George, my great-great grandfather, was born in 1825 at St Peter’s Hall - now St Peter’s Hall Brewery - near Bungay. His father Humphrey was a farmer on the Flixton Hall Estate and times were tough. George, being the youngest of four sons, needed to find alternative employment.
So in 1843, George joined the well-respected firm of Auctioneers and Land Agents, Howlett and Lenny. George was a confident young man and embarked on a number of successful and not so successful business endeavours. His first was to set up in competition to Mr Howlett by setting up a sale ground. It was situated next to what was to become a brand new railway station in Halesworth at the time of exciting new transport links. Unfortunately, the railway service came too late and the business struggled.
George went back to farming but tried again in 1853, setting up a second livestock auction opposite Redenhall Church near Harleston. This time, he took full advantage of the railway and even persuaded the operators to open a stop next to his sale ground. This masterstroke gave him access to the Norwich to London line and Smithfield Market.
As business boomed, George took over another auction in Harleston, started building a land agency and opened an office in The Thoroughfare that we still have today. One of George’s two sons, Charles, moved to Beccles in 1880 and opened a livestock auction there while his other son, also named George, took over the Harleston operation.
The sons were left what would be £4,000,000 in today’s money in George Durrant’s will when he died in 1895. However, George junior gambled away his inheritance leaving Charles to carry on the progress of Durrants. Charles had two sons who joined the firm after they returned from serving in France during the First World War. The main focus of the business was now in Beccles and they managed to survive some very lean years after the war.
My own father, George joined the business in 1946 after leaving the army. With his cousin Charles, they began selling residential property in 1950. I joined the company in 1980 and since then we have doubled the number of employees and expanded greatly our professional capabilities.
Although we are probably best known as estate agents these days, we remain rooted in the community. We have generations of experience in auctions and agriculture alongside our expertise in residential and commercial property, building consultancy and holiday lettings.
I would like to think that if my great-great grandfather George came back now he would be proud to see that George Durrant and Sons Limited is in good shape for the next generation. He would certainly remind us that embracing new technology and looking forward not backwards is the way to a brighter future.