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A FAMILY BUSINESS - SUTERS LIMITED - 1929 - 1939 Part One by Richard Ensor

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SOME SUTER FAMILIES IN THE "30s"- GEORGE WILLIAM, CLARENCE, FRANK, AND WINIFRED - 1929 TO 1939

Children leaving home - George William Suter bought 'Kingsway' in 1923 and established the first real home for his family since moving to Slough in 1920.The new house which was large and had a big garden for a few years became the home and social centre of all George William and Elizabeth's children.

The ability of the family to re-congregate at 'Kingsway' would have been all the more significant because of everything that had happened during the previous twelve years. Winifred had gone to live with her Uncle and Aunt Denning in 1911 or 1912 when she was aged about 14. Arthur and Clarence, also, left Ledbury in 1911 and 1912 to start apprenticeships. In October 1913 Arthur decided to leave the draper for whom he had been working in Hackney and start a new career in the dairy company founded by his uncle Frank Denning.

Both he and Clarence volunteered during the first year of the Great War and served until the early months of 1919. Arthur returned to his uncle's dairy company which had been absorbed and had become part of United Dairies Clarence returned home to his parents obtained a job with E & R Garrould and within a few months started the search which ended, in 1920, with the joint purchase by father and son of two shops in Slough. Frank left home in 1919 to start an engineering apprenticeship in the Midlands. Clarence, Arthur, Frank and Winifred now, moved in with their parents at 'Kingsway' and Arthur and Frank also joined their father and brother in the family firm. John was at boarding school in London and returned home at weekends.

The first of the Suter children to marry was Arthur in 1925, and Dorothy and he set up home above new Suters shop in Uxbridge. The following year, 1926, Clarence married Maud Beavis and, in January 1928, it was the turn of Frank and Vera. Both Clarence and Frank made use of the flat over the shop in Slough High Street as a temporary home while looking for a suitable plot on which to build. Within a year Clarence had settled on Windsor Lane, Burnham to the north of Slough where there were plots available for new houses. His new home was ready by the end of 1927 and Clarence and Maud were able to move into 'Mentone' (named after their honeymoon destination) in time for Frank and Vera to take over the High Street flat.

Left: Clarence at 'Mentone'

By 1928 or 1929 George William decided that he no longer needed a large house. Three of his five children had already left home and his daughter, Winifred, was engaged to be married having met her future husband, Norman Moon, while attending a course at University College, Reading. The fifth and youngest child, John, left St Paul's School in 1925 and started commuting daily to London where he was learning management and the tailor's trade.

George William concluded that the time had come to sell 'Kingsway' and, like Clarence, find an architect and a builder who could provide a house suited to the new family circumstances. He wanted a modern home without un-necessary and inconvenient nooks and crannies but with decent size reception rooms and a reasonable garden. He started to look around and, in order to ensure that funds were available when needed, placed 'Kingsway' on the market.

During the Spring of 1929 a local builder, William Russell, began to develop a site in Langley Road, Slough formerly part of the "Sutton" Estate. It is likely that Frank and Vera bought one of his houses as Tony Suter confirms that they moved into 49, Langley Road in 1928 or 1929. George William may have heard of the development from Frank. He reserved the plot which would become 55, Langley Road. and engaged an Architect. A buyer was found for 'Kingsway' and, as a temporary measure George William moved with Elizabeth into the Old House Hotel in Windsor. According to John Suter's 'Autobiography' his mother found living in a hotel a welcome change from running the family home but George William soon realised that it would be a while before the new house was ready and, as soon as Frank and Vera no longer needed the flat over the Slough shop, George William and Elizabeth moved back to where they had started in Slough in 1920.

The sale of 'Kingsway' rendered both Winifred and John temporarily homeless. Winifred was in the process of planning her marriage to Norman Moon and she moved to Sternhold Avenue in Streatham pending her wedding in December 1929.

John, who was the youngest of the Suter children and the last to remain at home, was aged 21 and it was decided he was old enough to live in digs in London until 'Bilby House' was ready. While this was a lonely arrangement so far as John was concerned, his brothers had all been sent away from home in order to learn a trade and Winifred, by the age of 25, had lived away for almost as long as at home. One unexpected consequence of the change was to remove John from the day to day influence of his parents and it is no coincidence that he ended the period of enforced 'freedom' engaged to Irene (Bobbie) Milner - possibly not the result contemplated by George William and Elizabeth.

John stayed in London during the week time, but was made welcome at the homes of his married brothers most weekends.

Clarence's son Tom who was born in 1928 in the arms of Rose L. Scott formerly Parsons (above left)

When Bilby House was finished I moved in with my parents and when I joined Suters I used to drive over to Uxbridge each day, seeing Bobbie in the evening but never on a Saturday. We closed at 9 o'clock in those days and Clarence liked to call at the Black Horse public house at Iver Heath where we used to have a game of cards as well as a drink on occasions. - John Suter - Autobiography.

In his 'Autobiography', John said that he joined Suters in 1930 and the extract quoted above implies that he 'moved in' again with his parents while still working in London. This suggests a completion date for 'Bilby House' of late 1929 or early 1930. The architect's plans do not survive and there are very few photographs. However, a description is contained in the particulars prepared for the sale by auction in August 1949 after George William's death. In 1949, 'Bilby House, 55, Langley Road, Slough' was described as a "well-planned" and "modern" detached freehold residence:Built for the late owner under the supervision of an Architect, is in the Market for the first time. It is constructed of red brick with overhanging eaves and tiling to pays, and tiled roof; is approached by double gates and gravelled drive....

Left: 1932 George William Suter with Tony Suter

Life at 'Bilby House' was always a good deal quieter than at 'Kingsway' and it became quieter still when John who was the last of the family to marry, left home in 1932. However, all the children visited, at least in the early years, and the visits became noisier as the numbers were augmented by grandchildren. By the end of the first summer there were, already, six. Arthur and Dorothy had three - 'Su' born in 1926, Ruth in 1928 and George in 1930.

Clarence and Maud had two sons, Tom born in 1928 and David in 1930 and Frank and Vera's son, Tony, was also born in 1930. By the summer of 1937 the total had grown to eleven with the arrival of Winifred and Norman's daughters Elizabeth ('Beth') (1932) and Janet (1935). Frank and Vera produced a second son Ian in 1936 and John and Irene (Bobbie) first child, a daughter, Wendy-Ann was born in 1934 followed by a son, Richard, in 1937.

By the middle of the decade Clarence and Frank had established their families in newly built houses near to Slough and Arthur and John were similarly established close to Uxbridge.

'Bilby House' provided a meeting place for wives and children as did the stores in Slough and Uxbridge. Outside of the business three of the brothers developed interests in the communities in which they lived and worked. In Uxbridge, Arthur was involved in local government and John joined the Rotary Club. In Slough Frank Suter was elected to the Executive Committee of the Chamber of Commerce.

In October 1937 Elizabeth Suter died aged only 65. She had joined the staff of George Allison's shop in Ledbury only a year or so after Queen Victoria celebrated her Golden Jubilee in 1887. She was married to George William three years before the Diamond Jubilee in 1897. She had helped George William develop the Ledbury business and after its sale had weathered the trauma of the short-lived experiment in New Southgate and returned to 'living over the shop' when he started again in Slough.

She had, then, watched, doubtless with satisfaction, while the new business started by her husband and sons began to expand and prosper. Elizabeth had, during all this time, brought up a family of five and had seven family homes. Like countless other mothers she watched her two elder sons enlist in the Great War, supported them with letters and parcels while they were away and waited for news when they were wounded or hospitalised with dysentery or fever. She had seen the certainties of a Victorian country town disappear and be replaced by the opportunities and unresolved threats brought by the new century. She would have been much missed.

More from Suters Ltd from 1929 onwards

Previuosly I had described how George William Suter and his son, Clarence, acquired two drapers shops in Slough High Street in September 1920 and in 1924 expanded by purchasing the drapers, tailors and ladies and gents outfitters business carried on by Carrick & Coles of Uxbridge including their store on a corner site at Wellington House with shop frontages to both Uxbridge High Street and Windsor Street. Arthur and Frank Suter both joined the family firm at this time. It was also agreed that the youngest brother, John, should commence an appropriate apprenticeship when he left school with a view, eventually, to joining the firm. Three years later, in 1927, Suter & Sons purchased the Blanchetts music shop which adjoined the larger of the two Suter shops in Slough thus increasing the size of the shop.

The smaller shop on the other side of the High Street was retained, at least for the time being. Tom Suter remembers visiting there with his mother in about 1936. In Uxbridge, Suters operated in direct competition with 'William Coad', who were on the north side of the High Street immediately opposite Carrick & Coles and, when in 1929, Mr Coad decided to move and set up in Cambridge, Suters bought his Uxbridge business and continued to trade both from Wellington House as Suters and as William Coad on the other side of the street. They, also, acquired the old furniture department of Carrick & Coles which had been retained by Mr Aldridge at the time of the sale of the Carrick & Coles business in 1924.

It was at this time that the partners decided to run the business through the medium of a private limited company. Suters Limited was formed on the 13th June 1929. As often happens when a partnership firm is transformed into a company, it is likely that the value of the shares initially issued corresponded to the former partners capital balances and the company retained the right to issue additional shares up to the limit authorised by the Memorandum and Articles of Association thus providing a means of financing future expansion.

As well as receiving shares, the former partners were all transformed into directors. One immediate advantage of the change was limitation of individual liability which made it easier to protect the families of the former 'partners' from any future financial disaster. It also became possible for George William Suter and his sons to consider passing on the growing investment now represented by shares in the company to their children including those not employed in the business.

The new company adopted a 'conservative' policy for dividends and the greater part of the profits were ploughed back into the business after payment of the directors salaries. At the end of 1938, when the company was ten years old and there had been major shop developments in both Slough and Uxbridge, the authorised share capital was £40,000 divided into £30,000 £7 percent £1 Preference Shares and 10,000 £1 Ordinary Shares. Of these, 9,046 of the £1 Ordinary Shares had been issued and were fully paid (i.e. their face value had been received by the company in cash) and 23,000 of the £1 Preference Shares had been issued and were similarly fully paid. No dividends had by May 1939 ever been paid on the Preference Shares which makes it likely that they, also, had been issued to the Directors and/or members of their families.

As between the brothers an egalitarian approach to remuneration was continued following the principle underlying an equal partnership. Also continued was the informal policy of excluding female members of the family from any position with the company. They were not even accepted as shareholders until 1953. The exclusion may seem strange to someone looking back armed with the principles and prejudices of the first decade of the twenty-first century but, it was certainly not unusual in 1929 and even as late as the 1970's professional partnerships would agonise and dispute with one another over whether a qualified female assistant about to marry one of the partners (who were always male) should not immediately retire and think about babies!

There were, also, changes in responsibilities. Clarence came from Slough to manage the William Coad shop whilst Arthur managed the Carrick and Coles business in Wellington House and continued to live in the substantial house which formed the greater part of the upper floors.

In 1930 the youngest brother, John, joined the company having completed his five years apprenticeship - working as a management trainee with Barkers and learning tailoring with Lester & Stephens in Carnaby Street. He lived at home with his parents at 'Bilby House' in Slough and drove over to work at Uxbridge each day.

Uxbridge in the 1930s

In her 'Uxbridge a Concise History' Carolyn Harmon comments that during the 1930's life for most people in Uxbridge, as in many parts of the country, was better than it had ever been. Wages were higher and the hours of work were shorter

It is easier to find details of prices than of wages. The 'Situations Vacant' small 'Ads' in the Middlesex Advertiser and Gazette rarely state the wages offered except occasionally in the case of 'Domestics'. In September 1931 a small 'Ad' offered a wage of 'from £70' for a 'Cooks Situation with kitchen-maid kept' in Harrow Weald aged 25-35. And £52 was offered for a 'Working Housekeeper' aged 30 to 40 in Harrow. It will be recalled that eleven years earlier in 1920 Arthur was being paid at a rate of £4 per week (£208 per year) as a junior manager working for United Dairies.

When it came to the major expenses of life, 'Villa Bungalows' could be bought in Hillingdon from £625. These contained 3 or 4 bedrooms, 2 Living rooms, a tiled kitchen and bathroom, gas, electric light and fittings and the 'latest labour-saving devices'. In Gutteridge Street, Hillingdon Heath a house with 3 bedrooms, 2 reception rooms, kitchenette, hall and large bathroom could be had for £595 freehold. In both cases the advertisement stressed said that both road charges and legal costs would be paid (by the builder).

Some things seem rather expensive. The new 'Amazing All-Electric 'His Master's Voice' Radio Gramophone' Model 521 would cost 48 Guineas from Messrs Willis in Uxbridge probably because it combined the latest technology with a hand made cabinet. Gramophones more usually required winding up with a handle and the sound was produced by a steel 'needle' picking up vibrations from the wax disc and amplifying the sound by means of a sound box or horn. The 'power and performance' offered by the new model in its elegant cabinet clearly justified a price equivalent to the years wages of a 'working housekeeper' and just under one tenth the cost of a three bedroom house.

When it came to day to day expenses 'Empire Cheese' cost 8d a lb., a large tin of Apricots was priced at 1/1d and a 'tasty dish of 'Pilchards in tomato' could be had for 5½d all from the International Stores. Again, referring to Chapter 7, Dorothy's Butcher's bill in November 1926 came to £2.14s.2d.

The Regal Cinema opened on Boxing Day 1931 the Savoy had already opened by September and was offering two changes of programme each week. The Middlesex Advertiser also contained advertisements for cinemas in Yiewsley, North Harrow,, Hayes, Ruislip, Iver and Slough and a little further afield in Gerrards Cross, Chalfont St. Peter and Farnham Common. Seats at 'The Marlboro' Yiewsley were priced at 6d, 9d, 1/3d and in the balcony at 1/6d, and 1/10d. In Slough the seats cost from 9d. to 2/-. In Chalfont St. Peter a 'Special Notice' confirmed that "A bus will call at the Cinema every evening at 10.25, both for Gerrards Cross and Chalfont St. Giles"

The annual Uxbridge Show, from 1932, ceased to be simply an horticultural event and began to attract large crowds. A new Uxbridge Open Air Swimming Pool was opened in 1935.

Suters had taken over two shops in a prime position in the Uxbridge High Street and were well placed to benefit from rising prosperity. They had, also, inherited the differing traditions of Carrick and Coles and William Coad. These appear to have been allowed to continue, at least for a time, under the new Suters management. A case in the Uxbridge Police Court reported in The Middlesex Advertiser and Gazette illustrates some of the problems which had arisen and provides a brief glimpse of the ladies underwear department in February 1931.

Both stores had rules regulating purchases by employees. The rules in force on the south side of High Street (in Wellington House) required employees to pay for purchases immediately and provided "that employees must not purchase goods from other assistants". Presumably, this meant that they had to make the purchase from someone more senior. At William Coad, (also owned by Suters) on the north side of the street, however, "assistants could run an account or take things home on approval". At some time before the date of the case, Suters in Wellington House (ex Carrick & Coles) became conscious that "there were serious irregularities with regard to their stocks". In other words goods were disappearing and they suspected pilfering by staff. Suters dealt with the problem by employing an 'under cover store detective' whose name, happily, was Miss Perfect. It was as a result of her investigations that the case came to court:

The first witness was the detective Florence Perfect:

[Miss Perfect] said that on February 13 she overheard a conversation between the accused (Vera Evelyn Lord (26) a shop assistant, lodging at Ickenham Road, Uxbridge) and two other assistants with regard to a pair of black knickers. [Mrs Lord] wanted to borrow a pair for a dance. One of the others produced a pair from a drawer, saying "Here is a pair put back into stock". [Mrs Lord] said , "I will take the ticket off now." She did so and put them in a drawer. At lunch time [Ms Perfect] found they were still there. At tea time she was alone with [Ms Lord] who had previously lost her handkerchief. [Miss Perfect] suggested that [Mrs Lord] go upstairs to look for it, and while she was away [Miss Perfect] went to the drawer and marked the knickers with a cut in the seam. At closing time the knickers were gone. Later [Mrs Lord] produced them from her handbag. A pink brassiere was also found there.

It was then the turn of the accused, Mrs Lord, to give evidence:

….on the "Coads side" of the firm assistants could run an account or take things home on approval. On Wednesday she took a princess slip home to try on. She did not pay for it as it was very late. She knew she was breaking the rule on that occasion. On the Friday, when she asked if anyone could lend her a pair of knickers, one of the assistants said there was a cheap pair left over from the sale. She was undecided and the other assistant put them in the "lay-by" drawer. {Mrs Lord} did not touch them until the evening. …In response to questions she said that Miss Perfect had been present when she had said that she wanted some knickers….She paid for the petticoat she had taken on Wednesday. Later in the evening she chose a new brassiere and told an assistant that she would pay for it in the morning. She knew she was breaking the rule. At 8 o'clock she went to fetch the knickers, and put them with the brassiere into her handbag, telling the assistant she would pay for them in the morning

Dorothy Miall, an assistant gave evidence:

[She] said she put the knickers in the "lay-by" drawer in case anyone should need them. Miss Perfect was present when discussion about the brassiere was taking place. When [Mrs Lord] left to go home she told {Miss Miall] that she would pay for the knickers in the morning. In response to questions [Miss Miall] said she made a bill out on the instructions of Mrs Lord who told her what to put down.

And was followed by another assistant, Elizabeth Mary Trinham of 36 Middleton Road, Uxbridge:

…..she was in the underclothing department when Mrs Lord brought in a dress and she and Miss Miall went into a private room to try it on. [Mrs Lord] showed them the brassiere she was wearing and Miss Perfect made some remark about it. [Mrs Lord] then said she would want some black knickers.

Three "character" witnesses were called including George Arthur Suter.

The Magistrates held [Mrs Lord] was guilty of taking the things, but in view of her good character they bound her over [required her to give an undertaking for good conduct] for 12 months. - The Middlesex Advertiser and Gazette Friday February 20, 1931

Suters had demonstrated that house rules would be enforced. Hopefully, they also sorted out the differing sets of rules governing purchases by the staff. There may have been more general problems with managers inherited from Carrick & Coles. When the store closed five years later it was managerial staff who could not be found a place either in the Uxbridge or Slough Suters stores.

With the enlargement of the business social events were developed within the company. Wednesday was early closing day and The Uxbridge Wednesday Cricket Club was almost entirely composed of Suters people from the two Uxbridge shops. According to an obituary notice published in the Middlesex Advertiser on the 23rd March 1975 Arthur Suter was instrumental in forming the club. The club played from 1930 until the outbreak of war in 1939.

(fig 09.03) The Uxbridge Wednesday Cricket Club

A photograph (fig 09.03 above) shows standing at the back from the left Leonard Futcher, an unidentified man, Mr Bendall, Mr C. S. Reed and two unidentified men and sitting in the front from the left John Suter, Clarence Suter, Mr Herbert Worsfold (Captain), Frank Suter and an unidentified man. Messrs Futcher and Bendall were, later, managers at the Ruislip shop. Mr Reed was, in 1962, re-employed by Suters to take over staff management when Tom Suter was appointed manager of the Slough store following Herbert Worsfold's retirement.

Increasing prosperity brought the family motor car and motorised commercial traffic. As a result Uxbridge, through which the London to Oxford road passed, began to suffer severely from traffic congestion. The Western Avenue which first featured in the road programme for 1920-1924 was built to divert traffic from the old Oxford Road which passed through the crowded western suburbs of London. The first main section opened in 1934 but as the western end finished at the junction with Long Lane in Hillingdon it did not keep the traffic away from the Uxbridge town centre. A final stretch from Hillingdon to a junction with the old Oxford Road at the Denham roundabout west of Uxbridge was not completed (the last stretch as a single carriageway only) until shortly before the Second World War.

In the centre of Uxbridge an attempt was made in 1936 to improve the flow of traffic by replacing the trams with trolleybuses and the narrow bridges over the river and the canal were replaced

One new amenity for the town which eventually had a very big impact on the Suters shops was the extension of the Piccadilly Line to Uxbridge in 1933. As a result, the number and frequency of the trains to Uxbridge increased and it was realised that the existing station at Belmont Road would be inadequate. It was decided to combine the creation of a new station with the clearance of slums which had developed in the narrow alleys on the north side of the High Street opposite to the Market house.

One of the alleys, Bell Yard (left from 'Uxbridge A Concise History') was totally demolished and a new Underground Station facing on to the High Street opposite to the Market House constructed. There were also major changes to Bakers Yard and the properties lying between Belmont Road, York Road and the High Street in order to permit the construction of a new bus station and access and a car park. Details of the scheme were announced in 1934 and the new station was opened in 1938

(fig 09.05) 1938 - the new station 'Uxbridge A Concise History'

In the meantime Uxbridge took part in the celebrations of the King's Silver Jubilee in 1935. There is a photograph (supplied by Uxbridge Public Library) of the floats passing a High Street lined with crowds. The tram lines are still in place but the overhead trolleybus cables can also be seen. (fig 09.06 below). A second photo shows one of the floats visible in (fig 09.07 below) passing the Suters William Coad shop.

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(fig 09.06) The King's Silver Jubilee procession \\\\\\\\\\\\\ in Uxbridge passing William Coad (fig 09.07)

Rebuilding in 'Sunshine Slough' 1935

By 1930 there was more activity generally in the Slough High Street. A photo in Slough, A Century of Change (fig 09.08 left ) shows cars as well as cyclists passing and there is no evidence of horse-drawn traffic. Suters is on the right hand side of the road next to the parked car still housed in three units of the three story brick building. Another view which can be found spread over two pages in Memories of Slough (Plate 82 fig 09.09 - below) shows the High Street on a busy day.

The first three letters of the name 'Suters' can be seen on the shop blind but only if the image is enlarged and darkened as in the detail (fig 09.10) An aerial view also included in Memories of Slough taken in 1933 illustrates the importance of the High Street to the life of the town.

The location of the Suters store is indicated by the arrow on the detail. (fig 09.12. above)

Much of the increase in activity was due to the growth of the Slough Trading Estate. As mentioned in Chapter 5, the Slough Trading Company was formed in 1920 for the purpose of purchasing the Government site at Slough and the surplus Army transport left over from the Great War, and it had, by 1924, disposed of most of the material. With vacant factories on its hands it decided to enter the estate business. Gradually the larger factories were let and by 1938 the number of manufacturers had risen to 214 occupying 275 factories.

The Trading Estate rent roll had increased to £60,000 by 1928 and to 120,000 in 1938. As always, translating to early 21st Century values is difficult, particularly as the 'multipliers' vary according to the subject matter. Looking at residential property, a Slough three bedroom 'semi' costing perhaps £150,000 in 2004 would have sold for just under £600 in 1938

(fig 09.13) from the Slough Observer June 1938 If this were typical it would suggest a multiplier of 250. If as a further step one could apply this to the Trading Estate rent roll a 21st century equivalent for the 1928 figure would have been £15m rising to £30m in 1938. An advertisement carried in the Slough Charter Supplement to the Windsor, Slough and Eton Express on the 16th September 1938 summarised the facilities provided by "London's Industrial Centre".(fig 09.14 below) Not mentioned in the advertisement is the option (only available in part of the estate) to have a metered supply of steam which made it un-necessary for a small factory in that area to maintain its own 'boiler'.

An Information Sheet published by Slough Museum describes the town in the 1930's:

By the 1930's [its] position near London, yet with cheap land available, made Slough an ideal place for new industries, the light engineering works making the parts to fit everything from cars to radio sets, and the manufacture of machine tools that made this production possible. The Trading Estate leased properties to firms at the forefront of thirties technology, they made textiles and fabrics like rayon, pharmaceutical products like 'Aspro' and the Bakelite that went into everything from ashtrays to lamp sockets; there were new assembly line methods of work and canning for perishable products; but most of these firms were relatively small and needed few skilled employees

…….The workforce to run the new industries came from all over Britain but particularly from the 'distressed' or 'special' areas of South Wales, Tyneside, West Cumberland and parts of Scotland. ……the traditional industries of these areas, shipbuilding and heavy engineering, chemicals and steel were going through hard times - new products and markets were replacing the old. Slough had been advertised as 'Sunshine Slough' in a national newspaper in the late 1920's, it prompted many of the unemployed to move to the area. The really rapid influx began when the Government opened a Training Centre where unemployed workers from the distressed areas could be retrained for six months with an allowance of 18/- a week, this causing a deal of resentment amongst the locals! With its need for unskilled labour in mass production industries and a ready supply of workers from 'special areas', Slough had a reputation in the thirties as a low wage town. Much of the work was repetitive and sometimes dangerous. A survey carried out by the Trades Union Congress in 1936 and 1938 showed the lowest wages to be £2.0.0 a week at D. M. Davies and British GWZ Batteries and as high as £3.0.0. for skilled work at Black and Decker.

Female labour was used willingly by many firms: in 1932 the Slough Observer said "it is most noticeable that the major part of the work available in Slough factories is for young women and girls…." ……Slough was a non-union town: of the 15,000 workers on the Trading Estate "the overwhelming majority were non-union" - P.E.P. Report 1938 / ….

Despite its reputation as a low wage town, Slough in the depressed thirties at least enjoyed the opportunity of employment. There was money, and with it came those other new examples of the 1930's, the new housing estates with bathrooms and electric power circuits as well as lighting, and with them the mortgages, hire purchase, the 'tally' and the 'tick' men that made them and their furnishings more widely available. So while there was mass unemployment and hunger marches, Slough exemplified one road to recovery for the British Economy: buying furniture, houses and household appliances on credit stimulated economic growth and particularly in the industries that supplied the mass market. - K. M. Hull Slough Museum 1986

The population of Slough which was 16,397 in 1921 rose to 33,530 by 1931 and was estimated at 54,830 in the Official Souvenir produced for the Slough Charter celebrations. The number of dwelling-houses rose from 3,703 (1921) to 14,819 (1938) during the same period.

Thus, in Slough, shoppers were spending their money or buying on credit and there was no reason why a trader, such as Suters, in the central High Street should, in any way, be pessimistic when considering the possibility of expansion.

Weekly advertisements in the Slough, Eton & Windsor Observer continued. Examples obtained from the archive for 1932 in Slough Public Library include a display inserted on the 7th April which announced a special early spring display of ladies fashions and featured 'Doric' modes. (fig 09.15 and 16 below) Customers were advised in 'paternal' tones:

(fig 09.15) 'Doric modes' from 1932

'Guided by our many years of Fashion experience, we feel the need of the moment is for STYLE, QUALITY, and offer you 'DORIC' Tailored Coats' 'We ask you with confidence to visit our Showrooms to try these garments on, to notice the snug fit, and judge for yourself.'

And any lady who might feel concerned was assured 'You will not be asked to buy'

In June 1932 the 'Suters Great Summer Clearance Sale' promised - 'Prices Lower than Ever Before'.(Plate 84 fig 09.17 below)

Ladies silk coats were reduced from 36/11 to 15/- and a selection of hats were offered at prices from 8/11 for 'an attractive hat in the modish Cellophone' [presumably a cellulose based material] to 1/0¾d for 'the new and popular Johnny Cap'.

October brought Slough Shopping Week, organised by the Slough and District Chamber of Trade, and the Suters display advertisement carried the slogan 'England expects you to BUY BRITISH'. Customers were assured 'OUR WINDOW DISPLAYS ARE FOR YOUR EXAMINATION'

The Empire Marketing Board exhorted all shoppers to 'FOLLOW THE FLAG in all your purchases' (fig 09.19)

The store organised a slogan competition and in the advertisement on October 21st 1932 published the entry received from Mrs Hamar of Huntercombe Lane, Taplow which 'clearly defines our policy in words we ourselves would use' - "Bargains large and figures small, Suters will convince you all." (fig 09.20 above left)

The confidence expressed in advertisements was, also, translated into action. By May 1935 Suters were able to look forward to the completion of 'The Modern Slough Store' following the rebuilding of the original double shop at 101 and 103 High Street and the adjoining Blanchetts music shop site at 99 High Street. An advertisement on the Slough Observer Royal Silver Jubilee Street Map described the re-building. (fig 09.21 below)

Floor Space was to be increased three times. The rebuilding effected a major transformation to this part of the High Street which can be appreciated by comparing the detail of the old brick faced building with two separate floors above the shops taken from the photos included in Slough - A Century of Change and Memories of Slough (Plate 85 figs 09.22)

with the new white concrete faced building with five tall windows stretching so as to cover the top two floors and the 'Suters' sign placed on a balcony above the centre between the two entrances

(Plate 85 fig 09.23) from Slough Museum. The new 'white' front appears to have discoloured in the smoky atmosphere of 1930's Slough. A photo taken in 1937 and supplied by Tony Suter shows the flag flying and displays of materials, towels and a bridal dress in the three windows, flowers in the balcony boxes on either side of the 'Suters' name but an already grubby front. (Plate 85 fig 09.24) The new modern Suters store front was immediately incorporated into newspaper advertisements. Fig 09.25 is an example from 24 January 1936, (provided by Philip Suter). The King had died on the 20th - hence the box advertising 'a full range of mourning wear'.

An impression of the expansion of Slough in the 1930's can be obtained from the Ordnance Plan held in Slough Public Library an extract from which can be seen in (fig 09.26 above) on which the position of 'Suters' is shown by an arrow.

Continued Here

©Richard Ensor - January 2005

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