18-20 London Road, Bognor Regis, West Sussex PO21 1QA
Woolworths opened in the seaside town of Bognor Regis in 1928. I have found an undated postcard below of London Road and it looks as though the tall building in the centre, left side, is the F.W.Woolworth store.
The store had a 1950s makeover, but then in 1978 there was a terrible fire that started in the stockroom. It was the August Bank Holiday so it was a very busy shopping day. A fire started in the stockroom upstairs. It had possibly been smouldering for 20 minutes before the alarm was raised. One of the firefighters Mick recalls “”We went up into the stockroom with our breathing apparatus on. But we soon discovered that the fire had got such a good grip that part of the ceiling collapsed down into the store taking a lot of burning debris on to the shopfloor. That’s how the fire really got going.”
It became an inferno and the town’s biggest blaze, aerosols were going off in the shop because of the heat of the fire and the flames were coming through the windows. The store was gutted. [Extract from Bognor Regis Observer]
Source: Bognor Regis Museum
16 years later the store came into trouble again. In 1994 there was an IRA bomb explosion and 15 stores were damaged. Woolworths took the brunt of the explosive force. The store’s glass and metal facade was twisted and shattered by the impact of the detonation. But the company was determined to bounce back and show the bombers they could not disrupt the English way of life. Just 65 hours after the bomb went off, the store’s front doors were open for shoppers again. [Extract from Bognor Regis Observer]
After all that, the store that would not be beaten had to close when the chain went into administration in December 2008.
Source: Flickr, Mark
Wilkos now occupy the building, and you can clearly recognise it as the upper facade is exactly the same – a bit of Woolies architecture still on the London Road.
Source: Flickr, ballysundriven