A FAMILY BUSINESS - SUTERS LIMITED - 1918 - 1928 Part Two by Richard Ensor
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STARTING AGAIN - THE CREATION OF SUTERS - 1918 - 1929
A motoring article in The Sunday Times of 21 March 1971 included a photo of Wilkinson's garage in Uxbridge in 1912 during the Challenge Tyre Co. tests. The cars in this special event were attracting a good deal of attention from those watching from upper windows in the High Street.
The Great Western Railway had plans to link the two branch lines which terminated at their Vine Street and High Street stations so as to provide a connection between West Drayton and Denham. The proposal was deferred on the outbreak of the Great War in 1914 and eventually abandoned.
During the early years of the century Uxbridge began to re-generate. Some new industries such as the Steel Barrel Company, Bell Punch and Alfred Button set up in the town. There was also a growth of flower nurseries of which the largest had as many as 300 employees. After the war Sandersons opened their wallpaper and fabric printing factory and there were changes in the High Street. A Woolworth's branch appeared and in 1921 the old Town Hall was transformed into a Cinema.
The same year a new Thames Valley Company bus service was introduced from Uxbridge to High Wycombe. In the following year a bus garage for Uxbridge was opened to the west of the town just over the border in Denham. By 1924 Uxbridge was a town full of possibilities for an enterprising firm of drapers seeking somewhere to expand. Suter and Sons in Slough was such a firm and they entered into talks with the proprietors of the long established Carrick and Coles which had premises on a central corner site next to the Market House at the junction of High Street and Windsor Street.
(Image does not enlarge)According to the Uxbridge History Society, in 1846, about ten years after the third George Suter had sold up his hat making, tanning and sack making businesses in Retford a man called Jessie Jones opened a small shop selling what may have been drapery 125 miles away at 31 High Street in Uxbridge. The shop was part of a building known as Waterloo House on the corner of High Street and Windsor Street which according to an article published in The Advertiser and Gazette on May 1, 1936 dates from soon after Wellington's victory in 1815.
The same article also described Jessie Jones not as a draper but as having a clog and pattern business and referred to a separate drapery business carried on by an un-named person elsewhere in the building. Jessie Jones may even have arrived in Uxbridge before 1846 as another article about Carrick & Coles included in the 1923 Uxbridge Carnival programme dates his shop to 'two years after Queen Victoria came to the throne' (1840). This date tallies with a 'foundation' date of 1839 included in the business card shown in fig 5.33 below. By 1851 there was a drapery shop which was being run by Alfred Smith with the help of a 19 year old apprentice named Joseph Coles from Boxmoor.
Sometime between 1850 and 1855 the business was taken over by Edwin Hedgcock who came to Uxbridge from Rochester in Kent. Edwin was aged 31 when he purchased the business and must have been endowed with ability as he soon required larger premises and took over the shop next door at No 30. He prospered, built himself a substantial house in Harefield Road which he called Kent Lodge but, sadly, died early in 1868 at the age of 44. A photo of his business card showing the shop occupying a substantial part of Waterloo House was included in the 1936 Advertiser article. (Plate 28 - fig 5.31 below)
Following Edwin Hedgcock's death his executors sold the business to Albert William Carrick who also came from Kent - Malling in his case - and the former apprentice Joseph Coles. They may both have been working in the shop at the time Edwin died.
The new firm of Carrick and Coles quickly expanded the premises to take in Nos. 57-59 Windsor Street. A copy of an early engraved business card preserved by Tony Suter can be seen in (Plate 28 - fig 5.32 above) together with a later card printed after the introduction of the new telephone service and trams which incorporates a photograph (Plate 28 - fig 5.33 above).
Assuming that the picture on the earlier engraved card was accurate these two cards and the picture in Plate 28 - fig 5.34 (above), also referred to below, confirm that the shape of the building changed during the Carrick and Coles occupancy and the Uxbridge Historical Society have stated that the whole corner site was redeveloped in 1870-71. The Carrick and Coles store became the largest shop in Uxbridge with a staff of about 40. An additional partner, James William Aldridge of Amersham, was admitted to the firm in 1880 and established a furniture department on the opposite side of the High Street at No. 161.
A photograph of the High Street shows Carrick & Coles on its corner site with the Market House on the other side of Windsor Road. All the traffic is horse-drawn. The photograph probably dates between 1872 and 1889 as there is no sign of William Coad on the left hand side of the High Street the appearance of which looks unfamiliar. (Plate 29 - fig 5.35 below)
The 1885 engraving showing Carrick and Coles appeared in the Uxbridge Directory of that year. (fig 5.34) The corner site certainly looks impressive and the name boards describe the business as selling, clothing, boots, hats, caps, gloves, silks shawls and dresses, furs carpets, linens, hosiery and lace and including show rooms, a tailoring department, millenary, dressmaking rooms and mantle rooms. The business is proclaimed as having a "Cash System" and providing "Best Value" Patterns were free
When, in May 1899, Albert Carrick died George Edward Smith joined the partnership and following Joseph Coles' death in March 1906 James Aldridge brought his son Ernest into the firm. A series of advertisements including one for 'Figure Reducing Corsets' was inserted by Carrick & Coles in the 1923 Uxbridge Carnival programme (fig 5.36 below) but by the following year, 1924, the older partners wished to retire and the business (excluding the separate furniture shop) was offered up for sale and acquired by Suter & Sons.
See also Along Uxbridge High Street, 1922
The purchase of created for the Suter and Sons firm a retail business which offered a vastly increased range of goods and services and with outlets in two towns. A copy of Suter & Sons, Uxbridge Invoice of November 1925 provides evidence that the business was, immediately, branded 'Suters' (fig 5.37 below) though Suters retained the 'Carrick' name for a range of detached white collars sold in the store after the take-over.
The changes in management needed to deal with the expansion in the Suter & Sons business coincided with the entry of both Arthur and Frank Suter into the partnership. Frank started his life in retailing at the Slough shops and after his marriage he and Vera occupied the living accommodation upstairs. Arthur came over to Uxbridge with Clarence and after Arthur's marriage he and Dorothy took over the rooms above the store in Waterloo House.
A photograph (Plate 29 - fig 5.38 below) shows Suters windows lit up on a winter evening with a display of 'Gifts for Xmas'.
Following the take-over of Carrick and Coles advertisements for new staff were placed in a draper's magazine. One of those who applied for a job was John Plumtree, then aged 18, and living in Grantham. When interviewed and photographed (fig 5.39 below) by the Uxbridge Gazette on his retirement as head of the linen department 47 years later in 1971 he recalled:
He saw two advertisements …….one for a job at Suters and the other for a shop at Eastbourne. "Both the conditions were similar, £30 a year and living in, plus one and a quarter per cent commission". He tossed a coin and came to Uxbridge. Why did he choose drapery as his trade?" I was very conversant with sheets and blankets, and I had done a course at Witney where the blankets are made." Uxbridge Gazette 18th February 1971
John Plumtree was in good spirits when he retired. His exuberant and irreverent farewell letter survives in the collection preserved by George Suter! It reads:
Dear Mr Arthur
I always considered you to be my boss, so it is my privilege to write to you on my retirement. After 47 happy years employed by Suters it was not an easy decision to take that one should retire. However on all counts I think it was wisest. I am moving to Bourne, Lincs April 1st. This will be a new environment, although Lincs is my native county.
I said to Mr Tom I prefer to retire when I can walk out, and give him the 'V' sign rather than be a museum piece, and be invalided out. Greeting and sincere good wishes to Mrs Arthur and your good self
Yours very sincerely,
John L Plumtree
The keys of Carrick and Coles have also survived amongst Arthur Suter's papers, still clearly marked! (figs 5.40 and 41 below)
Uxbridge in the late 1920's
Uxbridge was no longer an isolated backwater. Trams ran through the town. Where they ended a new bus service could take passengers on towards High Wycombe and the villages in between. The Great Western Railway linked the town in two directions and electric Metropolitan Railway trains transported commuters into the City by "the best route to and from Uxbridge" (fig 5.42 below)
To underline the lack of isolation Uxbridge experienced many of the inconveniences of the 1926 General Strike. For a time no buses, trains or trams ran, coal was rationed and milk, meat and vegetables all increased in price. Shopkeepers such as Suters were thoroughly irritated by it all as it occurred in the middle of a 'Buy British Empire Goods' promotional week and sales were hit!
One change which occurred at the end of the '20's' was the reorganisation of local government so as to abolish the Uxbridge Rural District Council and extend the area covered by the Urban District to include the villages of Cowley, Hillingdon, Harefield and Ickenham. The County Council took over responsibility for the Union Workhouse in Hillingdon, closed the workhouse and converted the buildings into Hillingdon Hospital.
For 'Suters' the growing urbanisation of Uxbridge confirmed the wisdom of the decision to set up in the town. An expansion of the business would be viable if suitable premises could be found - perhaps through the medium of a 'take-over'. In 1929 they entered into talks with William Coad.
"Two years after Queen Victoria came to the throne there was a liitle shop kept by a Mr. Jones at 31 High Street. About 1850 his business was acquired by Mr. Edwin Hedgcock (who built Kent Lodge, Harefield Road), and he added 57, Windsor Street, to the premises. From that humble beginning has developed the spacious and comprehensive store of Messrs. Carrick and Coles, now one of the most go-ahead in all the southern counties. Drapery and tailoring, dressmaking, the supply of furniture and upholstery, boots and shoes, and other articles, too many to mention in this short space - go to Carrick and Coles whatever your needs are and you need not fear disapointment.
In 1857 Mr. Joseph Coles joined Mr. Hedgcock. and in 1868 the business was bought by Mr. A. W. Carrick in partnership with Mr. Coles. Mr. Carrick during his lifetime took a most active interest in local affairs, being a very prominent member of the Local Board of Health.
Both died, as did Mr. G.E Smith (former councillor, and chairman of the Uxbridge Urban Council for three years) - but he also connected with the firm from 1873, but the business did not halt. Mr. J.W. Aldridge joined as a junior partner, and it has gone on from small things to great and great to greater.
Where the big Store stands there was once a cluster of little shops. The corner of the High and Windsor Street was taken up by a teashop with a little place where clogs were made adjoining. No. 58 was a butcher's and 55 and 56 a grocer's kept by Mr. George Baynham.
In the march of a business in which the aim has been to have a big turnover at a small profit rather than to get big profits on a restricted stock, it was neccessary to break into new premises continually, and so we see the Store as it is to-day occupying 30, 31 and 161 High Street, and 55, 56, 57, 58, 59 and 60, Windsor Street.
The first William Coad was a native of Callington in Cornwall. After gaining experience with a London firm, he purchased a shop at 133 High Street, Uxbridge in 1875 previously owned by C. Meeking & Co and called it the "Bon Marche".
An entry in the 1885 Uxbridge Directory (Plate 30 - fig 5.43 above ) offered "Good Value" in Dresses, Millinery, [mainly women's hats] Jackets, Ulsters, [a loose long overcoat made of heavy cloth and often worn with a belt] Blankets, Sheetings, [any material in the form of or used to make a sheet] Hosiery [socks, stockings and underclothing] and Outfitting. It also coined the catchy slogan "Coad's Calicos and Corsets are the Cheapest"! The entry confirmed that "post orders are promptly executed" and "parcels delivered free in our own carts within 8 miles of Uxbridge".
In April 1889 the business moved to larger premises at 158 High Street, just across the road from Carrick and Coles and next door but one to the shop at '161' which, for a time, served as the Carrick and Coles furniture department.
(fig 5.44) - 1911 Invoice William Coad died in July 1898, but the business was continued and expanded by his widow Elizabeth and his eldest son William who later also took over the adjoining shops at numbers 159 and 160. They were quick to employ up to the minute technology. Order were accepted by telegram and William Coad subscribed to the new telephone as soon as this was available in Uxbridge acquiring the prestigious number "Uxbridge One" and urgent orders were accepted over the 'phone. (see fig 5.44 above and 45 below)
The younger William had quickly grasped that this revolutionary means of communication could transform the sale of goods and services. He, also, realised that one way of catching a reader's attention was to include a pretty girl in the advertisement. The 1924 Uxbridge Directory has several examples (Plate 30 - fig 5.47 to 49 below)
By William A. Coad
What do you understand by shop service? When you make a purchase and pay your money are you content that the shopkeeper will take no further interest in you after handing you your change?
I want you to realise the difference in the Coad was - the S.O.M.B. way. "The extra little that means A CHAT ON SERVICE
so much". I want you to know that our interest in your every purchase follows our goods until you have had an opportunity to compare and examine them in your home. If you are then not satisfied, you can ask us to take the goods back and we willingly refund your money on request. S.O.M.B. means "Satisfaction or Money Back".
Then there's our Phone Service. Ring Uxbridge One in any of the emergencies of life. Not only Drapery; we are willing to help if the cat upsets the milk just at teatime for instance.
Test the Coad Service …… . It satisfies!
(More about An Intesresting Relic here) Mr Coad sometimes chalked the initials SOMB on the pavement outside his shop-front. He was rightly proud of the success of his business and the 1923 Uxbridge Carnival brochure had a full page advertisement ( above left fig 5.50) contrasting the then present store with the old shop - at 158 High Street as it was in 1790-a building presumably demolished long before Coads came on the scene.
In Uxbridge People : Ken Pearce includes a photograph of a William Coad delivery van dressed ready for the 1926 British Empire Shopping Week procession through the town. The driver's name was Harry Westaway. (fig 5.51 below)
(fig 05.52) 1914 William Coad xx x (fig 05.53) 1920 William Coad
In the Middlesex Advertiser and County Gazette Christmas Supplement for 1927 a centre half page advertisement for William Coad Ltd competed on page 3 with a full page advertisement for Suters of Uxbridge on page 8.
The William Coad advertisement invited passers by to "See Our Window Display" and amongst the "Gifts for Mother, Sister, Daughter" were Coad's Glove Values, (4/11½d) Boxed 'Hankies' (2/11½d) and 'Fine Silk Hosiery'. (Plate 32 - fig 5.54 below)
The full page Suters advertisement for Suters on the other side of the road offered "A Thousand & One Useful Suggestions for Xmas Presents". It was probably no coincidence that the 1001 Suters suggestions included a display box featuring six alternative sets of Ladies Gloves from 4/11d to 12/11d and Ladies Handkerchiefs from 6¾d to 3/11d. (Plate 32 - fig 5.55 below)
In 1929 William A. Coad decided to move to a similar business in Cambridge. There were, doubtless, discussions with the Suter and Sons on the other side of the High Street which ended in sale though a Wm. A Coad surviving invoice from 1932 (Plate 31 - fig 5.56 below) and photographs show that the name was retained, indicating the extent of the goodwill built up over the years.
The Suter family had now acquired two distinct stores on either side of the High Street with separate management and a distinct form of invoice. A 'Suters' invoice from 1930 can be seen in Plate 31 - fig 5.57 and this now referred, also, to furniture following the retirement of Ernest Aldridge from the furniture business retained out of the original Carrick & Coles sale.
The windows on either side of the High Street still 'competed' for Christmas custom. A particularly clear Middlesex Gazette proof photo, even after the lapse of seventy years, enables an imaginative shopper to walk inside and search for last minute inspiration. (Plate 33 - fig 5.58 and 59 below)
Meanwhile in Slough
While the principal enlargements to the Suter family business in the later 1920's took place in Uxbridge there remained an intention to expand in Slough as soon as a suitable opportunity arose. Thus when the Blanchetts Music shop next door to the original ex Andrews & Son shop came on the market in 1927 Suter & Sons bought it and the two adjoining premises were converted to make one larger shop.
By 1927 Suters was inserting regular display advertisements in the Slough, Eton and Windsor Observer. The Summer Sale ran from Thursday June 30th to Monday July 25th and the advertisements placed in in the issues for the Fridays of June 24th, July 8th, July 15th and July 22nd can be seen in Plate 34 - figs 5.60 to 63.
Every Saturday was a 'Remnant Day' and in the second week of the Sale 'Cotton Sheets' were offered for 10/- per pair and a Ladies Tweed costume usually priced at 49/11 could be had for 39/11.(fig 5.64 below)
By the third week 'Half-Price Clearances of Tweed Coats and Costumes were promised and there was an 'unsurpassed' offer of pillow cases for 10¾d. On Saturday July 23rd - Remnant Day - all remnants were at half the marked prices and on the final Monday July 25th - Clearing-up Day Odds and Ends were at 'Ridiculous Prices'
The regular weekly Suters advertisement in the 'Observer' often featured a single department. Thus on Friday June 10th 1927 Suters offered 'Dainty Underwear for your Summer Holiday' (a 'Dainty Celanese Tricot Night-dress - smartly styled with square neck and wide sleeves. Daintily trimmed with lace for 14/11),
(Plate 35 - fig 5.65) a week later the public were reminded that 'You can obtain all your holiday needs at Suters (Plate 35 - fig 5.66) and on September 9th 1927 'Down Quilts' were featured (Double bed size at 27'6 to £5.5) (Plate 35 - fig 5.67)
On 7th October a selection Ladies hats - Newest Autumn Modes at Suters' were featured at prices between 3/11½d and 12/11, (Plate 35 - fig 5.68) on 28th October it was 'Distinctive Autumn Coats' (including an 'All Wool Valour Coat at 42/-) (Plate 35 - fig 5.69) and on the 18th November 'Underwear for Chilly Days' (including 'Rameses All Wool Knickers' at 4/11. (Plate 35 - fig 5.70)
Some of the descriptions - for example 'Dainty Celanese Tricot Night-dress' - today read like a foreign language and are not, particularly easy to translate. 'Tricot' was knitted work often by machine and often woollen and was extended to include a close fitting garment. 'Celanese' was a proprietary name and included artificial silk made by British Celanese Ltd. Thus, in an article in the Daily Mail in February 1923: 'Like silk, Celanese is lustrous, with an even more beautiful sheen'.
Finally, in the month before Christmas a display advertisement proclaimed 'Suters is the Centre of Slough's Christmas Shopping' and offered 'Fancy Linens', Scarves, Umbrellas, Handkerchiefs for Gifts, Furs (a Pale Fox Fur at 21/9), Gloves, Hosiery and 'Underwear Suggestions' (fig 5.69 and detail of 'Underwear Suggestions in 5.70)
©Richard Ensor - January 2005 & Philip Suter - March 2020
We understand further information about Suters Ltd can be found at the Slough Museum, Slough Berks Find out more Here
©Philip Suter - December 2013
Source of images, unless otherwise stated - Suter family archives