Support for tradition that will soon be celebrating its 350th anniversary

Some of the clothing voucher recipients at Sudbury Town Hall with Mayor Sarah Page, and daughter Bek

Some of the clothing voucher recipients at Sudbury Town Hall with Mayor Sarah Page, and daughter Beka, on Christmas Day. Picture: CONTRIBUTED - Credit: Archant

Organisers of a centuries old Christmas tradition in Sudbury who were concerned with the apparent lack of interest from potential participants this year say it was “gratifying” to see a packed town hall on the big day.

Every year, Sudbury Municipal Charities invites people to apply for winter clothing gift vouchers, and keep alive a tradition that first started in the town in 1668.

The ceremony, which takes place on Christmas morning, remembers Nathaniel King who was twice mayor of Sudbury in the mid 17th century.

He was also an ex-Alderman of the town.

In his will, he stipulated that coats should be given to “deserving, aged men...on Christmas Day forever”.

Originally his gift distribution was in the form of coats known as the ‘George Coats’ on account of the money coming from rent received from the George Inn where the Edinburgh Wool shop now stands.

These days, £40 vouchers are provided which can be exchanged for clothing at Peddars or Winch & Blatch stores in the town.

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Adrian Walters, of Sudbury Municipal Charity, said: “Following considerable concern about the lack of applicants for Christmas day gifts, it was very gratifying to see a packed Mayor’s Parlour at the Town Hall on Christmas day as the Sudbury Municipal Charities celebrated the 349th gift ceremony.

“This year there were 25 applicants, many of whom met at the Town Hall to receive their voucher from the hands of Sudbury Mayor, Sarah Page.

“Drinks and mince pies were kindly provided by the Town Hall for this special occasion and a convivial atmosphere ensured that the participants enjoyed an hour among old friends and acquaintances.”

Mr Walters added: “Although in recent years it has become more difficult to attract applicants it was noted that the Sudbury Municipal Charities’ minute book recorded only six recipients at the ceremony a century ago.

“It is to be hoped that next year will see a good number of men aged 70 and over apply for a voucher to celebrate the 350th anniversary of Nathaniel King’s distribution on ‘Christmas Day in the morning for ever’.”

It is believed that the tradition is unique to Sudbury and it is something the charity is very keen to continue, according to Mr Walters.

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