collections.

In the vaults of Octavian, O’Brien feels a special sense of responsibility for the bottles predating the 1900 vintage, but stresses that all wines deserve the same care and can carry great meaning or sentimental value for their owners. A long-term red wine lover, his experiences at Octavian have sharpened his interest and thirst for discovery, and he has become a Champagne fan thanks to a gift of Krug 2000 from a customer.

O’Brien’s personal commitment to excellence in wine storage and a passion for the wider world of wine is driven by the desire to highlight the critical role of logistics and storage in preserving the legacy and enjoyment of fine wines.