Delivering The Goods

delivery lad, 1912 - 1914.
Delivery Lad, 1912 - 1914. 35Kb.
This is Harry Webb, a delivery lad who worked at Sainsbury's Enfield branch from 1912 until 1914.

Very few people had transport of their own, and so boys like Harry were employed at each branch to carry home customers' shopping. If you had a telephone, you could ring and place an order. To do so would need an account book like the one displayed in the Reference Library.

Harry and his colleagues were expected to keep their vehicles in good order and to clean them every morning before breakfast. An annual parade of delivery lads was held at the firm's head office in London to encourage the boys to dress smartly.

It was hard work riding a fully-loaded tricycle, as this letter from John Benjamin Sainsbury shows:

I suggest doing the Bushey delivery round with a tricycle, but you will need at least two strong youths, for they could not continue for long to ride a loaded machine both morning and afternoon, and it will certainly be loaded on both occasions with the number of customers that we have in the district.

On pre-First World War bicycles the tyres were solid rubber, rather than the later pneumatic ones, and would have been to an uncomfortable and bumpy ride on street cobbles.

For longer distances and larger loads, Sainsbury's used horse vans. The horses were well cared for. Each driver carried a bucket for use at water pumps so that the horses were protected from drinking contaminated water at public troughs.

single-horse vans outside croydon branch.
Single-horse van outside Croydon branch, c1900.
Sainsbury's also supported the annual Regents Park Parade, held each year on 1st May. This parade was designed to encourage drivers to take a pride in their horses. Sainsbury's drivers consistently won medals for their turnout.
Harry Webb's personnel file.

Copyright J Sainsbury plc, 2000.