The History of William Jackson & Son Ltd.
The Hull-based grocery, provisions and bakery business of William Jackson & Son Ltd. evolved into a coherent chain of convenience stores which was taken over by Sainsbury’s in 2004.
The founder, William Jackson (1828-1912), opened a tea and grocery store in Scale Lane, Hull, in 1851, moving to Carr Lane in the 1860s. The business began to multiply in the hands of his son George (1863-1929), who changed his name to George Jackson Bentham in 1897. Shops opened in Spring Bank (1888) and Bright Street (1891) and the range of merchandise expanded. Jackson’s first bakery, built in Clarendon Street in 1896-86, was superseded by a new factory in Derringham Street in 1907. This was by the Hull architects Gelder & Kitchen, who went on to design several stores for Jackson’s.
A private limited company, William Jackson & Son Ltd., was formed in 1904. When the founder died in 1912 the chain comprised around 17 shops, the bakery, a jam factory, warehousing and stables. This grew to 32 shops in 1916 and 50 in 1930. Most of these were located Hull, and several were clustered, effectively forming one large shop although they were separately managed.
Through the 1930s and 1940s Jackson’s expanded beyond Hull through acquisition, purchasing bakeries with retail outlets in Wakefield, Scunthorpe, Harrogate and Dudley, and opening shops as far afield as York and Leeds. Several cafés were added too, in Hull, Bridlington and Beverley. Even a few pubs, off licences and post offices joined the portfolio, which had grown to 115 outlets by 1950.
The adoption of self-service was slow despite the board and shop management being shown, in May 1945, a lantern slide show sponsored by National Cash Registers illustrating the American self-service system. The first trial at 336-338 Priory Road in November 1948 flopped and was quickly reversed. Later experiments included a ‘quick-sale super store’ on Eton Street in 1955 and a ‘self-service food market’ in Beverley in 1960. The first supermarket conversions followed in Goole and Hull in 1960-61.
By 1963 the company had 92 retail shops (58 freehold and 34 leasehold), including 17 supermarkets. It also had one discount store, Grandways in Leeds, which had been acquired in 1961 after Jackson’s was appointed to run the Grandways food hall.
Jackson’s developed a chain of Grandways supermarkets which sat uneasily alongside the firm’s older shops, with their traditional image. Nonetheless, many larger branches of Jackson’s were rebranded as Grandways. In 1991 Jackson’s decided to concentrate on a new convenience store format called ‘Jacksons of [name of branch]’ and sold 24 Grandways stores to the Argyll Group and Kwik Save plc. Jackson’s 114 shops were sold to Sainsbury’s in 2004 and rebranded as Sainsbury’s Local in 2008.
Jackson’s survives as the William Jackson Food Group, which owns Abel & Cole and Belazu amongst other food producers and makes Jackson’s Champion Bread in the Derringham Street factory. It no longer has a retail arm but several of its purpose-built stores from the 1910s, 20s and 30s still stand in Hull.
Jackson’s property portfolio was always mixed. Early shops occupied existing premises and grew by opening additional shops when adjacent units became available, in the manner of co-operative stores. Thus, the original grocery and confectionery shops at 305-303 Holderness Road (1899) were augmented by a ‘green fruit’ shop at No. 301 (1914), while no. 299 was rebuilt to match the other shops and opened as a butcher’s (1926).
A pre-1926 photograph of 301-305 Holderness Road shows the fine grocery shopfront, with cusping over the doorways and fanlights set with teardrop shapes over the display windows. All that remains today is the shadow of the lettering ‘Wm JACKSON & SON’ once set on the parapet.
An imposing store was built on the corner of Southcoates Avenue and Holderness Road (‘East Park’) in 1912. It was probably designed by Gelder & Kitchen and erected by the contractor George Houlton, since both companies are known to have worked for Jackson’s. In appearance, the chunky classical elevation and corner cupola resembled a city-centre department store rather than a suburban grocery shop. The elaborate transom lights with drop shapes were repeated at other branches, including The Square, Hessle, (1927), and may have taken inspiration from Harrod’s.
At street level the East Park building housed four separate shop units with uniform shopfronts. Jackson’s originally opened a grocery in No. 614 and a bakery and confectioners in No. 616. Old photographs show that one of Jackson’s beautifully lettered mosaic fascias (now overpainted) extended across Nos. 614-616; an example survives in Grafton Street. Nos. 618 and 620 were taken on later, as a fruiterer (1915) and a ‘green fruit’ shop (1925). So even when erecting new premises Jackson’s conceived them as a row of shops; the inclusion of two shops which were initially surplus to requirements reveals an eye for future expansion.
Before the Great War, Gelder & Kitchen began to design small corner shops for Jackson’s. These were in a distinctive neo-classical style with glazed white terracotta (or faience) cladding and usually stood just one storey in height: that on Princes Avenue/Belvoir Street (c.1913) had an extra storey and attic because it was a refronting of a Victorian terrace. In other respects, it was almost identical to the store on Newland Avenue/Grafton Street (1913). Each had a clock framed by a laurel wreath, below a WJ&S monogram, on the canted corner.
A later store on Chanterlands Avenue/Marlborough Street (1928) was in a more Grecian style, while 490 Inglemire Lane (1932) was simplified, with a stepped art deco screen parapet.
All of these stores incorporated blue mosaic panels, usually with chequered surrounds. They carried gold lettering such as: ‘HOME MADE JAMS’, ‘TEA & COFFEE SPECIALISTS’, ‘CONFECTIONERS’, ‘TEA BLENDERS’, ‘COFFEE ROASTERS’, ‘GOLD MEDAL BRIDE CAKES’ and ‘OWN MAKE PRESERVES’. On the side of the Chanterlands Avenue/Marlborough Avenue branch was a huge mosaic sign reading ‘WM JACKSON & SON LTD GOLD MEDAL PORK PIES CHOCOLATES WEDDING CAKES’.
The culmination of this house style was the three-storey flagship store – Jackson’s 57th store – built on Paragon Street in central Hull in 1929, replacing Carr Lane. As usual, the architects were Gelder & Kitchen.
The building opened in October 1929 as a shop with upper-floor offices, but the offices were soon replaced by a restaurant and cafeteria. The neo-classical faience frontage, with its giant elevation, was typical of 1920s high street stores. Between the first and second floor windows were blue mosaic panels. The glazed terracotta, mosaic tiles and terrazzo floors were supplied by Alfred Whitehead of Leeds. The building was fire damaged during Second World War and so it is remarkable that the shopfront, with its dark emerald pearl granite surround and bronze glazing, survives. A red ‘WJ’ monogram can still be seen on the threshold. The incongruous brick third floor was added as ballroom in the 1950s.
Jackson’s opened many more retail branches over the years, but lost interest in the concept of an architectural house style. One interesting postscript is the adoption in 1991 of bright turquoise fascias echoing the altogether more subtle blue of the old mosaic panels.
Photographs © Kathryn A. Morrison unless otherwise stated.
Alan Wilkinson, From Corner Shop to Corner Shop in Five Generations. A History of William Jackson & Son plc, Hutton Press, Beverley, 1994