History of Glasswells

Jerry Glasswell began his new venture in 1946 at 34 Brentgovel Street in Bury St Edmunds. A grocer by trade, Jerry had been through the International Stores Training system, working in Stowmarket and Ilford. Jerry made it to the heights of manager, before a policy dispute led to the premature closure of his grocery chapter. Various other jobs, such as window cleaner and auctioneer’s porter, came and went before Jerry launched the family furnishing business.

In 1946, furniture was a scarce commodity, and much of the stock was second hand, obtained from auctions. The business boomed to such an extent that the second hand goods were insufficient to meet demand and the company moved into the supply of utility furniture.

Leslie Glasswell joined his father shortly after the opening of the first shop and it proved to be a successful partnership of 30 years. Glasswells has always been very much a family business, with Jerry and his wife Ethel, Leslie, Peggy (Jerry’s daughter) and her husband Tim, together with Jerry’s brother Frank all playing a vital role. Since those early days, the Glasswell family has continued to re-invest in the business, enabling it to grow and retain a strong and loyal workforce.

How We Began


1946

First Shop opened at 35 Brentgovel Street, Bury St Edmunds.


1947

Second shop opened at 36 Brentgovel Street.


1948

First furniture van built.


1949

First furniture exhibition at Haverhill and Bury trade fairs.

GLASSWELLS IN THE 1950s


1950

First furniture exhibition at the Old Town hall, Bury St Edmunds.


1951

Opened first shop at Haverhill. Exhibition in marquee at the Suffolk Show Rougham. First exhibition in Bury St Edmunds’ Corn Exchange.


1952

Exhibitions at Saffron Walden and Bury St Edmunds’ Corn Exchange.


1953

Saffron Walden branch opened in King Street.


1954

Built and opened St Andrew’s Street South shop.


1955

Building started on Tollgate warehouse, Bury St Edmunds.


1956

Completed first 10,000 sq ft of Tollgate warehouse.


1957

Corn Exchange showroom opened in Bury St Edmunds.


1959

Tollgate warehouse extended to 15,000 sq ft.

BACK TO THE 1940s

GLASSWELLS IN THE 1960s


1960

New store opened at Queen’s Square, Haverhill.


1961

Number of removals vans reaches seven, including three at Stowmarket.


1962

Glasswells opens store in Stowmarket.


1963

Glasswells’ staff totals 84.


1964

Brentgovel Street, Bury St Edmunds premises refurbished and opened at Bury Bedding Centre. Added mezzanine floor to Corn Exchange shop. Additional shop opened at Haverhill.


1965

Carpet shop opened in Queen’s Square, Haverhill.


1966

Tollgate warehouse extended to 20,000 sq ft.


1967

Started work on new £68,000 store extension in St Andrew’s Street South, Bury St Edmunds.


1968

St Andrew’s Street South, Bury St Edmunds shop extended and opened.

BACK TO THE 1950s

GLASSWELLS IN THE 1970s


1970

Extended Tollgate warehouse to 30,000 sq ft.


1971

First Kingsbury warehouse opened in Bury St Edmunds.


1972

Kingsbury warehouse has grown to three branches.


1973

Kingsbury has four branches.


1974

Kingsbury has five branches.


1975

Kingsbury warehouse now total seven branches. Glasswells buy St Andrew’s and Brentgoval Street properties.


1976

Kingsbury warehouse sold to Combined English Stores.


1977

Major development at Haverhill with new Glasswells store and seven other shops.


1978

New Haverhill branch opened.


1979

Acquired Alstons of Sudbury.

BACK TO THE 1960s

GLASSWELLS IN THE 1980s


1981

Taskers bought at Norwich.


1982

Glasswells joins Associated Independent Stores Group.


1983

Acquired Slaters at Braintree.


1983

Work starts on new store at Norwich.


1984

New 11,000 sq ft store opened in Norwich, with two other shops to let.


1985

Complete re-building of Brentgovel Street premises at a cost of £400,000. Opened in September, with three other shops to let. Opened Union Jacks Discount Warehouse, Bury St Edmunds.


1986

Leslie Glasswell elected to the board of Associated Independent Stores.


1987

Terry Glasswell becomes Finance Director.


1989

Leslie Glasswell retires as Managing Director Paul Glasswell becomes Managing Director with Leslie as Chairman. New carpet shop opens at Saffron.


1989

Refurbishment schemes at Saffron Walden, Haverhill and Braintree.

BACK TO THE 1970s

GLASSWELLS IN THE 1990s


1992

Four and a half acre flat site acquired in Newmarket Road in Bury St Edmunds, where the World of Furniture store was opened the same year.


1994

The world of Furniture extended to a total of 60,000 sq ft.


1995

Opening of the World of Furniture at Martlesham Heath, Ipswich.


1996

50th anniversary of Glasswells.


1999

New warehouse at Moreton Hall, Bury St Edmunds opens.

BACK TO THE 1980s

GLASSWELLS IN THE 2000s


2002

Extension to the World of Furniture adds 40,000 sq ft. All departments expanded to increase ranges. New extension to warehouse doubles floor space. Robert Hawkins appointed as Sales Director.


2003

The interior of the Bury store is refurbished including the offices, and the restaurant is extended.


2005

Refurbishment of Haverhill store.


2006

Diamond anniversary celebrations by giving away a diamond ring and a 1940’s revival weekend. For the staff, there was a evening meal with music and comedy from Jasper Carrott.


2008

New Ipswich store opened Extension to Kempson Way warehouse completed. Robert Hawkins becomes Operations Director. Kevin Robertson appointed to Sales Director.

BACK TO THE 1990s

GLASSWELLS IN THE 2010s



2011

 65th anniversary.


2012

Glasswells stepped into the digital age when we launched our e-commerce website allowing us to take online orders and be able to reach our customers nationally.


2013

Glasswells of Ipswich scoops department of the Year Award, Staff and Store Manager Andrea Johnston celebrate and look to continue on strongly.


2014

We invested in nearly one thousand solar panels which have been installed on the south facing slopes of the roof on our Newmarket Road store. The panels cover over 20,000 square feet and are part of our wider initiative to go ‘green’.


2016

Our Bury St Edmunds restaurant was extended to accommodate an extra 30 seats cutting down on queue times & we gave the entire restaurant a revamp as well.


2016

Glasswells celebrated its  70th Anniversary. A year of celebrations culminated with a weekend of special events & a staff party featuring comedian Sean Locke in the Bury St Edmunds store.


2017

2017 was a year of refurbishment for our Bury St Edmunds store, starting with the Furniture department. More than 100,000sq ft of bespoke flooring was laid, and brand new room partitions were constructed as part of plans to enhance shoppers’ experience.


2017

In late 2017 we took the decision to reopen a store in Sudbury after 13 years. Peter and Rosemary Woodward who both worked at the original shop came back to run the store.


2018

Summer 2018 we were sad to see long serving employee Richard Ball leave after an astonishing 50 years. After starting as a Saturday boy in 1968, Richard worked up to Director in 2012 & worked 14 roles during his time with us.

BACK TO THE 2000s