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Glasswells in Bury St Edmunds and Ipswich revives popular tea and sugar giveaway to celebrate 75th anniversary



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For three decades, every Christmas, Glasswells would hand out two pounds of sugar and a quarter pound of tea to every pensioner.

The annual giveaway, launched in 1954 by company founder Jerry Glasswell in Bury St Edmunds to recognise and thank the older generation for their support, proved hugely popular, attracting thousands of people.

His grandson Paul Glasswell, current managing director, said: “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 in the snow and bitter weather.”

Customers with their tea and sugar at the Bury St Edmunds Glasswells in St Andrew's Street
Customers with their tea and sugar at the Bury St Edmunds Glasswells in St Andrew's Street

As the department store celebrates its 75th anniversary this year, it is bringing back the significant tradition – the start of its charitable efforts – on a limited basis from today for those born in 1946.

The offer at Glasswells in Bury St Edmunds and Ipswich of a free bag of sugar and a box of tea is limited to the first 200 eligible customers at each store.

Those who take part will have the chance to win one of five £75 Glasswells gift cards.

A queue outside Glasswells, in St Andrew's Street, Bury St Edmunds, in the 1950s
A queue outside Glasswells, in St Andrew's Street, Bury St Edmunds, in the 1950s

Paul’s grandfather Jerry began the venture as a token of appreciation to the community for its support.

The first distribution was in Bury St Edmunds but was extended to Haverhill, Saffron Walden and Stowmarket.

In a 1955 advertisement announcing the second distribution, Glasswells said: “We have been fortunate in the past year due to the support of our many customers and we would like to pass on a little of this success to those less fortunate.”

That same year the Bury Free Press reported that Jerry, his son Leslie and members of staff handed out sugar and tea to 750 pensioners in the first hour.

Jerry and Leslie Glasswell at the tea and sugar annual giveaway in Haverhill in 1972
Jerry and Leslie Glasswell at the tea and sugar annual giveaway in Haverhill in 1972

In fact, demand was so strong that supplies ran out but more were quickly brought in so no-one went away disappointed.

To receive the gifts, senior citizens were asked to call at the shop and show their pension books and Jerry was often there chatting with customers, whom he regarded as friends from the old days.

In 1975, he said: “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.”

Ladies with their tea and sugar outside Glasswells
Ladies with their tea and sugar outside 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 three decades.

Paul said: “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.

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

Glasswells in Newmarket Road, Bury St Edmunds. Picture: Mecha Morton
Glasswells in Newmarket Road, Bury St Edmunds. Picture: Mecha Morton

“So as we celebrate our 75th anniversary, it seemed an appropriate opportunity to offer this out once again, on a limited basis, to those born in 1946 and share the Glasswells birthday.”

To claim your free tea and sugar visit Glasswells in Newmarket Road, Bury St Edmunds, or Ranelagh Road, Ipswich with photo identification that shows your birth year as 1946.

The offer is limited to one entry per person, see in store for full terms and conditions.

People queue for the giveaway outside Glasswells in Haverhill in 1966
People queue for the giveaway outside Glasswells in Haverhill in 1966
An advert for the tea and sugar giveaway at Glasswells
An advert for the tea and sugar giveaway at Glasswells
A queue outside Glasswells in Saffron Walden in 1964
A queue outside Glasswells in Saffron Walden in 1964
Glasswells in Haverhill in 1966
Glasswells in Haverhill in 1966
In the early days, Glasswells recorded queues of more than 6,000 people at the St Andrew's Street shop
In the early days, Glasswells recorded queues of more than 6,000 people at the St Andrew's Street shop
Glasswells in Haverhill in 1966
Glasswells in Haverhill in 1966
The tea and sugar giveaway at Glasswells in Haverhill in 1982
The tea and sugar giveaway at Glasswells in Haverhill in 1982
Stacks of tea and sugar at Glasswells in Saffron Walden in 1964
Stacks of tea and sugar at Glasswells in Saffron Walden in 1964
The offer at Glasswells in Saffron Walden in the 1970s
The offer at Glasswells in Saffron Walden in the 1970s
The giveaway at the Bury St Edmunds store in St Andrews Street in the 1970s
The giveaway at the Bury St Edmunds store in St Andrews Street in the 1970s

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