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Suffolk Chamber of Commerce launches initiative celebrating 140 years of business excellence

Suffolk Chamber of Commerce is excited to unveil the ‘C140 Project’, an ambitious two-year initiative commemorating 140 years of fostering business growth within the county.

This exciting endeavour aims to showcase the rich history and vibrant evolution of the Suffolk business community over the past century and a half, spotlighting the historical journey of the Chamber and its esteemed membership over the past 140 years.

The C140 Project focuses on four key themes: Diversity, Trade and Infrastructure, History and Heritage, and "The Future." One of the project's highlights, the "Celebrating Diversity" initiative, sheds light on Suffolk's diverse economy and fosters appreciation for its richness, paying tribute to the Chamber's dynamic legacy and its pivotal role in shaping the local business landscape.

Crop spraying on the Suffolk border near Long Melford and Sudbury
Crop spraying on the Suffolk border near Long Melford and Sudbury

Through a blend of in-person and online activities, including a dedicated website, social media updates, and features in Chamber member emails and local press, the C140 Project will engage the community and foster a deeper understanding of Suffolk's business heritage. C140 seeks to reflect on the past and guide the Chamber's path into the future, emphasising resilience, growth, and adaptability within the Suffolk business landscape.

Leading the charge on this monumental project for the Chamber, Yvonne Hargreaves said: "Our primary objective with the C140 initiative is to delve into our rich history and heritage while uncovering the wider impact of our endeavours on the business landscape, individuals, and economy of Suffolk. thrilled to commemorate its enduring legacy and share the stories of our Chamber and its members, leaving behind a lasting legacy for generations to come."

Throughout 2024, C140 will come to life through events and digital resources, culminating in a lasting tribute to Suffolk's business legacy.

Loaded container lorries queuing to have their containers removed and placed on a stack at Port of Felixstowe
Loaded container lorries queuing to have their containers removed and placed on a stack at Port of Felixstowe

The C140 initiative is proudly supported by funding from Suffolk Chamber of Commerce and the Heritage Lottery Fund.

C140 stands as a tribute to 140 years of Suffolk Chamber of Commerce's impactful journey, shaping the past, present, and future of the Suffolk business community.

Chamber Inception

In 1884, Ipswich was a bustling hub of manufacturing, shipping, and vibrant trade, and a group of Suffolk business leaders including Ransome, Grimwade, Jefferies & Packard gathered on the 9th of May 1884 to forge a collective force for the greater good!

The driving force behind this initiative was the Ipswich Dock Commission, now ABP Ports, recognising the power of unity to safeguard trade into Ipswich.

The chamber emerged as a beacon of collaboration, a collective voice resonating from the minds of local business pioneers. They all echoed the sentiment that a dedicated body was essential to champion matters of trade and address questions of mutual interest.

Orwell road bridge on the A14 via drone
Orwell road bridge on the A14 via drone

Back then, they grasped a fundamental truth – the strength in numbers, the ability to approach challenges collectively, far surpassed individual efforts. As they faced the disadvantages of fragmented dealings with entities like railway companies, they understood the immense power that came with standing together. Their foresight birthed the Suffolk Chamber of Commerce, a testament to the enduring principle that unity brings strength.

And so, this year, we celebrate 140 years of resilience and influence, the Suffolk Chamber remains not just a relic of the past but a vibrant force shaping the present and future. The landscape may have evolved, but they knew then what we still know today, and has remained unchanged for 140 years – the power of collaboration, of standing together to champion the interests not only of individuals but of an entire region is key

As we celebrate 140 years, let us carry forward the legacy, remembering that together, we are truly strong.

About Chambers

The first use of the term “chambre de commerce” originated in Marseilles, France, at the end of the sixteenth century. The first of its kind, it was created to reinvigorate trade following the gruelling impact of war on the local business community. More chambers quickly established across Europe to regulate and promote trade in cities. Over time, the concept evolved into modern Chambers of Commerce - organisations that support local businesses and economic development. These medieval European trading guilds were associations of merchants, artisans, and traders in cities. They played a vital role in regulating trade, setting standards, and providing a platform for members to discuss and resolve business-related matters.

Chambers of Commerce, as we know them today, began to take shape in the late eighteenth century. The first Chamber in the British Isles was the Jersey Chamber, founded in 1768. Others swiftly followed in major towns and cities – some of the oldest, continuous Chambers originate in places such as Glasgow (1783), Edinburgh (1785), Birmingham (1813), Manchester (1820). The British Chambers of Commerce, founded in 1860, includes 53 in the UK, of which the Suffolk Chamber is one. So us, at 1884, is a relatively young un!

As part of the C140 project we will be collecting stories and sharing the research carried out by Elma & Molly.

The team is also delighted to announce the exclusive preview event invitation has now been sent to our VIP guests for the launch of our C140 exhibition on the 17th April. (This is an invitation only event)

Early Suffolk Chamber businesses

The Early Chamber Members: In 1885, a survey conducted by the Chamber gave a comprehensive oversight of some of the Chamber's earliest members – some of whom remain amongst our membership today, a testament to the strength of our 140 years and list below – sector, then company representing that sector

Agricultural machinery – Ransomes, Sims & Jeffries Ltd

Railway Plant – Ransome & Rapier

Mill machinery – E R & F Turner

Boots shoes & clothing – H Clarke & Co, George Johnson, H Fraser & Co Ltd, W Pretty & Co

Artificial manures – E Packard & Co

Flour mills – J Fison & Co

Roller Mills – J & G Cranfield

Oil mills – George Mason

Import & export grain – R & W Paul

Malting – C H Cowell

Brewing – Cobbold & Co, Cullingham & Co

Manufacture of garden utensils – Alfred Wrinch

Brick & tile manufactures – A Beaumont, F Rosher & Co, E C Gibbons

Tobacco manufacturers – H C Churchman

Coal merchants – Booth & Fosdick

Wholesale grocers – B H Burton

Wholesale tea – W Jolly

Cheese – John May

Chemist – Grimwade Ridley & Co

Timber merchants – Brown & Ridley, F Fish & Son

Drapers & warehouseman – Footman Pretty & Co, F Corder

Lead – A Slearin & Son