Tag Archives: fire

Manchester Piccadilly – Store 4

19-35 Piccadilly, Manchester M1 1LP

The fourth Woolworths store opened on Oldham Street in Manchester. It was the first store to open so close to a Marks and Spencer Penny Bazaar, and there ended up being a friendly rivalry between the two stores, with customers flocking to both.

Manchester Oldham Street Woolworths 1910

Manchester Oldham Street Woolworths 1910

Source: Woolworths Museum

The large two floor store became a training ground for future managers. In 1927 the store was moved to an iconic purpose-built building on the corner of Piccadilly, built of Portland Stone, that was to be the largest store in Europe.

Manchester Piccadilly Woolworths 1937

Manchester Piccadilly Woolworths 1937

Source: Wade, R.

1950s

Manchester Piccadilly Woolworths 1955

Manchester Piccadilly Woolworths 1955

Source: O’Brie, T.

Manchester Piccadilly Woolworths 1956

Manchester Piccadilly Woolworths 1956

Source: Pinterest

1970s

Manchester Piccadilly Woolworths 1970s

Manchester Piccadilly Woolworths 1970s

Source: Our Manchester

The Manchester Piccadilly store is one of the more famous stores for a devastatingly sad reason.  A deadly fire took hold of the store on the 8th May 1979, that killed 9 shoppers and one member of staff.  Windows on the upper floors had bars over them, people were trapped and firefighters lost time having to cut through the bars. The cause of the fire was from polyeurathane sofas, a new style of budget seating. The investigation concluded that their fabric had been set on fire, perhaps by a discarded cigarette or faulty electrical wires. It had smouldered until the flames reached the foam filling. This was highly inflammable and had burnt at 700oC, releasing a deadly cyanide gas. A single breath had been enough to kill.

The fire resulted in the routine installation of sprinkler systems and changes in the material used in soft furnishings. I don’t want to share any photos of the fire as it’s really sad to look at, but there are many photos online and you can read more about it here.

Manchester Piccadilly Woolworths 1970s

Manchester Piccadilly Woolworths mid-70s

Source: Pinterest

The store was re-opened after the fire but closed in 1986. It was an amusement arcade for many years until recently when it was renovated to become a Travelodge, Morrisons, Zizzi and Nandos.

Manchester Piccadilly former Woolworths now Travelodge 2014

Manchester Piccadilly former Woolworths – Travelodge 2014

Source: Hamid, T.

 

 

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Bognor Regis – Store 344

18-20 London Road, Bognor Regis, West Sussex PO21 1QA

Woolworths opened in the seaside town of Bognor Regis in 1928. I have found an undated postcard below of London Road and it looks as though the tall building in the centre, left side, is the F.W.Woolworth store.

Bognor Regis Woolworths London Road

Bognor Regis Woolworths London Road – Undated

Source: Gravelroots

The store had a 1950s makeover, but then in 1974 the store was set on fire when there was an IRA bomb. Woolworths would not be beaten and just 65 hours later the store reopened.

Bognor Regis Woolworths 1974 fire

Bognor Regis Woolworths 1974 fire

Source: Bognor Regis Museum

There’s not much info on the store, apart from its closure in December 2008.

Bognor Regis Woolworths 2009

Bognor Regis Woolworths 2009

Source: Flickr, Mark

Wilkos now occupy the building, and you can clearly recognise it as the upper facade is exactly the same – a bit of Woolies architecture still on the London Road.

Wilko Bognor Regis 2010

Wilko Bognor Regis 2010

Source: Flickr, ballysundriven