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Step back in time with these old photos of Sainsbury's stores in Bury St Edmunds, Haverhill, Ipswich and Thetford



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Opening their very first Sainsbury's shop on London's Drury Lane in 1869, John James Sainsbury and his wife Mary Ann could have hardly imagined their legacy would continue more than 150 years on.

Over the century-and-a-half since that first store opened, the Sainsbury's name withstood two world wars and major technological developments to get to where it is today - with more than 1,400 supermarkets across the UK, eight of which are in Suffolk and one in Thetford.

Courtesy of The Sainsbury Archive, Museum of London Docklands, we're able to transport you back in time to take a look at how stores in the county have changed over the decades. While some have since moved to new premises, others still stand where they did many years ago.

The Sainsbury's branch in Bury St Edmunds' Cornhill in 1960. Picture: The Sainsbury Archive, Museum of London Docklands
The Sainsbury's branch in Bury St Edmunds' Cornhill in 1960. Picture: The Sainsbury Archive, Museum of London Docklands

The earliest photo we have of a Sainsbury's store in Suffolk is of the Bury St Edmunds branch in Cornhill in 1960 - the year it opened.

The exterior of the Sainsbury's branch in Cornhill, Bury St Edmunds in August 1981. Picture: The Sainsbury Archive, Museum of London Docklands
The exterior of the Sainsbury's branch in Cornhill, Bury St Edmunds in August 1981. Picture: The Sainsbury Archive, Museum of London Docklands
Car park behind the Sainsbury's Cornhill store in Bury St Edmunds on St Andrew's Street South in August 1981. Picture: The Sainsbury Archive, Museum of London Docklands
Car park behind the Sainsbury's Cornhill store in Bury St Edmunds on St Andrew's Street South in August 1981. Picture: The Sainsbury Archive, Museum of London Docklands
Checkouts in the Sainsbury's branch in Bury St Edmunds' Cornhill in August 1981. Picture: The Sainsbury Archive, Museum of London Docklands
Checkouts in the Sainsbury's branch in Bury St Edmunds' Cornhill in August 1981. Picture: The Sainsbury Archive, Museum of London Docklands

Just over 20 years later, in 1981, pictures show a busy supermarket car park and shop floor, with customers picking their groceries off the shelves and taking them to the checkouts to be totted up by staff.

Signs pointed shoppers to a 'cash only' till, but not because it didn't accept cards, as we are accustomed to today - it was in fact a 'no cheques' checkout.

Uniforms were then very different to today's distinctive maroon and orange colour, as workers can be seen wearing white plaid and salmon-coloured, collared dresses.

And promotional banners show that a can of baked beans would set you back 18½p, while a chopped ham loaf would cost 30p.

To give an idea of how much that would be nowadays, a Bank of England inflation calculator show goods and services costing £1 in 1981 would equate to about £3.92 in 2020.

The Sainsbury's store in Cornhill closed just six years later, in October 1987.

The interior of the Cornhill branch of Sainsbury's in Bury St Edmunds in August 1981. Picture: The Sainsbury Archive, Museum of London Docklands
The interior of the Cornhill branch of Sainsbury's in Bury St Edmunds in August 1981. Picture: The Sainsbury Archive, Museum of London Docklands
Checkouts in Sainsbury's branch in Bury St Edmunds' Cornhill in August 1981. Picture: The Sainsbury Archive, Museum of London Docklands
Checkouts in Sainsbury's branch in Bury St Edmunds' Cornhill in August 1981. Picture: The Sainsbury Archive, Museum of London Docklands
Customers shopping at the Sainsbury's branch in Bury St Edmunds' Cornhill in August 1981. Picture: The Sainsbury Archive, Museum of London Docklands
Customers shopping at the Sainsbury's branch in Bury St Edmunds' Cornhill in August 1981. Picture: The Sainsbury Archive, Museum of London Docklands

That was most likely because the supermarket chain was opening a brand new store in Bury St Edmunds' Bedingfield Way, on the Moreton Hall estate, just a few days later, on October 6, 1987.

The new branch could boast Sainsbury's first 'coffee shop' when it opened that year.

These black and white photos from The Sainsbury Archive show the branch's management team outside the coffee shop, as well as senior staff greeting customers.

It's fair to say the shop, which is still open more than 30 years later, likely looks pretty different to how it did back when it first opened in 1987.

Sainsbury's Bury St Edmunds, Moreton Hall, with the branch management team outside Sainsbury's first 'coffee shop' in 1987. Picture: The Sainsbury Archive, Museum of London Docklands
Sainsbury's Bury St Edmunds, Moreton Hall, with the branch management team outside Sainsbury's first 'coffee shop' in 1987. Picture: The Sainsbury Archive, Museum of London Docklands
Sainsbury's in Bedingfield Way, Moreton Hall, Bury St Edmunds, with John Galloway (centre, Eastern area director) and Malcolm Jones (right, the store manager) greeting customers in 1987. Picture: The Sainsbury Archive, Museum of London Docklands
Sainsbury's in Bedingfield Way, Moreton Hall, Bury St Edmunds, with John Galloway (centre, Eastern area director) and Malcolm Jones (right, the store manager) greeting customers in 1987. Picture: The Sainsbury Archive, Museum of London Docklands
Sainsbury's Bury St Edmunds in 2020. Picture by Mark Westley
Sainsbury's Bury St Edmunds in 2020. Picture by Mark Westley

Over in Haverhill, these pictures show the opening day of the town's Jubilee Walk store on October 11, 1977, when Lord Alan Sainsbury - grandson of founders John James and Mary Ann - greeted the first customers and even served them at the checkouts.

His wife, Lady Sainsbury, was also photographed shopping around the store that day.

Lord Sainsbury himself had links to Suffolk, as he stood for parliament as a candidate for the Liberal Party for Sudbury, although he was never elected, in the 1929, 1931 and 1935 general elections.

Lord Alan Sainsbury serving customers at the checkout area at Jubilee Walk, Haverhill branch on opening day in October 1977. Picture: The Sainsbury Archive, Museum of London Docklands
Lord Alan Sainsbury serving customers at the checkout area at Jubilee Walk, Haverhill branch on opening day in October 1977. Picture: The Sainsbury Archive, Museum of London Docklands
Lord Alan Sainsbury greeting customers at Jubilee Walk, Haverhill branch on opening day in October 1977. Picture: The Sainsbury Archive, Museum of London Docklands
Lord Alan Sainsbury greeting customers at Jubilee Walk, Haverhill branch on opening day in October 1977. Picture: The Sainsbury Archive, Museum of London Docklands
Lady Sainsbury at Jubilee Walk, Haverhill branch on opening day in October 1977. Picture: The Sainsbury Archive, Museum of London Docklands
Lady Sainsbury at Jubilee Walk, Haverhill branch on opening day in October 1977. Picture: The Sainsbury Archive, Museum of London Docklands

Just a year later, in 1978, photos show customers picking their groceries from around the shop, with some queueing at a fresh produce weighing station.

The images also capture the moment a worker takes a stock check of sugar on the shelves.

It appears to show the Sainsbury's uniform is different from that of 1981, with staff wearing blue checked dresses.

The Jubilee Walk store closed in September 1990.

The fresh produce weighing station at Jubilee Walk, Haverhill branch in 1978. Picture: The Sainsbury Archive, Museum of London Docklands
The fresh produce weighing station at Jubilee Walk, Haverhill branch in 1978. Picture: The Sainsbury Archive, Museum of London Docklands
The fresh produce department at Jubilee Walk, Haverhill branch in 1978. Picture: The Sainsbury Archive, Museum of London Docklands
The fresh produce department at Jubilee Walk, Haverhill branch in 1978. Picture: The Sainsbury Archive, Museum of London Docklands
A staff member stock checking sugar at Jubilee Walk, Haverhill branch in 1978. Picture: The Sainsbury Archive, Museum of London Docklands
A staff member stock checking sugar at Jubilee Walk, Haverhill branch in 1978. Picture: The Sainsbury Archive, Museum of London Docklands

Again, this was most likely because Sainsbury's was moving to a larger location out of the town centre, with a new store opening in Haycocks Road in September 1990.

Photos from The Sainsbury Archive show the new, purpose-built store, along with a petrol station, in construction ready for the Autumn opening date.

The shop still stands at the site on which it was built in 1990 to this day.

Sainsburys Haycocks Road, Haverhill during construction in 1990. Picture: The Sainsbury Archive, Museum of London Docklands
Sainsburys Haycocks Road, Haverhill during construction in 1990. Picture: The Sainsbury Archive, Museum of London Docklands
Signage at Sainsburys, Haycocks Road, Haverhill branch during construction in 1990. Picture: The Sainsbury Archive, Museum of London Docklands
Signage at Sainsburys, Haycocks Road, Haverhill branch during construction in 1990. Picture: The Sainsbury Archive, Museum of London Docklands
The exterior and car park at Sainsburys, Haycocks Road, Haverhill branch in 1990. Picture: The Sainsbury Archive, Museum of London Docklands
The exterior and car park at Sainsburys, Haycocks Road, Haverhill branch in 1990. Picture: The Sainsbury Archive, Museum of London Docklands
The interior of Sainsburys, Haycocks Road, Haverhill branch during construction in 1990. Picture: The Sainsbury Archive, Museum of London Docklands
The interior of Sainsburys, Haycocks Road, Haverhill branch during construction in 1990. Picture: The Sainsbury Archive, Museum of London Docklands
The entrance to petrol station at Haycocks Road, Haverhill branch in 1990. Picture: The Sainsbury Archive, Museum of London Docklands
The entrance to petrol station at Haycocks Road, Haverhill branch in 1990. Picture: The Sainsbury Archive, Museum of London Docklands
Sainsbury's in Haverhill pictured in 2009
Sainsbury's in Haverhill pictured in 2009

As Suffolk's county town, it's hardly any surprise that Ipswich has had and continues to have the largest number of Sainsbury's stores.

Pictures from The Sainsbury Archive date back to the early 70s, when two of the towns' shops looked very different to how they do now, with a compact set-up.

The Westgate Street branch was the oldest in Ipswich, opening in 1905 and closing several decades later on March 13, 1971 - the same day another branch on Tavern Street, which had opened in 1930, closed.

Sainsbury's in Ipswich's Tavern Street in 1971. Picture: The Sainsbury Archive, Museum of London Docklands
Sainsbury's in Ipswich's Tavern Street in 1971. Picture: The Sainsbury Archive, Museum of London Docklands
Sainsbury's Ipswich Westgate Street 1971. Picture: The Sainsbury Archive, Museum of London Docklands
Sainsbury's Ipswich Westgate Street 1971. Picture: The Sainsbury Archive, Museum of London Docklands

Just a few days later, on March 16, 1971, a new branch opened on Upper Brook Street, which is still serving customers five decades later.

Photos taken on the opening day show John Davan 'JD' Sainsbury - now Baron Sainsbury of Preston Candover - greeting some of the supermarket's first customers, and shoppers taking their goods to checkouts.

Sainsbury's Ipswich Upper Brook Street 1971. Picture: Picture: The Sainsbury Archive, Museum of London Docklands
Sainsbury's Ipswich Upper Brook Street 1971. Picture: Picture: The Sainsbury Archive, Museum of London Docklands
Sainsbury's Ipswich Upper Brook Street 1971 - overhead decimal conversion charts and checkouts. Picture: Picture: The Sainsbury Archive, Museum of London Docklands
Sainsbury's Ipswich Upper Brook Street 1971 - overhead decimal conversion charts and checkouts. Picture: Picture: The Sainsbury Archive, Museum of London Docklands
Sainsbury's Ipswich Upper Brook Street 1971 - JD Sainsbury greeting customers at the opening. Picture: Picture: The Sainsbury Archive, Museum of London Docklands
Sainsbury's Ipswich Upper Brook Street 1971 - JD Sainsbury greeting customers at the opening. Picture: Picture: The Sainsbury Archive, Museum of London Docklands

Other Ipswich branches that feature in The Sainsbury Archive which remain open today include the Warren Heath supermarket on Felixstowe Road.

It opened in October 1985 and still serves shoppers today.

The below Tweet shows the petrol station as it was in its very first year of 1985.

The Hadleigh Road branch, which opened in October 1992, is still open to this day.

In these images from The Sainsbury Archive, you can see the store on the day it opened, October 29, just in time for Halloween with pumpkins on display.

The pictures show vehicles of the day parked up in the freshly painted bays, as well as store manager Keith Jaynes greeting customers and staff at the tobacco kiosk - with products displayed in full view, in stark contrast to today when products are hidden from view behind sliding doors or curtains as is the law.

Sainsbury's in Hadleigh Road, Ipswich in 1992. Picture: The Sainsbury Archive, Museum of London Docklands
Sainsbury's in Hadleigh Road, Ipswich in 1992. Picture: The Sainsbury Archive, Museum of London Docklands
Sainsbury's in Hadleigh Road, Ipswich in 1992 - the fresh fruit and vegetables department featuring a display of pumpkins in the foreground and customers in the background. Picture: The Sainsbury Archive, Museum of London Docklands
Sainsbury's in Hadleigh Road, Ipswich in 1992 - the fresh fruit and vegetables department featuring a display of pumpkins in the foreground and customers in the background. Picture: The Sainsbury Archive, Museum of London Docklands
Sainsbury's in Hadleigh Road, Ipswich in 1992 - store manager Keith Jaynes greets a customer. Picture: The Sainsbury Archive, Museum of London Docklands
Sainsbury's in Hadleigh Road, Ipswich in 1992 - store manager Keith Jaynes greets a customer. Picture: The Sainsbury Archive, Museum of London Docklands
Sainsbury's in Hadleigh Road, Ipswich in 1992 - employees at the tobacco kiosk. Picture: The Sainsbury Archive, Museum of London Docklands
Sainsbury's in Hadleigh Road, Ipswich in 1992 - employees at the tobacco kiosk. Picture: The Sainsbury Archive, Museum of London Docklands

Over the Suffolk border in Thetford, photos from the archive also show the exterior of the Old London Road store, which is still open to this day, pictured in its first year of 1991.

Again, images show cars from the early 90s parked up at the supermarket, and an older version of the logo, which then said 'J Sainsbury', displayed across the front of the shop.

Sainsbury's Thetford Old London Road 1991. Picture: The Sainsbury Archive, Museum of London Docklands
Sainsbury's Thetford Old London Road 1991. Picture: The Sainsbury Archive, Museum of London Docklands
Sainsbury's Thetford Old London Road 1991. Picture: The Sainsbury Archive, Museum of London Docklands
Sainsbury's Thetford Old London Road 1991. Picture: The Sainsbury Archive, Museum of London Docklands

To find out more about The Sainsbury Archive, Museum of London Docklands, visit their website at www.sainsburyarchive.org.uk or their Twitter @sainsburyarch.