The Sugar Beet Factory

In 1925 the MP for Bury St Edmunds Walter Guinness, the minister of agriculture, was involved in discussions to build a new sugar beet factory in Bury. Two experts in their ‘field’ Dr Robert Jorisch and Martin Neumann were brought over from Surany, Slovakia. A 45-acre site was chosen to the North-east of Bury and building commenced in 1925. 

Local land-owner Colonel Long was very supportive of the factory as he knew that sugar beet was a good crop for the area. A new access road, Holderness Road with housing for workers was opened, there was even a hostel built for Irish workers who came over to work in the ‘campaign.’ The five month harvesting season began in September when the beet was lifted.

Until Compiegne Way relief road was built many a local can remember the queues of overflowing beet lorries and tractors along Eastgate Street going to the factory and onto the weighbridge then depositing their loads into large heaps.

The beet underwent various operations: quality check, washing, sliced into strips called cosettes then steamed to get the sucrose out which was then dried, leaving sugar crystals. Nothing was wasted in the processing of the beet, washed off topsoil returned to farmers at a cost, stones sold off, pulp sold for animal feed and the water returned to settle in huge lagoons.

Bury did not have a refining plant until the 1970’s when Silver Spoon’s massive refining and packaging plant was built, its silos dominating the Bury skyline.

The main players in establishing this sugar beet factory were to have subsequently very different lives; tragically Walter Guinness, 1st Baron Moyne was assassinated in Cairo in 1944, Robert Jorisch married celebrated local author Norah Lofts, whilst Martin now Newman was to have a grandson, well known TV personality Stephen Fry.