Photo gallery: more former Woolies around the UK (part 3 – North East)
First up is the former store in Newcastle’s Clayton Street. The 1930s building has always been something of an architectural oddity in its location, with most of the rest of the street consisting of Richard Grainger buildings from about 1837.
The property, which is currently being advertised as ‘to let’, is pretty large – over 16,000 sq ft on the ground floor, with the same again on the first floor. In recent years the Woolworths store occupied only the ground floor, but I’d be curious to know whether Woolies ever had the first floor open to the public too. Perhaps there’s a reader out there who knows the answer?
To be honest, it’s difficult to see a store of this size, in this location, being re-let any time soon. This end of Clayton Street is very much a secondary pitch in Newcastle city centre (with some rather unprepossessing neighbours), and is therefore unlikely to suit the limited number of large retailers, such as Peacocks, that are not currently represented in the centre of Newcastle.
Possibly a more likely scenario is to see the building redeveloped as part of the planned demolition and rebuilding of the Newgate Shopping Centre, slated for 2011-12, into which the old Woolies had a (latterly unused) side entrance.
The Clayton Street shop was one of three Woolworths stores that existed within the Newcastle city boundaries until the chain’s collapse last year. One of those other stores was the Newcastle Shopping Park branch, in Byker – a slightly unusual case in that it displays no visible sign of ever being a Woolies, in contrast to most still-empty Woolworths that retain their familiar red signage.
This lack of evidence for where Woolworths actually was has already caused some confusion on the web, with Ballysundriven on Flickr (who has built up an astonishing collection of 349 old Woolies pics that puts mine to shame), and, in turn, Retail Week, mistakenly identifying the new B&M Home Store as being in the old Woolies premises. In fact, as the (very old) mall map confirms, B&M is in the unit that used to be Au Naturale, prior to its 2008 administration; meanwhile, the vast 95,000 sq ft former Woolworths unit next door remains resolutely empty.
Just to prove it really was a Woolworths, take a look at this picture of it, at the time of closure, on the Newcastle upon Tyne Daily Photo blog, or some shots here after it had just opened. Amusingly, while Woolworths’ own signage may have been taken down, its presence hasn’t been erased from Newcastle Shopping Park entirely:
Only opened in 2004, the Byker store undoubtedly has a much shorter history than most of those Woolies branches that closed down a year ago; to be honest, though, the store was a bit of a white elephant from the beginning.
When Woolworths originally signed up to anchor the Newcastle Shopping Park scheme, its store was expected to be a Big W – the large, out-of-town format that Woolworths adopted in the late 1990s. However, the Big W format had already been abandoned by the time the Byker store was ready to open, so it was merely branded as Woolworths – albeit a very large one. Evidently it proved too large, given that Woolworths later brought in Peacocks to share some of the space.
Newcastle’s third and final Woolworths was the one in Gosforth High Street, which has seemingly been let to The Co-operative Food. When I revisited Gosforth last weekend, there looked to be hoardings up around the front of the store, with refurbishment work presumably underway.
Finally, another North East Woolworths that has had more happen to it since my photograph is the branch in Consett, County Durham.
Empty at the time of my visit, I understand that the store is now going to become a branch of the weekly payment store, BrightHouse.[broken link removed]
For now – until I go travelling again - that’s all the photos I’ve got of recently-closed Woolworths. However, I’ve a couple of photographic variations left over for forthcoming blog posts, including one old North East Woolworths that shut down in 2004, and another that I think is an old Woolworths that closed down many years ago… See if you can work out which locations I’m referring to!