Memories : Sainsbury’s, Bath, 1982


It’s September 1982 and Sainsbury’s shoppers were being treated to a shiny new place to leave their cars in. This was the recently-opened parking area located in the interior of a re-purposed railway shed in the former Green Park Station in Bath. The train shed and station building were restored in 1982 as part of Sainsbury’s development of a new supermarket on an adjacent site.

Although we were well into the 1980s by this time, the grit and grime of the 1970s still lingered on like an unloved season. The music charts at the time were an interesting mix of the upbeat and dystopian, but if you tuned into the Top 40 show on 19 September, you’d no doubt have been disappointed by the fact that Survivor’s Eye of The Tiger staggered on in the number one position for yet another week. The film it came from, Rocky III, had been a massive cinema hit – even today I remember watching it, and being slightly scared by how much foot stomping the audience was doing as Rocky Balboa did his best to hammer Clubber Lang on to the floor.

The Top 10 was about to change – The Jam’s Bitterest Pill (I’ve Ever Had to Swallow) was flying up the charts, while David Christie’s appalling Saddle Up was was climbing, too, riding on the Jam’s coat tails. Other big names blessing the charts were Duran Duran with Save a Prayer, ABC with All of My Heart and Dire Strait’s Private Investigations, which would go on to become the background tune to BT’s privatisation advertising a couple of years’ hence.

In the news, things weren’t good in the UK – unemployment topped out at 14% as Margaret Thatcher told us that if it wasn’t hurting, it wasn’t working. Meanwhile, the Government’s policy of privatisation of strategic industry was beginning to gain momentum as the Chancellor of the Exchequer, Nigel Lawson, announced that no industry should remain in state ownership unless there is an ‘overwhelming’ case. Within a few short years, British Telecom, British Gas and Jaguar had moved into the private sector, with many more to follow.

On TV, we were all still getting used to the arrival of new ITV regional stations, which had come into being in January 1982. ATV had been replaced by Central, with Southern and Westward being replaced by TVS and TSW. We still had three channels, BBC1, BBC2 and ITV – Channel 4 and S4C were on their way, but if you tuned in at the time, you’d have been greeted by a test card.

But what about the cars?

This was a good time for those who wanted the game to move on. September 1982 saw the arrival of the Audi 100, Citroën BX, Ford Sierra and Opel Corsa. In short, with the arrival of these cars, came the 1980s after a false start. In the car park, the fine burghers of Bath demonstrated great taste – the Vauxhall Astra 1.6 SR looked pretty good, and very new on its shiny Y-plate, while on the left of the picture the Renault 6 and 12 are sad reminders of a time when La Regie was one of the largest importers into the UK. Today, it’s a much smaller player here.

Other beauties include a Triumph Dolomite, near the Renaults, which demonstrated perfectly the rising tideline of black underseal that so many owners used to apply in order to keep terminal rust at bay. Next to it is a post-facelift Vauxhall Chevette with flush headlights and, just beyond that, are a Triumph Herald and Peugeot 504, which must have seemed terribly dated in the early 1980s. Nearest the camera are another Vauxhall Chevette, the inevitable Ford Cortina Estate, Morris Marina and Volvo 345. Finally, take a closer look, and you’ll find a Simca 1100, Peugeot 104, shovel-nosed Vauxhall Carlton Mk1, and way off in the distance a lovely, early Vauxhall Cavalier Coupe (Mk1) or Opel Manta to our European readers, resplendent with faux-Rostyle wheels and out-of-place tow bar.

If I’ve missed anything significant in this haven of 1980s loveliness, please do comment below – I’d love to hear from you!

Thanks to: Sainsbury Archive

Keith Adams


  1. Thanks for great descriptions of the cars Keith. The MK1 Cavalier Coupe in particular will always be one of my favourites.

  2. Is that a Renault 9, just in front of the Transit? it can’t be an 11 because that came out in 1983

  3. Strange how “Margaret Thatcher told us that if it wasn’t hurting, it wasn’t working.” was seen as negative, but “no pain no gain” is still the mantra of the get fit brigade. Get fit for what? Surviving the virus?

    As a Bournemouth-based railway enthusiast, I’m pleased to see the Green Park station train shed was re-used (re-purposed – yuk!). The station was built by the Midland Railway, and also used by the Somerset & Dorset. There is a marvellous arch-roofed train shed in Manchester that is now an exhibition hall. Preserving the past by finding new uses for old buildings should be done more than it is. Too often so-called developers destroy what should be kept for future generations to enjoy.

  4. I lived in Bath at that time and recall the renovation of the station, it started late 1979. Between it’s closure in 1966 and 1979 it was used as a car park, with all the engine sheds and bonded warehouses still in place, in it’s day it was quite a complex. They were demolished to make way for the new car park and Homebase on the other side of the river. Sainsburys store and this car park are still accessed over the one of the old iron Somerset and Dorset Railway bridges crossing the River Avon.

    I passed my driving test in March 1982 and used to frequently park my ex Southern Electric Mini 1000 Van (resprayed in Pageant Blue) in this car park, but sadly I can’t see it in this picture.

    I always wanted an Astra 1.6SR had to later make do with a 1.2E booted poverty spec version Astra Mk1.

  5. Most of the cars are painted in pastel colours and there are very few silver, dark grey and black cars. In 2019, apparently dark grey was the most popular colour for cars. Things have certainly changed.

    • Yes, colour trends have changed over the years but some of the 1970’s & 80s colours seen here still appeal to me. I’ve had a grey MG ZS and a black Focus but probably not again… I still recall the orange and bright green Cortina MKIII’s from the mid 70’s, as well as those bronze & purple versions

      • I remember some of the colours popular in the 1970s were hard to see on new cars by the mid 1980s, certainly true of yellow, orange, beige & brown.

        In the 1990s colours seemed to get very loud & metallic paint was a lot more common after a couple of decades of it being mostly used on the expensive models.

  6. Not sure that is a pug 104 next to the Carlton, looks more like a fiat – bonnet is too long. I wonder what state the mk1 green escorts at the front of the pic was in, my old man’s olympic blue one rusted away. Is that a blue merc behind the bike?

  7. I always liked the shovel nosed Carlton, the last big Vauxhall to be made at Luton. It always looked the part and would have done better if it had more than one trim level, but overall was a decent car and the Opel engines made it a refined and powerful car.

    • If you go on Vauxpedia, he has recently updated the Carlton/Royale development story with some new pics. The development nose could have looked so much better!

      • In many ways Vauxpedia is a great site with fascinating material, but it’s a nightmare to navigate around and find anything. I‘ve often gone there trying to find and read something, but I’ve come away frustrated and annoyed at its layout and (lack of) functionality.

        So near yet so far.

  8. @ daveh, I think the shovel nose looked quite distinctive and was made to look like this to differentiate it from the Opel Rekord, which it was based on. Along with the Chevette, this was the last Vauxhall that wasn’t identical to an Opel.
    The 1982 Carlton was merely an Opel with another badge and made in Germany only, but a wider range of engines and trim levels ensured sales were higher and it became a popular executive car in the mid eighties.

  9. I was interested that Keith thought the Peugeot 504 must have felt very dated by 1982. My late wife had one from 1973 to about 1980 ( 504Ti) and in my view it was one of the very best French cars ever produced , quiet, refined, fast enough and with an exceptional ride and very good handling . Although it had first appeared in 1968, it was a car which felt timeless, and I think that even today it would impress in terms of refinement

    • I have to agree. Our family Doctor had one back in the early 80s, before he replaced it with an S-Class. Remember being very impressed as a kid how nice it was. You would not have thought it was a design from the 60s at the time (My nan had a Mk1 Cortina at the time)

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