Post-war Years, 1945-1956

Photo:The fire that would destroy Robert Sayle, and force the Partnership out of Peterborough

The fire that would destroy Robert Sayle, and force the Partnership out of Peterborough

Photo:The scene the following morning

The scene the following morning

By Jonathan Blatchford


Trade at Robert Sayle Peterborough remained adequate after the conclusion of the Second World War. The store may well have totally avoided the German bombing raids, but it still suffered from various post-war restrictions that turned customers away, such as ‘Purchase tax’, placed on all non-essential goods. By the 1950’s however, the store was to some extent back on its feet having undergone a number of low-key refurbishments, but all of the Partner’s hard work was to be in vain.

‘Worst Blaze of the Century’

On the 22nd August 1956, a fire started in Robert Sayle Peterborough. It was never ascertained what exactly started the blaze, but the results were truly devastating. With not so much as a smoke alarm in the building, the flames spread quickly to other shops, before leaping across to the other side of the street. In doing so, the other main Robert Sayle building was quickly alight. As both parts of the shop burnt down, gawping Partners well hopeless to save their business and their livelihood. Ironically, the Peterborough Voluntary Fire Brigade HQ was situated directly behind the store, and so their efforts to save the burning buildings were marred by their desire to save their own fire engines first!

Little choice but to close

One small building belonging to Robert Sayle survived the fire just about unscathed. This building became all that was left of the business. Within three weeks of the blaze, it was unanimously decided to close the remaining shop, and to withdraw the Partnership’s presence from Peterborough. This was announced to Partners in Gazette of the 15th September 1956, by then President Bernard Miller.

"The buildings that were destroyed were old and inefficient and the business conducted in them has been costly to operate and has made little headway since the war".

On the 1st January 1957, trading ceased. Robert Sayle of Peterborough was no more.

This page was added by Jonathan Blatchford on 26/08/2014.