Bury St Edmunds jewellers Thurlow Champness to shut after 277 years in town
A family-run jewellers which has been based in Bury St Edmunds for nearly 280 years is to close.
Thurlow Champness & Son Jewellers, in Abbeygate Street, has today announced the immenent closure of the well known shop as Trevor Salt, managing director and majority shareholder, is retiring.
The jewellers, which employs nine members of staff, dates back 277 years and is believed to be the oldest continuing retail business in the town.
Mr Salt, who is retiring after more than 40 years in the jewellery trade, said: "It’s been a very difficult decision which we haven’t taken lightly.
"Unfortunately, we have no one to pass the business to, and after a long career I am keen to focus more on family life and invest some time in my hobbies.
“When we close the doors for the final time it will be an incredibly sad day. We are thought to be the oldest continuing retail business in Bury St Edmunds, and we are very proud of our legacy."
Its roots date back to 1745 when watchmaker George Lumley set up his business at 14 Abbeygate Street and there has been a purveyor of luxury goods trading successfully from the same address ever since.
The company was officially established in 1815 by John Gudgeon.
By the late 1800s the store was known as a jewellers and watchmakers selling clocks, watches, diamond jewellery, and gold pieces.
In 1901, Edward Thurlow Champness bought the company as a going concern and the Champness family moved into the living quarters above the store, where they remained until 1947.
A short time later, in 1950, the business was passed down to his son, Lt Col Peter Thurlow Champness, a trained optician.
He became well-known not only as the store’s owner, but also as the commander of the Suffolk Yeomanry.
The current owners are the third generation of family to run the luxury jewellers.
Along with his sister Pippa Daniels and brother-in-law Alan Daniels, both now retired, Mr Salt, who joined Thurlow Champness in 1982, devoted his career to the family concern.
Over the years they have 'grown the business terrifically' taking on Cartier and Rolex agencies, making an annual profit and never had to make anyone redundant for cost-saving reasons.
They will celebrate the end of the shop's long history with a closing down sale.
Launching at 10am on Saturday, the sale will see all jewellery reduced by 50 per cent including diamond pieces, coloured stones, necklaces, rings, earrings, and bracelets.
Mr Salt said it was a time of 'mixed emotions' as although he wants to retire, the business is one of the last physical connections to his later mother Sonia and stepfather Peter Thurlow Champness.
"There's a large part of me that feels very sad," he said. "I have two children, neither of whom want to come into the business so there's no succession from that point of view.
"It really is truly the end of an era. It's been a fascinating business to have worked in."
He thanked his staff including director Lesley Ryland, who has worked there for 30 years.
The average length of service of the existing staff is about 20 years.
Mr Salt added: “Jewellery is my passion.
"I love working with our customers; helping them to find that special piece to celebrate an important occasion.
"We are lucky to have a wonderful, steadfast customer base.
"Some families have been shopping with us for three generations; we have seen them come in with their own children and then grandchildren.
"I will treasure many happy memories of these times.
"It’s been a huge privilege to work with our long serving team of knowledgeable staff, to who we are incredibly grateful, and we wish them the very best for the future."
The shop will close on August 31.