The founders: Mary Ann Sainsbury

Mary Ann Staples, also known as Polly, was born on 30th June 1849 at 4 Little Charles Street, St Pancras.

Her father, Benjamin Staples, was originally a woodcarver and then a ‘carman’ (who drove a horse and cart), but in 1863 he opened a small dairy shop at 87 Chalton Street, Somers Town, Euston. Mary Ann and her two younger brothers probably helped out in this shop and the business developed into a small chain of around six branches. Many of these later became Sainsbury’s branches.

When Mary Ann married John James she was working in the dairy shop of a family friend, Tom Haile, at 32 Strutton Ground, Victoria - the same street as George Gillett’s shop, where John James worked.

Mary Ann ran their shop at 173 Drury Lane by herself for the first few weeks it was open, while her husband continued to work at Gillett’s. She worked in their shops until the 1880s, by which time the company’s success allowed her to remain at the family’s new villa in Highgate. However, she accompanied John James on inspections of the shops almost until her death in 1927.

Find out more about Mary Ann Sainsbury

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