63 – 65 Cape Hill, Smethwick, Warley, West Midlands B66 4SF
Woolworths opened its 170th store in Smethwick, which is a town 4 miles west of Birmingham City Centre. It opened on Cape Hill and it looks like it was a small store from this photo.
The date is closure is unknown, but looking at the above photo, that might possibly be a red ‘Closing Down’ poster in the right window with the date Sat 28 Sept, and on the upper floor could that be a For Sale sign? Closure in the 1980s when Kingfisher took over is more than likely.
Today the building is occupied by TSB Bank.
95 Aston Road North, Birmingham B6 4DA
There are not many photos of the store. The Aston Hippodrome closed in the 1980s and became ‘The Drum’. We can guess the Woolworths store closed in the 1980s. Today it looks like this:
Source: Birmingham Post
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.
103/104 New Street, Birmingham B2 4HG
Woolworths opened its second Birmingham store, after the Bull Ring, in New Street in July 1927. They traded from this side of the road for about 20 years, until there was serious bomb damage during WW2.
In 1956, the site of Birmingham’s Theatre Royal – which was located opposite the original New Street store – was sold to Woolworths. In the 1950s the Board was working with City Councils and development companies to transform inner city stores – in this case, they decided to build a skyscraper called ‘The Woolworth Building’. It was designed by Cotton, Ballard & Blow who built it in two parts – the first in 1958-61 for Woolworths, the second part for Jack Cotton & Partners. According to the Birmingham Pevsner Architectural Guide, it was “New Street’s architectural disaster… a shapeless mass of Portland Stone, mosaic cladding and green slate stepping up to ten storeys.” – a bit harsh 😛
Above is the ‘skyscraper’, which opened for business in 1961. The offices upstairs generated a substantial rental income for the company.
Below is a side angle of the store from the 1970s. Sadly when Kingfisher took over, they closed this store in 1983 along with the Bullring store. So for a while there were no Woolworths in Birmingham City Centre, until the 1990s when a store opened in the Pallasades Shopping Centre.
Source: Warrick, Mark
Today, the building is now named “Charters Building”. The building on it’s left is the surviving ‘Piccadilly Arcade’ section of the Theatre Royal. In the 1990s, there was a refurbishment of the offices, and the glass lift was added. The retail unit has been split into three and are occupied by Superdrug, Bella Italia and Boots. So if you’re ever having dinner at Bella Italia in Birmingham, just remember you are sitting in a quite historic ex-Woolworths!
153-157 High Street, Erdington, Birmingham, West Midlands B23 6TP
Woolworths opened in the Birmingham suburb of Erdington on the 8th November 1930. The store was on a corner plot on the High Street and on Barnabas Road. It was extended 5 years later in 1935. Below is a photo from 1950. The ground level was the sales floor with wooden flooring, and upstairs was the cafe.
In 1956 the store was extended again, with further expansion in 1968. Below is a view from 1960, looking across the High Street to the corner of Barnabas Road.
In 1982 the store was fully refurbished with a large food department, but then 4 years later food was withdrawn. There was another refurbishment in 1993, and in the 2000s it became a 10/10 store.
I asked local girl Christine Kapak what her favourite memories were from Erdington Woolies, and she said “CDs man, CDs…” – I’m sure we all remember buying our teenage music from Woolworths. Here is a photo a month before it sadly closed in January 2009.
Source: Hughes R
Today the building is occupied by a rather brash B&M Bargains, but you can still recognise the architecture above as a Woolies store. In fact it looks as though they have kept the Woolies doors and windows too, just putting a new B&M fascia on the front.
1- 2 East Mews, The Pallasades, Birmingham B2 4XA
This store opened in the Pallasades Shopping Centre on 31st October 1991. It was the first time Woolworths had returned to Birmingham City Centre after the closure of the Bull Ring and New Street branches back in the 1980s. This photo is from my Facebook group, showing a great window display.
Here is the store just before it closed in December 2008.
Source: John M
Poundland traded from this spot for a few years, but it has now closed down as the whole shopping centre is being redeveloped into the shiny new ‘Grand Central Birmingham’.
Source: Soult, Graham
I wasn’t joking about it being shiny. Here is an artist’s impression of the development, which is due to open in September 2015:
Source: New Street : New Start
Source: The Midlands in Business
All pretty exciting, I may have to pay Birmingham a visit in September!