52/53 Cornmarket Street, Oxford OX1 3HW
A Woolies in Oxford I hear you say? Yes there was, a long time ago. It first opened at 8 Cornmarket Street in May 1925 in the former Roebuck Inn. It was so popular that they had to find bigger premises. Below is the store in 1930, with H Samuel next door.
It has now been a Boots for decades – they were next door and expanded into the ex-Woolworths premises.
A bit of drama happened when bosses found a suitable building to move to and bought the Clarenden Hotel in 1930 (which had been in Oxford since the 1600s). They planned to demolish it and battled for years with the Oxford Authorities to get approval. It all had to go on hold while the war took place, but it was back on in 1950. Many designs were turned down.
“Publicly they cited fears that such a large shop would encourage more traffic in a highly congested area. Privately they let slip that they felt that a larger Woolworth would lower the tone and would be ill-suited to the dreaming spires.” Quote from the Woolworths Museum
Scottish architect Sir William Holford took over, with a mission to create a ‘Woolworths Worthy of Oxford’. After 27 years (!) what finally got approved was a huge new store with the front made of local Clipson Stone, Bladon Stone and Grey Slate. It had bright new displays with new ranges next to the old faithfuls, as well as a deluxe cafeteria, offices upstairs, a spectacular roof garden and a multi-storey car park. Pretty extravagant for a Woolies. Here is an original ad for the opening day on 18th October 1957:
Below are customers taking a sneak peek through the windows of the new store before it opened.
And here is the building with it’s Clipson Stone, Bladon Stone and Grey Slate:
Source (above 2 photos): http://www.woolworthsmuseum.co.uk/1950s-hugeq.htm
Now after all that hard work getting this store built, it closed down. It was only open for 26 years – it took longer than that to get building approval. When Kingfisher took the company over, they closed the store in 1983 – locals were shocked. There was never a Woolworths in Oxford ever again, the nearest one being in Cowley.
Today the building is the Clarendon Shopping Centre and Gap, very nice and shiny inside too. And Woolworths lives on with it’s ornate ‘W’ inscription at the right entrance.
*Please note I originally wrote this post in 2014.*
7 High Street, Banbury, Oxfordshire
Woolworths opened on Banbury High Street in 1931, according to the Banbury Guardian. It was built on the site of the Red Lion Hotel, below on the left, which was demolished to make way for the new store.
Source: Francis Frith
Here you can see the Woolworths store on the right of the photo in the 1960s.
Source: Francis Frith
Here are some wonderful photos of the interior from a lady who spent 30 years of her life working for “The old Woolworths”, courtesy of EddFrostDaughters Ltd.
In the 1970s store list, the address is listed as 7a, so the store must have been halved, and the Woolworths store was kept open on the right side (that’s the Abbey National side in the below photo). Mothercare may well have been there since the 1970s, as their first stores opened in the 1960s. Woolworths closed on the High Street in the 1980s. So there was a period of time when Banbury had no Woolworths. Abbey National moved into 7a.
7a High Street today is Santander, and you can clearly see from the windows above that this was the Woolworths building.
Unit 51, Castle Quay Shopping Centre, Banbury, Oxfordshire OX16 8UP
The Castle Quay shopping centre was first built in 1977. In 1999, it underwent an £85 million redevelopment and this was when Woolworths moved in. It had a new store number 1203. It was the second store you saw as you walked inside, so a good position, and it backed on to the canal.
Source: Flickr, BRG2
The store closed in December 2008, and when I visited the town in September 2009, the Woolworths fascias were still up, but it was being converted into an H&M, so it must have opened soon after. I visited Banbury again last week, and this is how the former Woolworths looks today from the inside of the shopping centre.
9/11 Bell Street, Henley-on-Thames, Oxon RG9 2BA
Woolworths had been on Bell Street in Henley-on-Thames for over 80 years according to the Henley Standard, before it closed on Tuesday 30th December 2008. So I estimate it opened in the late 1920s.
Source: Baldock, James (used with permission)
Above is the store just before it closed (picture from my facebook group).
It is now a teeny tiny Sainsbury’s, a really busy one too. That’s me with the apples below 🙂