Thirty-one employees at Wadworth Brewery in Devizes face uncertainty after they were told their jobs will be moved almost 40 miles away.

The 137-year-old firm is to transfer its distribution and most of its warehousing to international company Kuehne & Nagel Drinks Logistics (KNDL) at Thatcham, Berkshire.

Wadworth chairman and managing director Charles Bartholomew said he took the decision reluctantly after a detailed review of the departments. He concluded it would be more cost effective and offer more opportunities for the company by outsourcing distribution and part of its warehousing.

Mr Bartholomew, a great grandson of one of the founding partners of Wadworth, told employees of the decision on Monday.

Yesterday he said: “I’m personally sad because it does affect a lot of good employees. People are in shock which I quite understand.

“It’s very sad for those affected and I quite understand how difficult it is for them. Hopefully as we are transferring the business there will be opportunities there.

“It’s absolutely no one’s fault in distribution or warehousing that we are doing this. They are great people and we have a lot of long-serving employees.

"The employees will transfer automatically under TUPE regulations and there will be a consultation process between now and November 5 when the transfer takes place.

“There will be one-to-one discussions to see what individuals want.”

Wadworth lorries deliver beer and other drinks to pubs as far away as Worcestershire, Reading, Exeter and Portsmouth.

The company wants to find more free trade pub customers, buy more pubs and deliver into London and concluded its own distribution set-up could not achieve this.

Paul Sullivan, sales and marketing director at Wadworth, said: “KNDL had the best fit for us. They are also approved by Cask Marque (an independent ale assessor).”

Mr Sullivan admitted that employees affected may not want to travel to Thatcham.

He said: “Some may not take up opportunities with KNDL. People may think Thatcham is too far away. I believe they have satellite depots in Westbury and Southampton.”

The Wadworth shire horses will not be affected, and will continue to deliver beers, wines and spirits to town centre pubs.

Brewing will be unaffected and the wines and spirits warehouse at Kennet House, near the main brewery building, will remain but branded bottled beers, ciders and soft drinks will no longer be stored at the brewery’s warehouse. A total of 160 employees are based at the brewery.

Representatives of KNDL were at the brewery yesterday talking to employees affected.

The firm said in a statement: “KN Drinks Logistics has begun a formal consultation process with the 31 affected employees.

“The company is committed to working closely with Wadworth to ensure a smooth transition of operations and will seek to redeploy employees within its network and take such other measures as it believes will minimise the numbers affected.”