63 Victoria Street, Paignton, Devon TQ4 5ED
On 22nd July 1932, Woolworths opened in Paignton, ‘the family resort of picturesque Torbay’ as the town is described on vintage railway posters. This was 12 years after the neighbouring Torquay branch opened. Paignton Woolies opened on the former Dellers Hotel site next to the level crossing at Paignton Station, with the Gerston Hotel on its right.
After 30 years, the store had a makeover in 1966 to make it a huge superstore, featuring a cafe and deli upstairs complete with barstools and a big drinks machine!
Below is the store in 1977 (in the background), looking the same as the 1966 photo but in colour.
Here is the store in 1998, with the more familiar Woolworths frontage.
Here is the store just before it closed on 30th December 2008. It left a big hole in Paignton, with the building laying empty for nearly a year.
Then on Saturday 12th December 2009, the 99p store had a grand opening – the Paignton 99p Store was the 123rd UK 99p Store and the 52nd ex-Woolworths store to be re-opened by the company. That’s a lot of 99p stores.(Source: http://www.exeterexpressandecho.co.uk) The upstairs became a Sports Direct. I read on a forum how some locals were disappointed that they got a 99p store whereas neighbouring Torquay got an H&M in their ex-Woolies building!
Now when we went to Paignton last week, the building was under scaffolding! Still I took the above photo to replicate the one from 1977 so you can see the before and after. Below is what it looks like under the scaffolding.
52/53 Cornmarket Street, Oxford OX1 3HW
A Woolies in Oxford I hear you say? Yes there was, a long time ago. It first opened at 8 Cornmarket Street in May 1925 in the former Roebuck Inn. It was so popular that they had to find bigger premises. Below is the store in 1930, with H Samuel next door.
It has now been a Boots for decades – they were next door and expanded into the ex-Woolworths premises.
A bit of drama happened when bosses found a suitable building to move to and bought the Clarenden Hotel in 1930 (which had been in Oxford since the 1600s). They planned to demolish it and battled for years with the Oxford Authorities to get approval. It all had to go on hold while the war took place, but it was back on in 1950. Many designs were turned down.
“Publicly they cited fears that such a large shop would encourage more traffic in a highly congested area. Privately they let slip that they felt that a larger Woolworth would lower the tone and would be ill-suited to the dreaming spires.” Quote from the Woolworths Museum
Scottish architect Sir William Holford took over, with a mission to create a ‘Woolworths Worthy of Oxford’. After 27 years (!) what finally got approved was a huge new store with the front made of local Clipson Stone, Bladon Stone and Grey Slate. It had bright new displays with new ranges next to the old faithfuls, as well as a deluxe cafeteria, offices upstairs, a spectacular roof garden and a multi-storey car park. Pretty extravagant for a Woolies. Here is an original ad for the opening day on 18th October 1957:
Below are customers taking a sneak peek through the windows of the new store before it opened.
And here is the building with it’s Clipson Stone, Bladon Stone and Grey Slate:
Source (above 2 photos): http://www.woolworthsmuseum.co.uk/1950s-hugeq.htm
Now after all that hard work getting this store built, it closed down. It was only open for 26 years – it took longer than that to get building approval. When Kingfisher took the company over, they closed the store in 1983 – locals were shocked. There was never a Woolworths in Oxford ever again, the nearest one being in Cowley.
Today the building is the Clarendon Shopping Centre and Gap, very nice and shiny inside too. And Woolworths lives on with it’s ornate ‘W’ inscription at the right entrance.
64/66 Above Bar Street, Southampton SO9 5UD
Woolworths opened a branch on Above Bar Street on 7th February 1923, alongside the original Southampton Woolies on East Street (Store 24) which opened in 1913. This newer one was a larger store.
Former resident Margaret House remembers this store, “From memory, the original Woolies there was a long narrow shop, one storey, with a sloping floor. Had a cafe area at the far end of the shop where Mum would treat me to a Horlicks drink. That would have been late 40s early fifties.” Source: Southampton Memories: People and Places Facebook Group
Unfortunately this building got destroyed in the Blitz and had to be rebuilt. “The branch had re-opened in stages from 1949 until 1954. The final wave saw the opening of an upper salesfloor, with a customer restaurant and a large new clothing department. Garments were displayed hanging on the walls. The shopfit included new spotlighting to give extra prominence to the feature. For the first time customers were invited to select for themselves from the displays rather than asking an assistant for help. The product selection included a number of garments costing between twenty and forty shillings (£1 to £2).”
Below shows how the new building looked:
Ex-Woolworths employee Ganesh Jillah who worked at Southampton from 1997-1999 says, “I remember when Titanic was released on video in October ’98. We were all working a late shift, and we had on Titanic t-shirts. The store was open as a special event from 9pm ’til 11pm on the Sunday, or maybe it was 8 ’til 12. There was a big queue of people outside the store all along the street! We had an orchestra playing like they had in the Titanic.” I asked him why Southampton in particular. He said it was because the Titanic had sailed from Southampton.
The store closed in September 2007 to the shock of many locals and employees, after the landlord offered them loads of money to end the lease 10 years early. TK Maxx and the Card Factory took it’s place. The canopies have gone but you can still see the same windows from the 1960s photo.
Woolworths bosses then decided to open a new store in nearby Bitterne, in October 2008 (even though there was already a closed store in this area – store 1005, 401/403 Bitterne Road). Well this new one ended up being the last new store to be opened before the chain collapsed.