22/36 Church Street, Liverpool L1 3AY
The first ever Woolworths store in the UK was opened on Church Street in Liverpool on the 5th November 1909. Liverpool was chosen due to it’s location, being a seaport and due to the fact it had an electric railway – in fact the next stores to open went along the railway track.
This postcard is from the online Woolworths Museum and you can read more about the first store here. It used to be the entrance to the Tatler Cinema, and if you look on Google, you can find photos of the cinema where you can see the same windows. The store had three floors and was always packed with customers, with famously long queues. But there was no way to extend the store. They closed the store and built a new one. Today the old store is now Clarks.
Source: Graham Soult, Soult’s Retail View
A huge new flagship store was built on 22 -36 Church Street (see above photo from the Woolworths Museum, building in the centre). It came out that Harrods were in talks to demolish a church and replace it with a department store, but they pulled out. That’s when Woolworths stepped in. The new flagship Woolworths store opened on 4th August 1923, and you can read more about that here.
Source: Chriscarma, Flickr
The store closed in the 1980s, and you can see in it’s glory from this amazing photo taken by Chriscarma on Flickr – such beautiful architecture. And below is a photo from the day it closed on 4th June 1983.
Source: Mayer, P.
And today the building still exists – it is Topshop, L’Occitane and the entrance to Liverpool One – a shopping arcade linking to Peter’s Lane.
Source: Liverpool Echo
Next time you are shopping in Liverpool and you walk past Clarks or walk into Liverpool One, look up and see a part of Woolworths history.
51/67 Linthorpe Road, Middlesbrough, Teeside TS1 5BT
The eighth Woolworths branch to open in the UK was at Middlesbrough, back in 1911. According to the 1913 Kelly’s Directory of North and East Ridings of Yorkshire, it originally opened at 91-93 Linthorpe Road, but then moved to bigger premises at 51 -67 in 1926 (pictured below).
Middlesbrough was bombed quite severely in WWII and Woolworths was hit. The store was rebuilt throughout the 1950s, reopening with a more modern look in 1959.
It traded for another 20 years before closing down in the 1980s when Kingfisher took over.
The building was split into 3 units and occupied by Currys, Champion and Fosters in the 1980s.
Today the building is now occupied by USC and River Island – the closed down unit was Currys.digital until recently. You can see from the below photo how imposing a building it was. It would have been quite a large Woolworths store.
In the 2000s, Woolworths returned to Middlesbrough as store 1200, which I’ll cover in a separate post.
62-64 Bridge Street, Peterborough, Cambridgeshire PE1 1DX
Woolworths opened on Bridge Street in Peterborough in December 1915, and amazingly there are two photos of the store from this time, the first being this one:
And this one, although this photo shows the ‘3d and 6d’ placed before the F.W.Woolworth on the fascia:
They extended in 1931, and added a restaurant in 1935, which you can see here (the lighter coloured buliding on the left side of the road). There was a small shop called Dunn & Co on it’s right, and the City Cinema was next to it (that’s the building with the dome) – this later was demolished and M&S was built here.
You can see it more clearly here in this 1949 photo:
Between 1969 and 1972, they had a major 60s-style makeover, reconstructing around the original shell. Interesting use of the logo in yellow. Some say this was the ugliest building in Bridge Street!
This newspaper ad is from 1982:
Source: Peterborough in Pictures
I love this 80s photos, doesn’t the Woolworth sign look massive?!
In 1988, 1991 and 1993, the store was reduced in size. Half of the building was let out to other stores, and more recently it has been shared with New Look.
Source: ballysundriven, Flickr
Here is it shortly before it closed in 2008:
Source: Williams G M, Flickr
After 2 years vacant, TK Maxx took over the space in Spring 2011. Here it is, where you can see how large the buliding is, and how it must have been a huge Woolworths in the 1970s. And how those trees, which must been planted when the street was pedestrianised in the 80s, have really grown!
Source: Williams G M, Flickr
10/14 Princes Street, Edinburgh EH2 2AW
In 1925, Woolworths built their Scottish flagship store on the busy and bustling Princes Street, opening its doors in March 1926. It was the second store in Edinburgh after the first one in Leith, but this one was much grander.
Source: ifo Apple Store
Here is it in 1933. Its location next to the Royal British Hotel and Palace Cinema, and opposite the infamous Waverley Steps made it a national landmark.
In 1956 they expanded into the cinema next door, demolishing it and extending their external facade and adding a floor in the roof. The F.W.Woolworth fascia was updated to extend the whole way across.
Here it is in the 1980s shortly before closing, with it’s updated logo.
Source: The Scotsman
1984 they closed down when Kingfisher took over and closed most of their large Woolworth stores. A Wimpy soon opened in its place, here it is in 1986.
Source: Lost Edinburgh Facebook Group
In the 1990s the Wimpy became a Burger King. Here is the parade of shops in 2009, with Boots, Evans and Waterstones.
Source: Beth’s Blogging (design) Blog
All the shops left and the building was empty for a number of years. Then in 2011, Apple started a $20 million reconstruction of the whole building, with the insides totally changed but keeping the grand exterior facade as it was – as fortunately this is a listed building.
This is a photo taken by my brother in March 2015 – we can see it is an Apple Store and a Barclays, and the Royal British Hotel is still there. The Apple branding is very subtle, and the interior is completely open – quite different from it’s Woolworths day, yet the exterior is keeping its heritage. Good work Apple.
27/31 London Road, Brighton, Sussex BN1 4LE
Woolworths opened their second store in Brighton on 29th October 1927 at 1-2 London Road, on the corner of Cheapside. This branch was nearer to the two railway stations, whereas Store 73 was closer to the seafront.
On 8th June 1934, the store was extended, it looks like into the roof, and possibly to the rear.
Source: Brighton and Hove City Council
In 1965 Woolworths left the premises at 1-2 London Road. Sainsbury’s, who were next door at No.3, took it over to become a larger self-service supermarket at 1-4. What I find interesting it that with all the alterations, they kept the 3 little roof windows in the style of the original Woolworths store. They traded here until 28th February 2007.
Source: Pipes, Alan (Fred)
More recently Aldi started trading from here, from 19th March 2009.
Source: Pipes, Alan (Fred)
In 1965 Woolworths relocated up the road to 27-31, a larger Art Deco building (a former department store called Roslings) with 3 floors. From the below photo it looks as though Woolworths bought the shop next door as well as Roslings, and then recreated the Art Deco front on the other side.
Woolworths traded at 27 -31 from 28th May 1965. In the basement they sold haberdashery, paint, gardening, household, DIY and toys. The ground floor sold food, soap powder, confectionery, records, butchery and deli produce and there was a long tea bar at the back of the store. Upstairs was the staff canteen with separate seating area for men and women. Some workers say there was a lady ghost wearing the uniform of Roslings. (Source: Clarkson, Paul – Working at Woolworths in the 1970s)
Source: Mould, Tony
The store was re-modernised in the 1980s, and then there was an arson fire in the basement in 1987 – so they had to close temporarily. The basement was never reopened, with the stairs covered up with a large display.
Woolworths London Road closed on 30th December 2008. 99p Stores took over the premises and opened nearly a year later on 19th November 2009. Here it is – would look really good if they re-painted the Art Deco front, it is looking rather grubby!
105/107 The Bull Ring Centre, Birmingham B5 4QN
Originally, Woolworths opened in Birmingham City Centre on Spiceal Street in 1921, 6 years before the nearby New Street branch opened.
Source: Woolworths Museum
It was hugely successful in this location – sales were amongst the highest in the country in the 1930s – so they doubled it in size, with the addition of a large restaurant, and then made further enhancements in the 1950s. You can see below how it is over 2 stores.
Source: Nicklin, Phyllis http://epapers.bham.ac.uk/263/
Major changes were to come in the 1960s – “Woolworths own construction department worked closely with town planners and Taylor Woodrow to devise a massive redevelopment scheme for the City Centre. By releasing land owned by Woolworths they traded both for cash and a brand new store in a new shopping precinct to be known as the Bull Ring Centre. Half of the original Bullring store was demolished to allow for development, with a new ultra-modern Woolies built in its place. Woolworths then swapped into the new site allowing the rest of the old store to be redeveloped.” Source: 100thbirthday,co.uk
I have included the below photo so you can see the location of the St Martin church – this is how we can work out what is in the same location today. This is in 1962 when the new Bull Ring Centre store is being contructed with the old store next door still trading.
The Bull Ring Centre was opened by the Duke of Edinburgh in May 1964. Linked by escalators and stairs, with 23 acres of space, air-conditioning, valet parking and tropical plants(!), it was the biggest indoor shopping centre in Europe, with the largest Woolworths in Europe. Watch this video for a nostalgic insight into the building: Bull Ring Opening Video
Below is a photo from 1966, showing the ultra-modern new flagship Woolworths. It was the superstore of its time, with modernised ranges and shop-fittings, featuring a large foodhall, an extended clothing range, plus a top floor cafe where they had a ‘never seen before’ iced water machine.
Source: Dowling, Geoff
Unfortunately, just 20 years later, in 1983 the store closed for business, when the board decided to sell larger stores to release capital – “The Bull Ring store was one of the first to be disposed by Kingfisher in 1983 to another developer planning to raise the whole site to the ground and replace it with something architecturally significant.” (Source: 100thbirthday,co.uk) There wasn’t a Woolies in the City Centre until the 1990s when they re-opened in the Pallasades Shopping Centre.
Some forums say Mark One traded from this building in the 1990s, but this was on the other side of the ramp – so I am presuming it lay empty for decades, before the Bull Ring Centre was demolished in 2000. The new Bullring shopping centre was then built, opening in September 2003.
Source: Wilde, Brett
Below is a photo from 2007 after the new shopping centre was opened with the new Selfridges chain-mail building in the foreground. Behind the church is Borders which looks as though this was where the original Woolworths building would have been. Borders have since closed down.
Source: Warrins, Gavin
In 2011, the Bullring was extended to have a new ‘Spiceal Street’ centre with restaurants (see below). So I would say this corner is where the Bull Ring Woolworths once stood.
122/126 Union Street, Torquay, Devon TQ2 4QB
Torquay Woolworths first opened in Union Street on 7th February 1920, extending in 1931. The neighbouring Paignton branch opened in 1932. Below is an image of colleagues preparing for their town carnival entry in 1928. Most Woolworths stores entered a float in their local procession, winning many gold medals (Source: woolworthsmuseum.co.uk)
Here is the store in the early 1960s, prior to their move up the street.
In 1964, they relocated to larger purpose-built premises at 21-25 Union Street, reopening on 11th June. (Source: 100thbirthday.co.uk) Argos took over the old building.
21/25 Union Street, Torquay, Devon TQ2 1ER
Here is the new store in 1968, 4 years after it re-opened. This photo was taken during the annual parade of the Torquay Hotels Association.
Here it is in 1988, interestingly with the more elegant F.W Woolworth fascia rather than the modern red and white Woolworth fascia that most stores had converted to in the 70s.
Source: Les Eddy, Flickr
After refurbishment in 1990, they reopened on 6th July. (Source: 100thbirthday.co.uk)
18 years later, Torquay Woolworths closed for good on 27th December 2008.
Source: Paul Anderson, Geograph
Over a year later, H&M moved into the building, opening on 25th February 2010 – almost exactly 90 years after the first Woolworths opened in Torquay – wow.
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.
61/64 Broad Street, Reading RG1 2AJ
Woolworths originally opened at 51 Broad Street, Reading in the Spring of 1922, which is where H&M is today. Some pretty fantastic vintage photos of the Reading store have been put up on www.reading-forum.co.uk by markjuk. (http://www.reading-forum.co.uk/forum/viewtopic.php?t=5709&p=51409)
The store was expanded to have entrances in Broad Street, Friar Street, Union Street and West Street, often used as a shortcut by shoppers to get from Friar Street to Broad Street. It sounds like it was MASSIVE, I can’t even imagine!
According to the Wargrave Local History Society, “Woolworths had moved to their present position in 1939, having earlier been nearer Union Street, although for a period in the late 80’s it was a shopping mall, then becoming Woolworths again.” Source: http://www.wargravehistory.org.uk/nov98.html
Now this shopping mall concept sounds interesting. According to 100thbirthday.co.uk, it was originally a prototype for a new large store format called ‘Jupiter’, but they decided on ‘The Woolworth Mall’, piloting Ladybird clothing, the ‘Le Cafe’ restaurant, as well as opticians, show repair and estate agent concessions and selling large kitchen appliances! The mall used yellow and grey colours rather than the traditional red and white, although not for long as the concept was dropped quickly in favour of getting rid of huge city centre stores.
“The site was closed for redevelopment in 1989, closing on 17th June. When the development was complete Woolworths moved into a small store in part of its original footprint, which opened on the company’s 85th birthday, 5th November 1992 (Store 1180).” Extract from 100thbirthday.co.uk (Source: http://www.100thbirthday.co.uk/images/StoreGallery/pages/0111Reading-1950.htm)
When I took these photos, I did notice how new the building looked – definitely not an original. The Reading Forum clarified this – Markjuk recalls “that a fire in the early 90s caused by squatters who in habited the derelict building, set fire to it causing extensive damage to the old Broad Street entrance prompting it to be demolished a few months later. Rather than save this art deco architecture, it was demolished and replaced with a bog standard brick building of no significance.” (Source: http://www.reading-forum.co.uk/forum/viewtopic.php?t=5709&p=51409)
And today it is a shiny new Clas Ohlson, selling pretty much what Woolies used to sell. I do like their pastel coloured straws 🙂