Skip navigation
Sainsbury Archive Logo

Margaret Lawrenson, Victoria, London, 1950s

1930-1950 Stores


During my Primary School days - the mid 1950s - my mother and I went every Saturday morning to Sainsbury's near Victoria Station, because - according to my mother - it had fresher, better goods than the likes of Home & Colonial, or that new-fangled Tesco Supermarket in Tachbrook Street (‘Supermarkets won’t catch on’ she opined). We'd go into the shop, with its brown-and-black-and white geometrically tiled floor, and there, to the left and right were the counters. Dry goods, dairy products, bacon and ham… and so on.
Young women, their hair concealed under hair-net-type caps, skilfully wielded wooden butter pats to reduce great slabs of butter into manageable half-pound portions. Others bagged up sugar into dark blue 'sugar paper' bags. There was always a man at the bacon slicer, turning a lethal looking metal disc to slice bacon and ham according to the customer's particular requirements (Thin? Thick? Gammon rasher?).
There were glass-topped tins of biscuits - digestives, custard creams, Lincolns, Nice, arrowroot…..: these were sold loose. People on a restricted budget would choose a mixed bag of broken ones. My mother regarded all of these with disdain. We made our own.
And when it was time to pay, we'd find that all our receipts, from each counter we'd visited, would have arrived at a small wooden kiosk near the centre of the store. An efficient assistant would add it all up, we'd pay her (it was always a 'her') and we'd go off with our groceries. As we came out of the shop, there was very often a Pearly King or a Pearly Queen, their clothing totally covered in the pearlescent buttons invariably used on shirts and blouses, rattling a tin on behalf of some charity. I was fascinated by them: but I haven’t seen one in decades.

Comments (0)

login to comment