Aylesbury Woolworths – Store 470

27-29 High Street, Aylesbury, Bucks HP20 1SH

Woolworths opened in Aylesbury in 1932 in a small purpose-built store. It had the classic Woolworths architecture, with tinted windows upstairs so the stockroom would not be visible.

Aylesbury Woolworths 1932
Aylesbury Woolworths 1932

Source: Heritage Calling

The store was very successful so it was extended to both sides to create a much larger store. Former store manager Richard Northover has kindly sent in the below two photos and his memories of the 1960s managers.

“These two gentlemen were the Manager and Deputy manager of the original Aylesbury store which last time i was there was still WHSmith…
Mr K.E. Pessell known as ‘Ken’, an old friend of my father Dennis when he first became a store manager in the fifties, and who retired in the 70s . Another gentleman of the old school who I met several times as a boy and finally years later when I was Store Manager of Aylesbury, when he made himself known to me while visiting Aylesbury with another retired manager – a friend of Dad’s called Mr A.W. Hunt known as ‘Arthur ‘. They were delighted to find the son of their old mate was the Store Manager.”
Aylesbury Woolworths Store Manager
Aylesbury Woolworths Store Manager
“The Deputy Manager Mr D.Cullen, ‘Dave’ became a great friend of mine when i was appointed manager of 297 Maesteg in ’83, and he was Store Manager of 604 Morriston, a suburb of Swansea. A great picture of him with a full head of hair which he didn’t have in the 80s”
Aylesbury Woolworths Store Manager
Aylesbury Woolworths Store Manager

In 1969 Woolworths relocated to Friars Square, the brand new development of that time. The High Street store building still exists today and it is WHSmith.

Aylesbury Former Woolworths
Aylesbury Former Woolworths

Source: Post Office Near Me

35 Friars Square, Aylesbury, Bucks

Richard tells us more about the new store.

“Woolies as you know relocated in 1969 to a ‘monster ‘ three floor store in the new Friars Square open shopping centre, which was one of the biggest in the country along with 186 Wolverhampton. The argument was always who was the biggest and the joke always was it came down to inches…… the argument was never resolved. The store was adjacent to the bus station.”

Aylesbury Woolworths 1970s
Aylesbury Woolworths 1970s

Source: Buckingham and Winslow Advertiser

“I became the store manager at Easter ’92 taking over from Mr. R. Bond ‘Roy’, a gentleman and a scholar who became a regular drinking buddy of mine and took over my old store 922 Bicester. Roy had closed his previous big store a few years earlier at 288 Birmingham New Street, so I’m not quite sure why I was drafted in to run this store until closure and then open the new 1176 Aylesbury – tiny in comparison to the great 470. More of that when you get to 1176…”

Aylesbury Woolworths 1970s restaurant
Aylesbury Woolworths 1970s restaurant

Source: Pinterest

“When Roy and I were doing the handover he took me down into the boiler room down a huge steel staircase where before me were 3 very huge boilers for winter and a small boiler for hot water for summer. It was like after seeing the films going into the boiler room of the RMS Titanic. You half expected to see men shovelling coal into these huge boilers.”

Aylesbury Woolworths 1970s
Aylesbury Woolworths 1970s

Source: Bucks Herald

“470 was a monster, not just on the salesfloors but also behind the scenes. Two huge stockrooms, several big food prep rooms for deli/butchery etc… and a staff locker room with 200 – yes 200! – full length staff lockers. When Roy first took over the store he had
a management team across all depts of up to 16-20 people. Those were the days when a store manager was still a store manager and not an overpaid shelf filler with store keys.”

Aylesbury Woolworths 1983
Aylesbury Woolworths 1983

Source: Aylesbury Remembered

“470 closed at the end of September ’92 after me enjoying six great months in this huge store. I eventually got one of the biggest stores left in the company when I took over 123 Coventry in ’97 after ironically running 2 stores in Birmingham at 525 Solihull and
1172 Birmingham city centre 800 yards from the old Birmingham New Street store of which Roy Bond had been manager.”

Friars Square became an enclosed shopping centre in 1992 with the old 470 becoming a huge anchor store for the centre that was firstly Beatties and then House of Fraser. Sadly Aylesbury as a shopping centre was the town most affected by the growth of nearby Milton Keynes and was already on the horizon when the monster 470 opened in 1969 so at 23 years had a short shelf life sadly. You would question I think why it was ever built..

Like a lot of Woolworth property but especially all the big stores 470 became a Kingfisher casualty when the all the properties ownership was move to Chartwell Land and a ‘market rent’ was applied to every freehold store. This was further impacted in the big stores by the removal of foodhalls, then toiletries and health and beauty depts, also furniture/electricals – making these big stores huge lossmakers and ripe for sale to release money to the Kingfisher coffers.

First the groundfloor/basement was let to the local council and became the town library. The upper floor with cafe became an Electronic World – a version of Comet so we could put electricals back in. Eventually this closed and the salesfloor was boarded off just leaving the cafe with the escalator still running…how expensive.”

And indeed as you can see in this photo, Aylesbury library is on the ground floor and Beatties (now House of Fraser) above.

Aylesbury Former Woolworths
Aylesbury Former Woolworths

After 470 closed in 1992, the new store was at 18-20 Friars Square with a new store number of 1176. This is now River Island and Peacocks. I will cover this in a future post.

Thank you Richard Northover for sharing your memories of Store 470.

 

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