We have a proud history dating back to 1878,
when a man named Robert Thorburn and his wife Ellen
set up a stall in Carlisle’s Greenmarket selling pots and pans.
They also developed a recipe for potted meats
and when that proved a hit, a Cumbrian institution was born.
The following are just some of the highlights of our
history over the last 140 years.

Robert Thorburn establishes his first butcher’s stall
in Carlisle’s new Open Market, subsequently opening
his first shop in nearby Ashley Street. The business expands
by opening a new shop in the city’s Fisher Street.

Robert and Ellen’s daughter, Effie, meets and marries
a young apprentice grocer called Herbert Jenkins.
Following Robert’s death in 1910, Herbert and Effie
take over the running of the family business.
The business becomes known as Pioneer Meat and
Provisions Stores.

As Pioneer continues to thrive, Herbert and Effie’s
son Thomas Robert – known as Bob – becomes the
third generation to work in the business.

1939 - 45
During the war years, Bob plays an important
part in the nationwide rationing scheme.

Bob’s son Andrew and daughter Mary join the business.
Meanwhile Pioneer is split into three divisions –
retail, wholesale and catering – and changes its name
to Pioneer Food Distributors (Carlisle).

Andrew Jenkins becomes managing director, while Bob
assumes the role of company chairman, and soon after
Pioneer moves to new headquarters at Rosehill Industrial Estate.

The Jenkins dynasty continues as Andrew’s sons,
Graham and David, join the company. Meanwhile a
cash-and-carry and dry goods warehouse is opened
at Rosehill.

In 1999 Pioneer celebrates 25 years at
Rosehill by opening a depot in Gateshead.

Pioneer launches its renowned Lakeland Beef brand.
Graham becomes managing director, David is
appointed sales director, and their father Andrew
becomes chairman.

The historic shop in Fisher Street is refurbished
and with annual sales over £40m, Pioneer undergoes
a major re-brand. The company unveils plans to
develop a modern, new foodstore at Rosehill which
will open during its 140th year of trading.