103/104 New Street, Birmingham B2 4HG
Woolworths opened its second Birmingham store, after the Bull Ring, in New Street in July 1927. They traded from this side of the road for about 20 years, until there was serious bomb damage during WW2.
In 1956, the site of Birmingham’s Theatre Royal – which was located opposite the original New Street store – was sold to Woolworths. In the 1950s the Board was working with City Councils and development companies to transform inner city stores – in this case, they decided to build a skyscraper called ‘The Woolworth Building’. It was designed by Cotton, Ballard & Blow who built it in two parts – the first in 1958-61 for Woolworths, the second part for Jack Cotton & Partners. According to the Birmingham Pevsner Architectural Guide, it was “New Street’s architectural disaster… a shapeless mass of Portland Stone, mosaic cladding and green slate stepping up to ten storeys.” – a bit harsh 😛
Above is the ‘skyscraper’, which opened for business in 1961. The offices upstairs generated a substantial rental income for the company.
Below is a side angle of the store from the 1970s. Sadly when Kingfisher took over, they closed this store in 1983 along with the Bullring store. So for a while there were no Woolworths in Birmingham City Centre, until the 1990s when a store opened in the Pallasades Shopping Centre.
Source: Warrick, Mark
Today, the building is now named “Charters Building”. The building on it’s left is the surviving ‘Piccadilly Arcade’ section of the Theatre Royal. In the 1990s, there was a refurbishment of the offices, and the glass lift was added. The retail unit has been split into three and are occupied by Superdrug, Bella Italia and Boots. So if you’re ever having dinner at Bella Italia in Birmingham, just remember you are sitting in a quite historic ex-Woolworths!
809/813 Romford Road, London E12 6EA
Woolworths opened on Romford Road, Manor Park, in 1928. It was on the junction of Carlyle Road opposite Second Avenue. The store took over the premises of W.Laver, Weaver & Draper – here is a photo from 1915 before it became a Woolworths.
Thanks to former Manor Park resident Tony Quinlan, we have a beautiful 1962 photo of the building as a Woolworths. He reminisces, “I remember standing by my mum on the wooden floors that they had then, and not being tall enough to see what sweets she was buying me from the sweet counter! The girls behind each counter wore lovely uniforms.”
According to the Newham Story Forum, this building was occupied by House of Holland in the late 1960s, a shop that sold sun loungers and camping equipment. This means Woolworths left Romford Road quite soon after the above photo was taken. The 60s was when returns-per-store started falling. As there were 100 London Woolworth stores, I can guess this was one that they closed to consolidate – especially with the East Ham and Upton Park branches so close by.
Today the building is split into three, occupied by UAE Xchange, Top Hat Pizza and Ch Domestic Appliances – I took this photo from my car when I was stuck in traffic on the way to my good friend’s wedding 😛 I would never have guessed this was a Woolworths once upon a time. The trees have long gone, but if you compare it with the 1915 and 1960s photos, it is quite remarkable how the upper half of the building is unchanged, even the chimneys are still there.
Top 2 photos: Quinlan, Tony
Newham Story Forum