Sunday 22nd April saw the first event of the year for the JEC Essex Thameside Region. 33 members and partners met up at the services on the A12 junction 28 for the beginning of the visits planned around Suffolk. Our first visit was to Suffolk Sports Cars at Pettistree, Nr Woodbridge. Roger Williams (owner) opened his factory especially for us and provided an informative tour. Roger stated that he formed the company specifically to create a true copy of the original SS100 Jaguar, but using modern XJ Jaguar components.

From its early years the company has constantly improved the specifications of the Suffolk SS100. The car now incorporates many features including left hand drive variants and the demand for higher performance and specifications.

Roger told us of his history in the motor trade were he started life serving 5 years apprenticeship under the Management Training Scheme for a company called Botwoods, who in the 60’s was a Jaguar distributor in Suffolk. After his apprenticeship Roger spent the next 27 years creating a new Ford dealership in Suffolk. In 1995 he took over the SS100 project and created Suffolk Sportscars.

Following on from this visit some of the members headed for Bury St. Edmunds to Greene King Brewery.

Here, we parked up in the staff car park of the brewery and headed into the Beer Cafe were we met up with the brewery tour guides who showed us around the brewery.

It was formed back in 1799 by a young 19 year old brewery apprentice, Benjamin Greene, who moved from London to Bury St. Edmunds. In 1806, Benjamin partners with William Buck – an elderly yarn-maker looking for a strong investment to secure his retirement. Together they brought the 100-year-old Wright’s Brewery in Westgate Street and rename it Westgate Brewery. Then in 1836, Benjamin passes the business onto his son Edward Greene. Edward grows the business and by 1870 he doubles the number of employees to 50 and produces 40,000 barrels a year. In 1886, Frederick King acquires the Maulkin’s Maltings in Bury St. Edmunds and renames it St. Edmunds Brewery which is next door to the Westgate Brewery owned by Benjamin, and tries to compete against the Westgate Brewery. In the 1870’s, Edward understands how important it is to look after our people. So he introduces housing benefits and pension schemes for our employees – practically unheard of elsewhere. In 1887, Frederick King struggles against Benjamin’s brewery, and states, “If you can’t beat ’em, join ’em!” Frederick agrees to join forces with Edward and form Greene, King and Sons. The new company quickly establishes a regional reputation for producing two of the finest types of beer – old ale and bitter. Moving on into the twentieth century, in 1938, they open a new Brewhouse in time to meet the demands of WW2’s Allied servicemen who are based in East Anglia. It was built it to last and is still being used today. By the time the two World Wars had ended, Greene King had acquired Rayments Brewery and opened a new brew house, and by the 1960s a new bottling store had been built and head office was modernised. Greene King had become an established player in the brewing and pub industry. Between 200 and 2009, Greene King’s portfolio increased further following a number of acquisitions. Much-loved brands including Old English Inns, Belhaven and Loch Fyne all become part of the Greene King family. The company now turns over £2bn a year!

Following on from our visit to the brewery, members met up for lunch/dinner at The Shepherd & Dog in Stowmarket. Wonderful pre-booked meals were had by all, courtesy of Jenny and her team in the pub. A great finale to a great day out with the sunshine and warm weather too!

Thanks to Liz Croxsons for her contribution of photographs.