Heritage Museum

The very popular opening of Sainsbury's, May 14th 1974
© The Sainsbury Archive, Museum of London Docklands
Iceland store in Garden Square Shopping Centre, c. 1990.
Staff at Fine Fare, Eastcheap, c. 1960s. Fine Fare was a national chain of supermarkets established in the 1950s. Their headquarters were in Welwyn Garden City. In 1985, the company merged with The Dee Corporation which is now known as Somerfield and the Fine Fare name disappeared.
Morrisons supermarket, Broadway, c. 1999.

This new way of shopping revolutionised post-war Britain.The large self-service supermarkets of the 1950s suited the needs of a new generation with cars, refrigerators and less time.
For twenty years, this type of shopper had to be satisfied with the shopping experience at the Co-operative Stores on Eastcheap or small supermarkets such asT.W. Downs or Fine Fare. But in 1974, Sainsbury’s opened in Garden Square Shopping Centre.This shop offered all the usual Sainsbury’s lines, plus the chain’s first ever self-service delicatessen.

In 1980 Iceland also opened in the shopping centre.The two stores traded side-by-side until 1991 when Sainsbury’s moved to its new, larger out-of-town site.

Morrisons became the town centre’s main supermarket in 1999, when it opened as part of a £50m town centre investment package led by Letchworth Garden City Heritage Foundation.

Garden Square Shopping Centre was also briefly home to a Marks and Spencer Simply Food outlet.The store opened in 2003 in a section of the old Sainsbury’s but was closed in 2009 due to the recession.

This page was added on 09/02/2011.

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  • I loved Fine Fare as a little girl, I particularly loved the spiral stair case. In the 80’s it became Medi-Care and then I hated the spiral stair case, because I worked there and had to climb up and down it. My parents still live in Letchworth and I enjoy coming home. It is a very unique place.

    By Judi Hewitt (23/08/2013)
  • I well remember Fine Fare opening in Eastcheap. It was quite a large shop for it’s time but the novelty was that it was self service, fill your own basket and pay at the door. Today’s technology allows for the scanning of bar codes on all the goods but this did not come into being until the mid ’80s when Sainsburys were the first company to start using it. They bought equipment from ICL where I worked and I’m pleased to say that I was one of the project team at 1/3 Factory, in Blackhorse Road, where everything was manufactured. WH Smith also purchased a similar system from us a little while after Sainsburys. These systems soon appeared in stores all over the country but the Letchworth Sainsburys was not the first to receive it rather strangely.

    By Dave Thompson (10/05/2013)