A FAMILY BUSINESS - SUTERS LIMITED - 1950s by Richard Ensor
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Suters on film in Uxbridge
NATIONAL SERVICE AND A NEW GENERATION FOR THE SUTERS STORES
By 1950 there were three members of the next Suter generation who were about to enter the family business. Of the four "second generation" Suter Directors none of Arthur's three children would be joining. His daughter's Elizabeth (Su) and Ruth were ineligible as they were girls and George was not interested and wanted to become a farmer.
Both Clarence's boys, Tom and David were of the correct sex and thus eligible! Tom completed two years military service in 1949. He started in the Armoured Corps but having been selected for officer training was commissioned into the RASC and took part in the Berlin Airlift as a supply officer. Tom enjoyed the army and would have liked to stay on but his father wanted him in the family company and in 1950 Tom started to learn the retail business prior to entering Suters as an assistant manager in 1953 on or about the age of 25. Tom's brother, David, was two years younger and would be due to join in 1955. In the meantime he obtained deferment of military service in order to study for a diploma in textiles at Leeds University and started national service on the completion of his course in 1950.
Left: David Suter in 1951 David Suter was found fit for service and called up into the Royal Army Ordnance Corps. Tony's medical revealed a perforated ear drum and he was excused National Service. His father, Frank, arranged for Tony to learn something of retailing at Heals and Storeys both in the Tottenham Court Road. They would both join Suters in 1955. Other Suter boys (Frank's younger sons, Ian and Michael and John's sons, Richard, Robert and Philip) were younger and it would be some years before they would be old enough to join the elder members of the third generation in the business.
1954 - LATE NIGHTS, AND NEW ARRIVALS
There is a photo of Uxbridge London Transport Station at night, preserved by Arthur, which includes in the background on the right the back of Suter Uxbridge Store with a single window illuminated on the top floor. On the back in Arthur Suter's handwriting are the words "Danger 'Man at Work' 6/5/54"
While burning the midnight oil Arthur was, also, planning for the future. 'Suters' received its first new family entrant in 1954 when Clarence Suter's elder son Tom finished his training and joined the company as an assistant manager. It also received an entrant of another kind when a London Transport 607 route trolleybus crashed through one of the front plate glass windows following a collision with a single decker bus. Two people were hurt. A youth was injured when he was knocked through the window into the store and the conductor of the trolleybus was also injured.
1955 - The Annual Suters Dinner and Dance
The Suters company was of a sufficient size to justify and demand an annual dinner and dance. Arthur Suter preserved a press cutting describing the 1955 Annual Dinner which confirms that 240 sat down for a meal at the Castle Hotel in Windsor and later danced to the music of Jack Marshall's Dance Band. The dinner was primarily a "thank you" to the staff but it also provided an opportunity for the family to congregate and Richard Ensor remembers in March 1958 being presented to a bewildering collection of uncles, aunts and cousins at his first Staff Dance at the Castle Hotel.
The newspaper report emphasised that Suters had become part of the scene at both Slough and Uxbridge. The company solicitor Mr Turberville Smith, who had an office in Uxbridge, replied to the toast of the "visitors and guests". His firm had acted since 1924 and would continue to do so until the expansion of the company made it necessary to go to solicitors in London for all but local matters. Mr Buggins, who had been with the firm for 20 years, replied to the toast to the staff and when a gold watch was presented to Mr Sumner for 25 years service the report noted that he was the first person employed when Suters took over Wm Coad Limited in 1929.
There is a photograph from 1955 which shows the newly completed Uxbridge Store windows fronting to Bakers Yard. These rear display windows on the Bakers Yard side of the store were left outstanding at the start of the war in 1939 and building and planning controls prevented company from completing them for ten years afterwards. Now that controls were, at last, relaxed the windows were completed though their displays had not been installed.
Shop Licences, Uxbridge HC Deb 29 July 1952 vol 504 c119W (Source Hansard - UK Parliament)
117. Mr. Beswick asked the Minister of Works why a licence has been issued for the fitment of another shop front on premises within the Uxbridge Metropolitan station for a firm of tobacconists who already have one shop within 20 yards.
Mr. Eccles No licence was necessary as I understand the work was carried out on property to which the free limit of £500 for railways applies.
118. Mr. Beswick asked the Minister of Works if he is aware that, within the last 18 months to two years, licences have been issued to five different traders within the High Street, Uxbridge, to take out old shop windows and install new ones, and that a licence was issued to another firm to build seven new shop window fronts; and how these cases of modernisation differ from that of Messrs. Suters, Limited, High Street, Uxbridge, who were not allowed to complete, by the fitment of one window, a scheme started in 1936.
Mr. Eccles The five licences were issued on change of user where the old shop front was unsuitable, and were all for much smaller amounts than that required by Messrs. Suters. I have no knowledge of the particular case in which a licence was granted for seven shop fronts.
Messrs. Suters, Ltd., have already a shop front on the main street and I do not feel justified in licensing another at the back. (Frank Beswick - David Eccles)
ELECTIONS AND A CHARTER FOR UXBRIDGE
Local elections took place on the12th May 1955, and Arthur Suter was returned once again as an independent anti-Labour councillor for Uxbridge North Ward. A copy of his joint election manifesto with James Cochrane survived with his papers.
One of Arthur's first duties as a member of the new council was to attend the presentation by the Duchess of Kent and Princess Alexandra, of the Charter of Incorporation of Uxbridge as a Borough.
The charter ceremony took place in the Regal Cinema in Uxbridge and both Arthur and Dorothy Suter were presented in the Cinema foyer afterwards before the Duchess of Kent, the Princess and the invited guests left for RAF Uxbridge. The Official programme includes a photograph of the council and records a silver loving cup presented by Suters Ltd amongst the gifts made to the borough on incorporation.
1956 was an important year in the Suter family business in that the first of the new generation (Clarence's son, Tom) was appointed a Director. Two other members of the family (Frank's son, Tony and Clarence's son David) also joined the firm as assistant managers. There is a portrait photo of Clarence Suter which dates from about this time (above) See also Clarence Suter
There is a programme from the 1956 Staff Dance at the Castle Hotel, Windsor (below). Dancing was, as in the previous year, to Jack Marshall and his band and this year the meal consisted of soup, roast chicken, peach melba and cheese and biscuits.
Christmas shopping was at the Suters Uxbridge store which at last had its rear display windows installed and fully furnished. There is a photo (shown above) taken from the bus station and also Advertiser Gazette proofs (below) of Father Christmas arriving in November 1957 and talking with children and their parents inside the store.
In the image of Suters Uxbridge rear windows, shown above (Christmas shopping) there is a bike by the round window. This enlargement shows it more clearly as the bike that was used by Mr Charlie Aldin who was in charge of the despatch area to the left of the bike for many years.
At Suters, two more members of the younger generation were appointed to the Board making seven family members in all. Frank Suter's elder son Tony and Clarence Suter's second son David were both elected Directors on 28th August having served for two years in the business as assistant managers. They joined at a time of change in the Slough High Street. A report in the local paper outlined what was proposed and described.
… an impressive six-storey office block surrounded by two-storey shop premises with a gay little café, serving morning coffee at Continental-style striped umbrellas ….all this would be to the tinkling music of a fountain
More prosaically the paper also included a sketch prepared by the area planning officer which he admitted was only a skeleton on which developers can put flesh. At the centre was a car park with access roads to existing shops in both Mackenzie Street and High Street and to the east blocks of new shops separated by a pedestrian precinct complete with café and tinkling fountain.
The planning department commented that one virtue of the scheme was that it covered land mainly in one ownership which would make the development more cost effective. This would not have come as much of a surprise to the Suters Directors as Suters Ltd was that owner and they company was already heavily engaged in negotiations concerning the development generally and, more particularly, the extent to which their own preferred plans for a very extensive rebuilding of the Slough store would be accommodated within the overall scheme.
Arthur Suter was one of the nine Aldermen of the Borough of Uxbridge and, in 1959, became the fifth Mayor of the Borough.
Arthur Suter was invested as Mayor in late May or early June and two photos show him at the formal Council meeting. In one he is with the retiring Mayor, Councillor Mrs Dubberley, and in the other about to take the chair at the meeting.
He is seated below in full ceremonial robes, for a formal portrait photo and in another can be seen enjoying a joke while Dorothy Suter receives a bouquet.
Other photos below show Arthur with a gentleman in a legal wig, and with John Poole who was Town Clerk and soon to retire.
and below with Lionel Kirby who - from his chain of office - may have been President of the Uxbridge Rotary Club
In August Arthur Suter can be seen opening the Fassnidge Old People's Home (below) and in November attending a dinner for John Poole.
Bobbie and John Suter attended Arthur's Mayoral Reception on the 11th November. It was held at the RAF Officers Mess Uxbridge, on a very foggy night. See also Arthur Suter page | and 1959-60: George Arthur Suter Mayor of Uxbridge
Below stills from old Uxbridge film showing Mayor Arthur Suter leaving RAF Uxbridge, Inspecting the marching and RAF Uxbridge airmen marching past Burtons opposite Suters.
©Richard Ensor - January 2005
Another local Slough retailer advertising in the Thorpe House School, Gerrards Cross magazine The "Omnibus" July 1958 - Bennetts
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