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The Rich Tapestry Of Family Businesses In East Anglia


East Anglia, the picturesque region in eastern England, is not only known for its scenic landscapes and historical landmarks but also for its thriving family business sector. The diversity of family-owned enterprises in this region is a testament to the enduring entrepreneurial spirit that in many cases has been passed down through generations.


In celebration of East Anglia Family Business Day 2023 we take a look into the rich tapestry of family businesses that call East Anglia their home.


Historical Roots

Family businesses have played a significant role in East Anglia's economic history. The region has a long tradition of family-run enterprises dating back centuries. Many of these businesses began as humble agricultural operations, where families worked together to cultivate the fertile land. Over time, these enterprises diversified into various industries, including manufacturing, retail, and services.


In fact, research undertaken by Family Business United has identified the oldest family firms in the region which include:

  • Webb & Son (Combs)

  • Herbert Group

  • D Gurteen & Son

  • Farthing, Singleton & Hastings

  • CT Baker

  • The Jarrold Group

  • Start-rite Shoes

  • Phillips Brothers (Woodshavings) Ltd

Agricultural Heritage

East Anglia's agricultural heritage remains a cornerstone of its family business sector. Farms handed down from generation to generation are a common sight in the region. These farms produce a wide range of crops, from cereals to vegetables, and raise livestock such as cattle, sheep, and poultry.

The strong sense of stewardship for the land and a commitment to sustainable farming practices have allowed many of these family farms to thrive, together with continued investment, innovation in agricultural practices and the introduction of diversified activities such as farm shops and rural business parks.



Retail and Hospitality

Family businesses in East Anglia extend well beyond the farm gates. The region boasts a vibrant retail and hospitality sector, with many family-owned shops, restaurants, and inns. These businesses often embody a sense of community and tradition that draws both locals and tourists alike. In fact, there are plenty of family owned businesses that have been attracting and meeting the needs of the tourist sector for generations.


From traditional fish and chip shops in coastal towns to quaint tearooms in picturesque villages, family enterprises contribute to the unique charm of East Anglia, not forgetting long standing and significant retail operations like Jarrolds, Coes of Ipswich and Bakers and Larners.


Manufacturing and Industry

East Anglia's family business landscape has also evolved to include manufacturing and industrial enterprises. Some of these businesses have their roots in cottage industries that have grown into major players in their respective sectors.


From boat builders on the Norfolk Broads to precision engineering firms in Suffolk, these family-owned companies demonstrate innovation and adaptability.


Innovation and Adaptation

One of the key strengths of family businesses in East Anglia is their ability to innovate and adapt to changing market conditions.


While they may have deep-rooted traditions, these businesses are not stuck in the past.


Many have embraced modern technologies and management practices to remain competitive in a global marketplace. This has enabled many to pass down the generations and to continue to remain relevant and sustainable businesses today.

The diversity of family businesses in East Anglia paints a vivid picture of a region that cherishes its entrepreneurial heritage while looking toward the future. From agriculture to manufacturing, retail to hospitality, these enterprises contribute not only to the local economy but also to the distinct character of East Anglia.
As they navigate the challenges of succession and embrace innovation, these family businesses are poised to continue thriving for generations to come, ensuring that the entrepreneurial spirit of East Anglia endures.

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