Did you know that Bowthorpe once had its own petrol filling station? Anyone who has lived here for 20 years or more would probably reply “yes” instantly to that question, but for the younger members of our community this information may come as something of a surprise.
I must admit I had forgotten all about it until just before Christmas, when the Norwich Evening News published a series of photographs taken when Sainsbury’s opened their new supermarket in Wendene in October 1978. The feature was prompted by a virtual visit to the Sainsbury Archive at the Museum of London, which documents the
history of Sainsbury’s from its foundation in Drury Lane in 1869 to the present day.
Among the photos was one taken of the filling station that Sainsbury’s established as part of their presence in Bowthorpe, right opposite the main entrance to the supermarket’s car park. It operated from this site for over 20
years – until, in fact, Sainsbury’s built their new store and petrol station at Longwater in the late 1990s.
At this point Roys stepped in to snap up the Bowthorpe supermarket site and make it their own, which of course it remains to this day. Evidently Roys did not want the filling station, which was closed and eventually demolished. The site it once occupied was partially enveloped by the new streets and houses comprising Chapel Break, screened by a belt of bushes and undergrowth; the only reminders of its existence today are the remains of the entrance and exit roads giving access from Wendene.
Another reminder – of how comparatively cheap petrol was in the 1970s – can be seen by a glance at the canopy of the filling station on the day the photo was taken (10 October, 1978). Four-star petrol, the top grade of the
day, was priced at 69½ pence per gallon – that works out at 15½ pence per litre, compared to today’s price of around £1.50 per litre.
Assuming an average fuel tank size of 10 gallons, this in turn means that a tankful of petrol at Sainsbury’s Bowthorpe filling station in 1978 would have set you back just under seven quid!