8-10 High Street, Romford, Essex RM1 1HT
Woolworths opened in Romford in 1929. It was originally a small store on the High Street, pictured below in the centre, left.
I think they took over the building to the left and then demolished both to rebuild a larger store. Jacqueline Anne Cottham was the section manager for Toys & Kids Clothing in 1987 – 1989. Margaret Gosling worked there for a few years and she says there was a great team there. But Matt Gilbert worked there for about six months as an Assistant Manager, and he says it was the only store he hated working in 😢. I think many of us look back at Woolies with rose-tinted glasses, but the reality is that it wasn’t all sunshine and roses.
My personal memory of Romford Woolworths is (I think) when I was working in Marketing at HO in the 2000s, this was the store we set up Christmas POS as a test before rolling out nationwide. I’m sure it was Romford, though my memory may be wrong. It was one of those long nights.
After Woolworths closed down in December 2008, the Romford unit became a Poundworld. But they have since gone bust also.
40 – 41 High Street, Chelmsford, Essex CM1 1DF
Woolworths opened in the Essex town of Chelmsford in 1929. In the late 20s when Woolworths was rapidly expanding, the chain had started to take over old hotels. In Chelmsford they took over the site of the King’s Head Hotel, a building which had been in the High Street since the 15th Century. The building was demolished and the standard single storey Woolworths store was built in its place.
The new store was soon extended to the right.
Source: Essex Record Office
Chelmsford residents fully embraced the new large store, believing the building improved the overall look of the High Street. You can see it below on the right of the photo, which shows the High Street junction with Springfield Road.
Source: Essex Record Office
During the World War II, the store was hit. Wooden counters caught fire, but luckily there were staff inside to put the flames out, and the store reopened soon after.
In the 1960s, the store expanded, having obtained 6 units on Springfield Road, so that it became a large L-shaped corner store.
Source: Flickr, Sarah
In 1987, there was a conversion to a Focus store with the more familiar logo we all remember. This is how the inside looked:
Source: Flickr, Sarah
Chelmsford Woolworths closed on Friday 2nd January 2009.
(From my Facebook group)
Source: Flickr, Mathews T.
In 2010 Barclays Bank moved to the High Street side. The Entertainer and Lakeland moved into the Springfield Road side.
23 – 25 East Street, Barking, Essex
Woolworths opened in Barking in 1928. It was on East Street, and for once it wasn’t a purpose built store. I can’t find any photos of the store from the old days, but it lasted right until the end in December 2008. Paula Robery worked at the store and she reminisces, “I did many jobs around the store – pic n mix, cards, working on the tills and the final one was working on the entertainment counter. I had many laughs and still miss it.”
After it closed, the unit became a Sam 99p Store which it still is today.
Source: Diamond Geezer
57 High Street, Grays, Essex RM17 6NJ
Woolworths opened in Grays, Essex, in 1927. It was on the High Street, very close to the railway station. Below are some photos of the store over the decades.
Source: Francis Frith
In the 2000s it was converted to a general store with a new store number of 2022.
After closure in 2008, it became a Thurrock Health Centre – something different for a former Woolworths.
108 Hamlet Court Rd, Westcliff-on-Sea, Essex SS0 7LP
Woolworths opened in Westcliff-on-Sea in 1927. Westcliff-on-Sea is a suburb of Southend, so it was very close to Store 33, but the difference what that this area was more wealthy. Hamlet Court Road was known as the Bond Street of Essex up until the 1980s.
The store was not purpose built, opening in an existing building. The shops on Hamlet Court Road almost look like houses. From this 1971 photo, the store certainly looks tidy though the window. And an interesting fascia.
Source: Historic England
This Woolworths closed in January 1989. Today it is an Indian Restaurant that has kept the front as it was. Just look at the doors and the tiles – it’s brilliant. If you ever go for dinner at The Shagor in Westcliff-on-Sea, now you know you’ll be eating in an old Woolworths.
43-45 Pier Avenue, Clacton-on-Sea, Essex CO15 1QG
Woolworths opened in the seaside town of Clacton-on-Sea in Essex in 1925. It looks like it was a purpose-built single-storey store with an upper floor – perhaps the stockroom.
I can’t find any photos of the store from the old days, or indeed any photos of the store when it was open! But we do know the main entrance was on Pier Avenue, and a second entrance was on West Avenue.
Source: White R.
This is the West Avenue side.
The store lasted until the end, when the chain went bust in December 2008. It became a 99p store, but they then got taken over by Poundland, which it still is today.. This store is also Pep&Co, their discount clothing brand.
If you are ever in Clacton-on-Sea, take a look above Poundland and admire the Woolies architecture.
48-50 High Street, Colchester, Essex CO1 1DL
Woolworths opened their fortieth store in Colchester in September 1914. They partnered with Burtons to share the building.
Burtons insisted on having their name on the roof line as the top floor was a Burtons Billiards Hall – to encourage young men to stay out of pubs and play here, and hopefully shop in the store downstairs.
Source: Woolworth’s 100 Years on the High Street, Morrison K.
In 1935 Woolworths bought out Burton’s share of the freehold and took over the whole building.
The branch was modernised in the 1960s, which you can see on the left here – typical 60s design, I can imagine it was blue aluminium squares.
Then it burnt down in a very serious fire in 1973 – there is a story about who started the fire here – don’t know if it is true or not. The store has to be built from scratch. It spent some time further along the street in temporary premises, which oddly enough burnt down a few years later.
This was one of the first stores to be sold-off by Kingfisher in 1984. In the late 1990s, Woolworths returned to Colchester in a new and iconic Store 1202 in Culver Square.
Today, this building is split into 3 units – Brighthouse, Paddy Power and Santander. Not a very exciting building in terms of architecture, but next time you walk past these units in Colchester High Street, at least you now know they were a Woolworths.
Source: KLM Retail
29/35 High Street, Southend-on-Sea SS1 1HR
TJ Hughes opened in the building in August 2010 after a £1million refurbishment, but unfortunately they also went into adminstration and closed just one year later.
In 2012 H&M announced they would takeover the store, making a total of 3 H&M stores in Southend! It’s trading well and certainly looks good on the high street. Southend council have also locally listed the building, ensuring we keep a bit of Woolworths history on Southend High Street 🙂
118-122 High Road, Ilford, Essex IG1 1BY
The nineteenth Woolworths opened in Ilford in 1912, in a prime location next to the town hall. There are no photos of it when it first opened.
In 1938, the store was updated to have a simple Art Deco look. You can see it in the below photo – the large white building at the back.
Source: Francis Frith
Here is a close-up photo from the 1970s.
Source: Ilford in Pictures FB group
The store closed 29th January 1983, along with four other Woolworths stores across the country that day.
Today the building is occupied by Superdrug, Dorothy Perkin and Burton – so if you are visiting these shops on Ilford High Road, look up and see the Art Deco splendour of Woolworths past.
Source: Green & Partners
You can read about the newer Ilford Woolworths store 1241 here
101 High Street, Billericay, Essex CM12 9AW
Woolworths opened in Billericay in 1955/1956. They took over the site of the Telephone Exchange on the High Street, which had been on this spot from 1929 – 1952. The Telephone Exchange was demolished and Woolworths built the store in the below photo. It opened at a time when Self Service was just being introduced to the High Street – you can see the sign above the doorway in the centre.
Here is a lovely memory of Billericay Woolworths in the 1950s:
“And there is Woolworths which when it arrived meant we had become a modern town. I can smell the newness of it still. It was our first experience of a self-service store with bright lights and wooden floors and low counters. Later I got my first Saturday job there earning the princely sum of 12s and 9d for the whole day. Mostly I remember my brother and I selecting a birthday gift there for mother with great love. We chose a pink plaster poodle standing appealingly on its hind legs, its collar studded with diamonds. We did not see its tawdriness just its cuteness and picking up a box paid for it and hurried home only to find the box was empty. It had taken us so long to save that shilling and we rushed back the two miles so distressed we were hardly able to speak, but the supervisor, Miss Lamb, was compassion personified and mother got her birthday present after all.” Aileen Wortley, Billericayhistory.org.uk
The store traded here for over 50 years until it closed for good on 2nd January 2009.
Source: Tim@SW2008, Flickr
An Iceland opened in it’s place quite soon after.
Source: Flickr, Ballysundriven
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.
246-250 High Street, Dovercourt, Essex CO12 3PA
Woolworths opened in the small Essex seaside town of Dovercourt in 1934.
Known as the ‘3d 7 6d store’, the frontage increased by one half in 1937.
Source: Through the Shop Window – http://www.harwichanddovercourt.co.uk/shop-window/