Memories : Southampton, 1977

Southampton 1977

It’s 26 July 1977, and the Sainsbury’s petrol station at Lord’s Hill Southampton celebrates its opening day by offering discounted petrol. And for drivers in the middle of tough economic times, any kind of break is a good one – back then, petrol prices were rising rapidly, with unhappy drivers needing to pay almost 75p a gallon for four-star. Before you wonder at how cheap that is, the average salary was £6400 per year and a house there would cost around £12,000. Those numbers would continue to rise painfully until well into the 1980s.

We’re reminded of the warmth of the day by the fact everyone’s windows are open, even though the clouds are overhead – perhaps we were all more social then. Certainly the fair citizens of Southampton would have been creating an intoxicating mixture of smells and sounds – the Austin Maxi’s warm E-Series engine throbbing away at idle wafting the sweet scent of four-star from its exhaust, while the late Austin 1300‘s A-Series emits a rather more oily odour.

The mix of cars is reassuringly ‘British’, with the row alongside resplendent of a Ford Escort Mk1, Ford Cortina MkIII estate, Jaguar Mk2, Vauxhall Victor FC 101 and Viva HC. A truly stolid line-up. The Riley Kestrel and Renault 16 further beyond offer some light relief, but other than that, it would appear that Southampton’s Sainsbury’s customers were far from exciting in their car choices. But wait – look ahead of the Austin 1300, and there’s a Rolls-Royce Silver Shadow. Pity the poor driver – to fill that bad boy from empty, it’ll set him back £16.50 from empty. Ouch!

What were they listening to?

Brotherhood of Man

In the UK Top 40 singles charts, the number one song we were all bopping along to was the awesome I Feel Love by Donna Summer, which was just strong enough to hold off Ma Baker by Boney M and the amazing Fanfare For the Common Man by Emmerson, Lake and Palmer. All good stuff, yes, but they were paled into insignificance by Brotherhood of Man (above), the British Leyland of the pop scene, with a Pound Shop version of Abba’s Fernando. Remember Angelo, anyone?

Me, I was still in mourning. Back on 7 May, the 22nd Eurovision Song Contest had been held in London as the previous year’s winner, yes, Brotherhood of Man with Save All Your Kisses for Me. There was the very good chance that Lynsey de Paul and Mike Moran’s Rock Bottom was going to take the spoils. Certainly, it was the bookies’ favourite as well as mine. But, as the scores were read out by Angela Rippon, hearts were broken as the contest was won by Marie Myriam’s forgettable L’oiseau et l’enfant. We were robbed!

Judge for yourself…

Thanks to: The Sainsbury Archive

Keith Adams


  1. Like punk had never happened as the Top 20 was dominated by such non punks as the acts mentioned above. For most people, even teenagers, it was business as usual in 1977 as people continued to buy music by non punk acts in huge numbers and flares, wide lapels and long hair on men remained popular. Apparently you had to be very brave to admit to buying God Save The Queen by The Sex Pistols as Silver Jubilee fervour started to kick in.

  2. Now, it seems fuel was not more expensive (in terms of average income) than today. Adjusted to todays average salary (GBP 30500) that would be 3.57 Pounds per Gallon – so around 80p per Litre… Housing is a different matter – a dream of being able to buy a sensible place to live for about 2 annual salaries… So actually – fuel WAS cheaper back in the day, as were houses.

  3. I think 75 pence a gallon in 1977 works out at £ 4.25 a gallon in today’s money, where a gallon now is around £ 5. Yes cheaper in real terms, but cars typically averaged 30 mpg in 1977, compared with over 40 now, so cars were more expensive to run.

      • Of course, you didn’t have the monster SUVs then, but even most of these would be very economical by the standards of the seventies as most are either diesel or hybrid. Certainly cars that do less than 30 mpg are quite rare now, whereas in 1977 most family cars and bigger engined versions of smaller cars would typicallly average 30 mog, and 40 mpg was classed as exceptional in 1977.

  4. If only average house prices were still only about double the average salary, or average salary was half current average house price.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.


This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.