Robert Sayle

Robert Sayle was a department store located in Cambridge.

A row of 4- and 5-storey terraced buildings, with their ground floors boarded up. The buildings at the centre of the photo have stone facades; the others have brick. Workers are digging up the road along the frontage of the buildings.
The former Robert Sayle building being modified to create the Grand Arcade


Robert Sayle was born in Southery, Norfolk in 1816. His father was a farmer; however, Robert did not continue in his father's footsteps and moved to London to learn the drapery trade with well known firms, such as Hitchcock, Williams & Co who were based near St Paul's Cathedral.[1]

In 1840, he returned to Cambridge and with assistance from his father he set a drapery business located in Victoria House, 12 St Andrew's Street. The business sold Irish Linens, Sheeting, Hosiery, Haberdashery, Furs, Shawls, Handkerchiefs, Ribbons and Fancy Goods. The store was cutting edge for its time, as plate glass windows had been added to the store front to display the shop's goods.[1]

The business continued to grow purchasing the shops along St Andrew's Street and by 1888 the store had grown up to no. 17.[2] However, Robert Sayle died of a heart attack in 1883, and the business continued to be run as a private business by partners, Joseph Clark, Arthur Edward Chaplin and Hugh Porter who greatly expanded the departments.[3]

The business continued to operate as an independent business until 1934, when Selfridges purchased the business.[3] However, five years later Selfridges sold off its provincial stores and Robert Sayle was bought by the John Lewis Partnership. They also acquired Thompsons of Peterborough from Selfridges, which was rebranded under the Robert Sayle name in 1941. The Peterborough store was destroyed by fire in 1956 and not re-opened.[4]

The store continued to trade at St Andrew's Street under the Robert Sayle name until 2004, when the store was moved to a temporary location in Burleigh Street. This was to facilitate the demolition of the St Andrew's Street store to make way for the Grand Arcade shopping centre. The Grand Arcade opened in November 2007, with the anchor store being the new John Lewis Cambridge. The partners at Robert Sayle had voted to drop the old name and start afresh with the John Lewis name.


  1. ^ a b "Robert Sayle - Mill Road Cemetery". Archived from the original on 3 November 2014. Retrieved 20 November 2014.
  2. ^ "Trumpington Local Personalities: Robert Sayle". Retrieved 20 November 2014.
  3. ^ a b "A Thoroughly Decent Crowd Just our Sort - Cambridge News p.April 2004 - Robert Sayle Memory Store". Retrieved 20 November 2014.
  4. ^ "Robert Sayle, Peterborough - Trewins Memory Store". Retrieved 20 November 2014.

Coordinates: 52°12′15″N 0°07′22″E / 52.20422°N 0.12266°E / 52.20422; 0.12266