The TSB and Bon Marche occupy the former ‘Caters’ store built in 1957, one of the first modern self-service shopping supermarkets in the country. The architecture has a ‘Festival of Britain’ feel.
Before Caters built their ground-breaking shop, the site was that of the Old Bull Inn which In the 19th century, divided into two: Skilton’s the Butcher and Issards Stores. Some beautiful early 19th century paintings on wood panels from the old Bull Inn can be seen by appointment at Bromley Museum.
Later, the supermarket became Presto’s, before being divided into the two shops we have today.
Self Service, where you walked around the shop choosing the items you wanted, was an idea that had been slow to cross the Atlantic. It’s advent in America had led to the new crime of shop-lifting, to discourage this, wire shopping baskets were introduced.
“The first supermarket was on the market square, Caters, where the Lloyds Bank is now. no one thought you needed a car park back then, just a good bus service!!. I remember the fish counter wrapped around one of the round pillars on the ground floor. “ Mark on Francis Frith memories.
“Caters was the first supermarket – It felt very wrong to help yourself!” Linda Boyce on Bromley Gloss facebook post.
“Worked there as a Friday night / Saturday boy 1974-5, great times. Sometimes when I wasn’t stacking shelves, they had me in the yard behind the deli counter chucking cardboard boxes in the incinerator. I remember going tin the yard one morning, some of the butchers had a couple of manhole covers up, they got me to push drain rods in one while they hit the rats with spaces as they came of the other manhole. The ones they missed were all over the place for the rest of the day. Very 1970s but great fun at the time.” Brian Cooper on Bromley Gloss.