Gapp’s Stores: a retail empire – 1950

Now that we’re able to do new scanning properly again I wanted to show you a recent addition to our collection donated  by a gentleman who used to work for a chain of grocer’s shops in west London called Gapp’s Stores. Gapp’s began in 1869 at a shop in the Fulham Road from which they expanded across west London until there were 16 branches. These pictures which came in a small album were almost all taken in 1950. They show a form of retailing which lasted from the mid 19th century until the late 1950s and early 1960s. The donor notes that the heads of the company, John and Roland Gapp were unwilling to make the transition to self service as companies like Waitrose and Sainsbury’s had done. (Last week I included a picture showing a branch of Waitrose in Gloucester Road which closed in 1989. I’ve just found out that this was in fact their first branch after their original shop in Acton.  It opened in 1913)

So these images are a record of the way shopping was done, and how small retailers looked for most of the 20th century.

Gapp's store 50 Fulham Road

50 Fulham Road is opposite Sydney Street. You can just see the sign for Sydney Mews, an obscure, nearly hidden area behind Fulham Road and Onslow Square. The store now forms part of a bar called PJs.

Gapp's store 177 Fulham Road 02

177 Fulham Road, despite the contrast in the numbers,  is actually opposite number 50, on the corner of Sydney Street. (The address on the shop front, 4 Sydney Terrace was  a hangover from the days when small sections of a long street would have their own name. By the time of the photograph the sign would have been a quaint old feature.) It’s now occupied by the  Amanda Wakeley bridal shop.

Here’s the view from the other side:

Gapp's store 177 Fulham Road

Gapp’s specialised in wines, spirits and all kinds of bottled drinks as you can tell from the window dispaly. You can also see the reflection of the other side of the street in the window, including the small greenhouse like building which is still there, and is now a florist.

We won’t stay in the Borough on this retail tour, but this location is definitely in our territory: 194-196 Earls Court Road.

Gapp's store 194-196 Earl Court Road

See how carefully the goods are displayed in painstakingly constructed piles. Another view of the same shop (at what must be a different date) is reminiscent of the Ernest Milner photographs from nearly 50 years before. (The Gapp’s store was at 136 in 1904 – there  was a re-numbering later).

Gapp's store 194-196 Earl Court Road 02

Our next stop is Lillie Road.

Gapp's store 88 Lillie Road

Gapp’s made  Lillie Road  (88-90) the location of its head office. They also had a warehouse there for dried fruit and tea. The shop is signed as a wine merchants. Our donation also contained various pieces of wine related ephemera.

Gapp's wine list - Copy

As you can see, by 1905 Gapp’s already had quite a few stores. By 1950 more had been added as they ventured outwards.

Gapp's store 1 Goldhawk Road Shepherds Bush

Goldhawk Road, Shepherd’s Bush.

Gapp's store 13-15 Jerdan Place Walham Green

13-15 Jerdan Place, Walham Green.

Gapp's store 52 The Broadway Ealing

52 The Broadway, Ealing. (Some nice pillars there.) And on into the suburbs.


Gapp's store 2 Ethorpe Crescent Gerrards Cross

2, Ethorpe Crescent, Gerrards Cross.

Gapp's store 155 Thornbury Road Osterley

155 Thornbury Road, Osterley. I haven’t covered them all but you get the idea. Gapp’s seems to have reached a kind of peak in the days of rationing and austerity when the strict virtues of a tightly run shop chimed with the expectations of customers. In the 1960s the company was sold to William Perry Ltd, a subsidiary of John Harvey of Bristol who needed licensed premises. And that was the story of Gapp’s.

But before we go, a picture from 1956, back at the Fulham Road branch with a special promotion for Schweppe’s.

Gapp's store 177 Fulham Road May 1956 Schweppe's window

Not so much of the hard sell. Just a suggestion.

Gapp's Christmas List 1937 - Copy


My thanks to Mr Richard Browne.

On an unrelated matter I have to say goodbye to an old friend, but not a person.


This Epson scanner was here at Kensington  when I was still at Chelsea. It has served through a number of digitisation projects and since I got my hands on it it has scanned hundreds, if not thousands of images. It would not be going too far to say it taught me about the wonders of scanning details close up. It was also responsible for most of the images on this blog and introduced the world to the street photography of Edward Linley Sambourne among many other historical images. It has even survived a minor flood. It couldn’t however survive the march of progress. A way was found to make it work with Windows 7 but it was going to be very unlikely for us to find a driver for it which would work with Windows 10 when we go over to that later this year, so when the computer it was attached to expired its time had come. We’re currently using a smaller but snazzier scanner to keep the work going. But thank you to a venerable piece of kit.

I refer you to the Grandaddy song “I’m on standby”.

6 responses to “Gapp’s Stores: a retail empire – 1950

  • Thomas Tompion

    Hello, I went into the Gapps store in the Earls Court Road many times in the early 1950’s. It had those air pressured tubes they put all their payments and bills in. They crisscrossed the entire store.

    Best wishes

    Peter Harris

    Peter Harris Kempsford Gardens Residents Association Email: thomas.tompion@gmail On 14 Jul 2016 1:02 a.m., “The Library Time Machine” wrote:

    > Dave Walker posted: “Now that we’re able to do new scanning properly again > I wanted to show you a recent addition to our collection donated by a > gentleman who used to work for a chain of grocer’s shops in west London > called Gapp’s Stores. Gapp’s began in 1869 at a shop in th” >

  • Elizabeth Thompson

    I am the grand-daughter of one of the founders of Gapp’s Stores, R. H. Gapp – and am delighted that you have scanned in these photos and made them available. They were, for many years, hanging on the wall of the Gapp’s head office in Lillie road. When the grocery business ended, the company continued trading as Gapp’s Properties Ltd. I had presumed these wonderful photos to be lost lost when the company (Gapps Properties Ltd) was sold.I gave photos of my grandfather if you want to add them to the archive.
    Best wishes,
    Liz Thompson

    • Dave Walker

      Great to hear from a family member. We were really pleased to get the donation (there were 23 photos altogether, and some related papers). I would be happy to add more to this collection if you would like to offer us original pictures or let us scan them.

  • Steve Arnold

    Try VueScan – it works with nearly every scanner I have thrown at it, and you can download a trial version to test. I am using Epson and Fujitsu scanners that were last officially supported in WinXP!

  • Pauline L

    Great to find a photo of Gapp’s at Lillie Road, Fulham. My grandfather, Harry Gillard, worked there for many years. I grew up in Fulham and remember this shop, though don’t ever remember going inside.

  • Anna Culwick

    Hello from Anna, Roland Gapp’s granddaughter,

    only just found out these photos were up on the internet, thanks to my daughter………who’d been researching Gapp’s stores.

    Rolands own children left London, fleeing to America and Cornwall.
    I myself have fled to France where I now live with my daughters…..

    What a wonderful snapshot of the past.. My grandfather believed in personal customer service, he really couldn’t imagine the dreadful self service supermarkets ‘taking off’ !!!!

    How much we have lost ……in the name of progress.

    Thankyou for this wonderful reminder of our family heritage……

    Kind Regards Anna Culwick

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