THE owners of an award-winning Bury butchers – which has been trading for 99 years – have spoken of their disappointment after they were forced to close.

Bennett’s Quality Meats shut both its town centre store and its preparation depot in Bury New Road, Whitefield, on Saturday, September 23 due to an inability to cover running costs.

The owners of the third-generation family business have been inundated with messages of support from former customers.

Bennett’s was founded in 1918 when, after leaving the Royal Flying Corps at the end of the First World War, Percival Bennett purchased a shop in Salford.

His grandsons, Jeremy, Martyn and Tim, who took over the running of the shop in 2004, believe the purchase was made on impulse, after their grandfather had been asked to buy a butcher’s last piece of meat on a Saturday evening, and instead made an offer to buy the shop, which was accepted.

In the early 1920s, with Percival searching for larger premises, he found that the Argenta Meat Company had a shop for sale in Stanley Street, Bury, later to be renamed The Rock, and this was duly purchased.

By 1939, the business had expanded to include shops in Prestwich, Besses o’th’ Barn and Whitefield, and Percival was joined by his son Donald, who would later take over following his father’s retirement.

As Bury was redeveloped, the Rock ceased to be town’s main trading location and, in 1969, the decision was taken for Bennett’s to relocate to Princess Parade.

By this point, Donald had been joined by his son Martyn, and Jeremy and Timothy later followed upon finishing school. The shops in Salford and Prestwich were sold and the Besses premises purchased for the road widening scheme.

In 1989, Bennett’s was asked to join the Q Guild, a select organisation of independent butchers, requiring high standards for quality, knowledge and hygiene. Donald retired in the late 1990s followed by Martyn in 2015.

Martyn, who took over with brothers Jeremy and Tim in 2004, said: “We came into it straight from school.

"Over the years we have made many friends both within the trade, and customers, some of whom we know, are second and third generation families who have shopped with us.

"It is a great sadness for the Bennett family to see the closure of the business after three generations and we thank our many customers and friends for their support, and wish them all the best for the future.”

Martyn's brother Jeremy added: “It is sad after 99 years.

“We just cannot afford the rent, and the town is not as busy as it used to be. Since they built the Rock it has spilt the town in two. A lot of small businesses are dying.

“To be honest, it’s been going downhill for us for a while now. People want quantity over quality now. We were at the top end quality-wise but then you get the supermarkets and indoor market which is quantity over quality and it’s hard for us to compete.”

Mr Bennett says that since their closure, they have been inundated with messages from customers wishing them well in the future.

He said: “There are a lot of upset people in Bury. Generations have grown up with us so we have had a lot of messages from people wishing us all the best.”

"We are just taking stock now. We don’t know what we are going to do at the moment because we came into it straight from school. It’s all we’ve ever known so this has come as quite a shock to us."