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!