Family-run Suffolk stores revive tea and sugar tradition for 75th anniversary

Pensioners queue round the St Andrews Street Glasswells shop in Bury St Edmunds waiting for their free sugar and tea

Pensioners queue round the St Andrews Street Glasswells shop in Bury St Edmunds in the 1960s, waiting for their free sugar and tea - Credit: Glasswells

A family-run chain of Suffolk stores is reviving an old tradition to celebrate its 75th anniversary.

To celebrate its 75th anniversary Glasswells department store is reviving an old tradition: giving out free tea and sugar to pensioners. 

Paul Glasswell, managing director, said: "As we celebrate our 75th anniversary, it seemed an appropriate opportunity to offer this out once again, on a limited basis to those that were born in 1946 and share the Glasswells birthday."

Jerry and his son Leslie Glasswell giving a box of tea to a pensioner in Haverhill, Suffok

Jerry and his son Leslie Glasswell giving a box of tea to a pensioner in Haverhill - Credit: Glasswells

"It was started by my grandfather in 1954, who wanted to give something back to not only our customers, but everyone in the local community."

Founder Jerry Glasswell started the tradition, distributing sugar and tea to pensioners in Bury St Edmunds.

This was later extended to the chain's shops in Haverhill, Saffron Walden and Stowmarket.

In 1955 handouts were given to more than 750 pensioners in the first hour.

A queue of pensioners wait for their sugar at Glasswells St Andrews Street shop in Bury St Edmunds, Suffolk circa 1955

A queue of pensioners wait for their sugar at Glasswells St Andrews Street shop in the 1950s - Credit: Glasswells

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Mr Glasswell added: "Back in those early days, we recorded queues of over 6,000 people at our St Andrew’s Street shop.

"It was a time when people got a weekly pension and were quite prepared to queue up the snow and bitter weather.

"Over 30 years, the value of the gift we were making was not quite as significant as when we started, and came to a natural end when my grandfather died in 1984."

An advertisement for the annual glasswells sugar and tea giveaway

An advertisement for the annual sugar and tea giveaway - Credit: Glasswells

"However, this was the start of the company’s charitable efforts and we have continued to support the local community ever since."

Speaking to a newspaper in 1971, Jerry Glasswell explained: "Some years ago I felt that the people who had helped me to get on in life were those of my own age so I decided that at Christmas I would give every pensioner two pounds of sugar and a quarter of tea.”

In 1975, he added: “I look forward to this as a family occasion. I meet old customers, old friends and people I served with in the First World War.”

Glasswells Haverhill, Suffolk storefront from Christmas, 1966. 

Glasswells Haverhill storefront from Christmas, 1966. - Credit: Glasswells

At the time of Jerry’s death, on May 3 1984, the firm had given away more than £100,000 worth of tea and sugar over 30 years. 

People born in 1946, the same year Glasswells was founded, can claim their free sugar and tea in the Bury St Edmunds or Ipswich branch from this weekend (October 16 and 17).

Everyone who receives the free sugar and tea will also be given the chance to win one of five £75 Glasswells vouchers.

A pair of women outside glasswells with their tea and sugar

A pair of women with their tea and sugar - Credit: Glasswells

Glasswells Haverhill store in Suffolk in 1966

Glasswells Haverhill store in 1966 - Credit: Glasswells

Glasswells haverhill Christmas display in 1982, towards the end of the giveaways lifetime

Glasswells Haverhill christmas display in 1982, towards the end of the giveaways lifetime - Credit: Glasswells

Smiling faces in the queue for Haverhill Glasswells in 1966. 

Smiling faces in the queue for Haverhill Glasswells in 1966. - Credit: Glasswells

The queue outside Saffron Waldon glasswells in 1964

The queue outside Saffron Waldon glasswells in 1964 - Credit: Glasswells

An enormous heap of sugar at Saffron Waldon Glasswells, suffolk

An enormous heap of sugar at Saffron Waldon Glasswells. - Credit: Glasswells

The Christmas display at the Saffron Waldon Glasswells in the 1970s

The Christmas display at the Saffron Waldon Glasswells in the 1970s - Credit: Glasswells

Women with their shopping outside St Andrews Street Glasswells in Bury st Edmunds, Suffolk

Women with their shopping outside St Andrews Street Glasswells - Credit: Glasswells

Glasswells St Andrews street christmas display from the 1970s

Glasswells St Andrews street christmas display from the 1970s - Credit: Glasswells


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