61/64 Broad Street, Reading RG1 2AJ
Woolworths originally opened at 51 Broad Street, Reading in the Spring of 1922, which is where H&M is today. Some pretty fantastic vintage photos of the Reading store have been put up on www.reading-forum.co.uk by markjuk. (http://www.reading-forum.co.uk/forum/viewtopic.php?t=5709&p=51409)
The store was expanded to have entrances in Broad Street, Friar Street, Union Street and West Street, often used as a shortcut by shoppers to get from Friar Street to Broad Street. It sounds like it was MASSIVE, I can’t even imagine!
According to the Wargrave Local History Society, “Woolworths had moved to their present position in 1939, having earlier been nearer Union Street, although for a period in the late 80’s it was a shopping mall, then becoming Woolworths again.” Source: http://www.wargravehistory.org.uk/nov98.html
Now this shopping mall concept sounds interesting. According to 100thbirthday.co.uk, it was originally a prototype for a new large store format called ‘Jupiter’, but they decided on ‘The Woolworth Mall’, piloting Ladybird clothing, the ‘Le Cafe’ restaurant, as well as opticians, show repair and estate agent concessions and selling large kitchen appliances! The mall used yellow and grey colours rather than the traditional red and white, although not for long as the concept was dropped quickly in favour of getting rid of huge city centre stores.
“The site was closed for redevelopment in 1989, closing on 17th June. When the development was complete Woolworths moved into a small store in part of its original footprint, which opened on the company’s 85th birthday, 5th November 1992 (Store 1180).” Extract from 100thbirthday.co.uk (Source: http://www.100thbirthday.co.uk/images/StoreGallery/pages/0111Reading-1950.htm)
When I took these photos, I did notice how new the building looked – definitely not an original. The Reading Forum clarified this – Markjuk recalls “that a fire in the early 90s caused by squatters who in habited the derelict building, set fire to it causing extensive damage to the old Broad Street entrance prompting it to be demolished a few months later. Rather than save this art deco architecture, it was demolished and replaced with a bog standard brick building of no significance.” (Source: http://www.reading-forum.co.uk/forum/viewtopic.php?t=5709&p=51409)
And today it is a shiny new Clas Ohlson, selling pretty much what Woolies used to sell. I do like their pastel coloured straws 🙂