Somerfield supermarket and related organisations: papers

Scope and Content

The collection includes ledgers of accounts, minutes for AGMs and directors' meetings, share certificates etc and other official records for Somerfield. The Canadian entrepreneur Garfield Weston bought into UK supermarket outlets in the 1950s and 1960s and the collection also contains records from these related companies including Fine Fare, ABC, Melias, and Sheen and Sons.

Administrative / Biographical History

Somerfield plc is a UK based chain of supermarket and food retail outlets. The origins of the company can be traced to 1875 when a grocery store was opened by J H Mills in Bristol. In 1900 J H Mills became a limited company with 12 stores and in 1950 was turned into Gateway, when a Bristol finance house, Tyndall, became the major shareholder. The 14 J H Mills shops were then converted to become self-service type supermarkets. In 1964 Frank Dee took over the wholesaler which was part of the original Mills company. In 1970 Garfield Weston's Associated Foods purchased the Frank Dee chain and it eventually became part of the Linfood Holdings Group. In 1977 Gateway was taken over by Linfood Holdings Limited increasing the number of Gateway stores to 100 throughout the country. By 1983, Linfood Holdings was renamed The Dee Corporation, and this company in turn absorbed other retail chains, including International, Lennons, and Fine Fare. In 1988 The Dee Corporation was renamed The Gateway Corporation. The first Somerfield store was launched in 1990, with the new format positioned upmarket from Gateway and designed to compete more directly with the stores of rivals J Sainsbury plc, Tesco PLC, and Safeway plc.


Arranged as originally catalogued.

Conditions Governing Access

Usual EUL arrangements apply.

Acquisition Information

Transferred from University of Exeter, Geography Dept in Feb 2007.

Other Finding Aids


Archivist's Note

Description created by Rob Ford, 8 Aug 2007.

Conditions Governing Use

Usual EUL restrictions apply.


The collection has been used by Professor Gareth Shaw (University of Exeter) for a number of journal papers including: G. Shaw and A. Alexander, 'Interlocking Directorates and the Knowledge Transfer of Supermarket Retail Techniques from North America to Britain', 'International Review of Retail, Distribution and Consumer Research', 1G (3) (2006): 375-394; G. Shaw 'Transferring a Retail Innovation : The early stages of Supermarket Development in Post-War Britain', 'Economic History Yearbook', 2005/2 (2005): 57-70; Shaw, G., Curth, L. and Alexander, A, 'Promoting retail innovation: knowledge flows during the emergence of self-service and supermarket retailing in Britain', 'Environment and Planning', A 37 (5) (2005): 805-821; Shaw, G., Curth, L. and Alexander, A, 'Selling Self-service and the Supermarket: the Americanisation of Food Retailing in Britain 1945-1960', 'Business History', 46 (2004): 568-580. It has also been used by Gareth Shaw for a series of Leverhulme, AHRC and British Academy projects.