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Clarence Suter 1896 - 1979
In the various pages of the history of Suters Ltd including feedback from former members of staff Clarence Suter is often mentioned or "Mr Clarence" as he was known at work or Bill to his bowls club friends in the Gerrards Cross Bowling Club.
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William Clarence Suter was the second son of George William Suter and was born at Bank House in Ledbury on the 6th March 1896.
There is a photograph of him aged about 2 taken in 1898 with his parents and his elder brother Arthur.
A photograph of the family taken in the garden of Bank House in 1903, has Elizabeth and George William (Clarence's parents) standing at the back with Clarence (in front of his mother), Winifred, Frank (on the rocking horse) and Arthur (aged 8).
Left: Arthur and Clarence Suter - Ledbury 1908
Clarence attended the Russell Endowed School in Ledbury and, having left school in 1912 at the age of 16, was apprenticed for three years to Mr Harry Loomes who had a drapery shop in Colchester. He lived in the shop and was paid 2s.0d a week rising to £20 a year when he had completed the apprenticeship. By then, war had broken out and Clarence followed his brother, Arthur, in volunteering for service and enlisted at Gloucester with the 2nd/5th Battalion of the Gloucestershire Regiment. By February 1916, the 61st Division of which Clarence's battalion formed part prepared for service overseas and, within a few months, was inserted into the line on the Western Front in northern France.
Clarence served in France until he received a serious wound which shattered his left arm during the Battle of St Quentin in March 1918. He had trained as a sniper and had also acted as a headquarters runner. He spent the next fourteen months in military hospitals and was discharged from the army on the 1st April 1919.
By the time Clarence returned home, his father was retired from business and was trying to adjust to a life of leisure in a new rented house in Golders Green. The experiment was not a success and was followed by a brief period of work as an assistant at a London wholesalers and an abortive attempt at establishing a combined drapery and funeral business in New Southgate. For his part, Clarence obtained a job with E & R Garrould who were linen merchants and drapers in the Edgware Road and lived in at the Edgware Road shop. He also met his future wife, Maud Beavis, on the day of the great Victory Parade through London on the 19th July 1919.
By 1920, both father and son wanted a change and in partnership acquired a drapery business - Andrew & Son in the High Street, Slough - which included two shops the larger of which had extensive living accommodation attached. The business flourished and among the staff, initially all female, came Maud Beavis who was engaged to Clarence and lived in over the larger of the two High Street shops and managed the smaller one on the other side of the road.
By 1923, the Suters partnership was sufficiently established to contemplate expansion. Both Arthur and Frank Suter joined and the enlarged partnership purchased Carrick & Coles which had a large shop at Waterloo House in Uxbridge. Clarence's father also bought himself a new and much bigger family home at Kingsway on the corner of London Road and Hempson Avenue in Slough.
In October 1926, Clarence married Maud Beavis to whom he had been engaged for seven years. Their first son, Thomas William was born on the 22nd October 1928 and a second son, David Clarence, was born on the 19th August 1930. By then, Clarence and his family were settled in a newly built house in Windsor Lane Burnham and the Suters partnership had been converted to a private limited company and owned a second shop - William Code - on the north side of Uxbridge High Street opposite their existing ex Carrick and Coles store. The company traded as Suters on one side of the road and as William Code on the other. They had also increased the size of the Slough shop by taking in the adjoining premises.
In 1930, Clarence's youngest brother, John, entered the business and in 1935 Suters Limited opened a new store built on the site of the existing shops in Slough. Also between 1935 and 1938, Waterloo House was sold and Suters carried out a major development which created a large new department store on the site of the William Code store in Uxbridge
During the Second World War, Clarence and Arthur together with their father directed the business through difficult times while John and Frank took their turn in the services. George William Suter only survived the war by one year and, on his death in July 1946 was succeeded by Clarence as Chairman.
By then Tom had completed his two years military service and David had embarked on his national service. By the end of the decade, they both entered the family business - in Tom's case a bit reluctantly! - and there is a portrait of their father taken while company chairman which dates from about this time (Below left).
The largest development carried out by the Suters company - the rebuilding of the Slough store - was completed in October 1962 just a year or so before Clarence's retirement as Chairman. He remained on the Board as a non executive director and in due course saw his younger son, David, appointed the Managing Director of a reorganised company and his elder son Tom the Merchandising Director. His wife, Maud Suter, died in December 1967.
The Suters business and stores were sold to Owen, Owen in the summer of 1978 and, while Clarence confided at the time that his intention had always been to sell the business after he retired, he nevertheless survived the sale and the dispersal of the younger members of the Suter family by little more than one year.
Death of Clarence Suter
Bobbie Suter's diary of September 1979 recorded:
Sept 02 Sun Poor dear old Clarence died 9 a.m.
Sept 07 Fri Clarence's funeral 3.30 p.m. St Mary's Church, Slough - cremation afterwards at Slough Crematorium Back to Sally & David's \\\\
Source of images, unless otherwise stated - Suter family archives