Food and Drink Living gallery heading 1901: Living at the Time of the Census Living in 1901
Daily BreadBreadShopping  


Eating in
By 1901 the nation's shopping habits were being transformed. Multiple stores opened for long hours (sometimes from 7 am to 11 pm) and offered goods at cheap prices: the supermarket had arrived.

Hammersmith Provision Store, 1901 - link to an enlarged version

The modern supermarket chain can be said to have originated with Thomas Lipton, whose first shop opened in Glasgow in 1871. By 1914 he had 500 outlets. His success was based on bulk purchasing a limited range of goods and selling them at cut-price rates with low-profit margins. Sainsbury's first opened as a dairy in London in 1869 with a range of five products, and had 48 branches by 1900. It did not open its first self-service store until 1950.

For more on the history of supermarkets, link to www link - opens in a new window Sainsbury's Virtual Museum.

In 1900, however, the poor were still more likely to shop in corner shops and buy from street-traders. The cost of food in towns from numerous competing corner shops was usually lower than in a rural village shop, which might have a local monopoly. Usually the poor could only afford to buy in small quantities. As John Hobson wrote in Problems of Poverty, 'Their groceries are bought largely by the ounce, their meat or fish by the halfpennyworth, their coal by the hundredweight or even by the pound'.

Eating out
Those wanting to eat out cheaply in 1901 could go to chains of tea-shops, of which the ABC (Aerated Bread Company) and Lyons were the best known, or to cafés. Eating out, other than at fish and chip shops which were well established by then, was a rarity for most working people in 1901. Local 'cookshops' might offer a limited take-away service of a 'fourpenny dinner in a basin', such as boiled pork ribs and cabbage. Pubs were unlikely to offer more than bread, cheese and pickles.

Eating out - link to an enlarged version

For the upper classes, dining out at hotels, such as the Savoy or the Carlton in London, and restaurants became fashionable in the later 19th century.