Sunderland’s old Woolies – a survivor almost to the end

Former Woolworths (now Primark), Sunderland (21 Nov 2009). Photograph by Graham Soult

Former Woolworths (now Primark), Sunderland (21 Nov 2009)

In an earlier post, I talked about some of the large, city centre Woolworths stores – such as the branches on Newcastle’s Northumberland Street and Sheffield’s Haymarket – that were closed down in the 1980s as the retailer trimmed its ranges and focused on generally smaller shops.  

However, one flagship Woolies that lasted rather longer than most is the one in Sunderland’s Fawcett Street, which opened in 1923 and only closed in 2004, after the company received an offer for the lease, from Primark, that it reportedly “could not refuse”.[broken link removed]

The closure of that store meant that the only Woolworths left within Sunderland’s boundaries was the one at Houghton-le-Spring, which shut down along with all the others following Woolies’ administration at the end of 2008.

Former Woolworths in Houghton-le-Spring (11 Sep 2009). Photograph by Graham Soult

Former Woolworths in Houghton-le-Spring (11 Sep 2009)

Before that, there apparently used to be a Woolworths store, of sorts, at Washington Galleries. This closed in the 1980s, but was a Woolco shop – a Woolworths-owned out-of-town, discount department store and supermarket – rather than a Woolies proper.

While I’m old enough to remember the Woolco name, I can’t recall ever going to one of the stores. From what I can gather, there were only ever 14 UK Woolcos opened – many in New Towns, and including two other North East stores in Killingworth and Thornaby – all of which were sold off to Dee Corporation (Gateway) or Asda by 1988.

I understand that Asda stores still occupy the former Woolco sites at both Washington and Thornaby, while Killingworth’s was eventually demolished and replaced by the Killingworth Shopping Centre. Photos of old UK Woolcos (as opposed to the US chain) seem quite hard to come by – I’d be delighted to post some on this blog if anyone has any that they would care to share!

4 Responses to “Sunderland’s old Woolies – a survivor almost to the end”

  1. Soult's Retail View» Blog Archive » Logging the North East’s long-closed former Woolies said:

    Jun 02, 10 at 15:30

    [...] Middlesbrough Music & Video shop (which reportedly shut in the early 1990s), and of course the large Sunderland store that only bit the dust in [...]

  2. Soult's Retail View» Blog Archive » The ghosts of Washington’s former Woolworths said:

    Jun 22, 10 at 01:22

    [...] in February, I blogged about the former Woolworths store in Sunderland’s Fawcett Street, which closed in 2004 following its acquisition by [...]

  3. Jonathan Carling said:

    Jan 07, 11 at 21:33

    Woolco in The Galleries was a prestige store – possibly the flagship for the whole mall when it opened in the ’70s.

  4. Soult's Retail View » Felling and North Kenton – two more long-closed Tyneside Woolies said:

    May 03, 11 at 20:22

    [...] in County Durham, as well as the Wearside branches at New Washington (#1014, closed in 1984) and Sunderland (#144, closed [...]


Leave a Reply