4 Balfour Road, Ilford, Essex IG1 4JH
The Ilford store was a relatively new one in the history of Woolworths stores – but the address has a fascinating history. Originally it was the Ilford Super Cinema which opened on 14th October 1922. In WW2, Ilford suffered the most German V2 rocket hits and the cinema was one of the casualties in 1945 – the building had to be boarded up.
In 1959 – 14 years later – the cinema was demolished and a C&A built in it’s place – a pretty eye-catching C&A building too.
Then when all the C&As closed down in 2000, Woolworths took on the lease of 6 of them – Chester, Metro Gateshead, Wood Green, Derby, Slough and of course Ilford.
The building, together with its illuminated Woolworths signs, always caught my eye whenever we drove through Ilford to get to my cousin Rori’s house. As a young local, she was quite distraught when C&A closed and threw a tantrum in the new Woolworths store… so C&A had it’s fans too. Here is a photo she took:
Ex-Woolworths employee and local Kerry Phillips reminisces, “I worked there for a couple of Christmases and always remember lots of people frantically shopping for last minute sweets and chocolates. The year Leona Lewis won X Factor I remember that song got to number one and it was played in store all day! “
She also remembers buying a CD on it’s last weekend of trading and how upbeat everyone was being. The Ilford store closed on 2nd January 2009.
In October 2009, a Wilkinson’s opened in it’s place. So although this is not a traditional Woolworths building, it is an iconic one and will probably stay a part of Ilford for many years to come.
Actually, here is an architect’s impression of Ilford after the proposed ‘urban realm scheme’ – it looks like they want Wilko’s gone and a cinema or something movie-themed in it’s place, I’m guessing in homage to the original Ilford Super Cinema.