Logging the North East’s long-closed former Woolies

Former Linthorpe Road Woolworths, Middlesbrough. Photograph by Graham Soult

Former Linthorpe Road Woolworths, Middlesbrough

Last week’s blog post about the long-closed former Woolworths in Benwell seems to have opened the floodgates to lots of comments and insights about other nearly-forgotten Woolies in the North East – many thanks indeed for all your contributions!

While Seamaster reminisced about the old Woolies in Seaham – closed in the 1980s – TAS was able to confirm that the long-departed store in Crook was, indeed, in the building that now houses Boots. Meanwhile, Peter shared his memories of buying film brochures from the former Byker Woolies in Shields Road (another ’80s casualty), while John from Gateshead alerted me, via Twitter, to a former Woolworths in Felling that I never knew existed – another one to add to the visiting list!

Former Woolworths (now Decorflair), Shields Road, Byker. Photograph by Graham Soult

Former Woolworths (now Decorflair), Shields Road, Byker

Given this present flurry of archive delving, I figured it might be a good moment to recap the known locations of old Woolworths stores in the North East. First, here are the 33 Woolworths that kept going until the bitter end, and only closed down in December 2008 and January 2009 following Woolworths’ administration:

  • Alnwick (#822)
  • Ashington (#229)
  • Barnard Castle (#534)
  • Berwick-upon-Tweed (#232)
  • Billingham (#820)
  • Bishop Auckland (#116)
  • Blyth (#544)
  • Byker (Newcastle Shopping Park) (#1256)
  • Chester-le-Street (#267)
  • Consett (#388)
  • Darlington (#28)
  • Durham (#321)
  • Gateshead (#154)
  • Gosforth (#716)
  • Hartlepool (#322)
  • Hexham (#931)
  • Houghton-le-Spring (#488)
  • Jarrow (#434)
  • MetroCentre (#1238)
  • Middlesbrough (#1200)
  • Morpeth (#439)
  • Newcastle upon Tyne (Clayton Street) (#340)
  • Newton Aycliffe (#1007)
  • North Shields (#426)
  • Peterlee (#987)
  • Redcar (#275)
  • South Shields (#104)
  • Spennymoor (#278)
  • Stanley (#873)
  • Stockton-on-Tees (Castlegate) (#336)
  • Stockton-on-Tees (Portrack Lane) (#1232)
  • Wallsend (#351)
  • Whitley Bay (#277)

Photographs and links to previous blog posts about those stores are given on the ‘Old Woolies’ page.

Next, these are the 16 19 North East stores, that I know of, that had closed down prior to Woolworths’ administration. As far as I’m aware, these are all stores that closed down years ago (i.e. the 1980s or earlier), with the exception of the Middlesbrough Music & Video shop (which reportedly shut in the early 1990s), and of course the large Sunderland store that only bit the dust in 2004:

  • Benwell (#905)
  • Blaydon
  • Byker (63 Shields Road) [EDIT: Store # (276) sourced, 29 Oct 2010] 
  • Crook
  • Felling
  • Killingworth (Woolco)
  • Linthorpe Village
  • Longbenton [EDIT: Added to list, 21 Jun 2010]
  • Middlesbrough (Linthorpe Road) (#8)
  • Middlesbrough (Music & Video, Hillstreet)
  • New Washington (#1014) [EDIT: Added to list, 3 Jun 2010]
  • Newcastle upon Tyne (Northumberland Street) (#27)
  • North Kenton [EDIT: Added to list, 28 Jul 2010]
  • Pennywell, Sunderland (#817)
  • Seaham
  • Stockton-on-Tees (High Street)
  • Sunderland (Fawcett Street) (#144)
  • Thornaby (Woolco)
  • Washington Galleries (Woolco) (#2007)
Former Woolworths (now Primark), Sunderland. Photograph by Graham Soult

Former Woolworths (now Primark), Sunderland

Former Woolworths, Benwell. Photograph by Graham Soult

Former Woolworths, Benwell

In both the lists above, I’ve included the store numbers in brackets where I have them. Within the Woolworths business, these numbers provided each store with a unique identifier, and are repeatedly used in old editions of The New Bond, when referring to particular branches. They were still in use right until the end, however, as highlighted in this useful 2007 PDF.

Stores seem to have kept the same number throughout their lifetimes – South Shields, for example, is referred to as store number 104 in the 2007 list, just as it was in an issue of The New Bond from fifty years earlier.

As far as I am aware, the store numbers also correspond to the order in which those shops were opened – hence the original UK Woolworths in Liverpool being #1; new stores mentioned in the February 1956 edition of The New Bond ranging from #913 (Kingsbridge) to #921 (Warminster); and the most recent Big W sites (such as Byker) having store numbers in the 1200s.

Where a store was rebuilt or relocated – Stockton-on-Tees’ #336, for example – it seems to have kept its original number; however, a new store opening up in a town that had had a Woolworths in the past (such as Middlesbrough), seems to have been allocated a new number (hence the modern Hillstreet branch being #1200, rather than taking over the former #8).

I’d be interested to know if there’s a complete list of store numbers these out there; I certainly haven’t come across one as yet, though it is possible to find the number for many stores by searching or browsing at Woolworths Reunited and 100thBirthday.co.uk.

Equally, if you know of any old Woolies in the North East that are missing from the list above, please add a comment below. I very much doubt that the list is comprehensive, and suspect that there may well be further examples, similar to Stockton, where an earlier store was replaced by a new one elsewhere in the same town.

6 Responses to “Logging the North East’s long-closed former Woolies”

  1. Soult's Retail View» Blog Archive » Six former Woolies in and around London said:

    Jun 02, 10 at 09:25

    [...] for its renumbering to store number 2031 (for an explanation of Woolworths store numbers, check out this post from a couple of days [...]

  2. Soult's Retail View» Blog Archive » From Stanley to Spennymoor – another gallery of North East former Woolies stores said:

    Jun 04, 10 at 00:19

    [...] the ever-expanding list of stores that closed down in previous years – currently standing at 17, of which 7 have been photographed – means that I’ll [...]

  3. Soult's Retail View» Blog Archive » Ten minutes in Billingham town centre said:

    Jul 22, 10 at 23:28

    [...] Teesside had been one of only three former North East Woolworths – out of the 33 that closed following its 2008 administration – that I hadn’t yet visited. Finding myself down that [...]

  4. Brian Robson said:

    Nov 20, 10 at 13:42

    I’m pretty sure there was a small music and video/pick and mix shop in the Metro Centre when it first opened. From fuzzy memory, I think this was in the red mall, about where Clarks and the 3 store are now. Same format as the original Middlesbrough Hill Street store. Not sure exactly when this closed – probably early 90s, certainly long before the newer C&A store opened.

  5. Graham Soult said:

    Nov 20, 10 at 15:23

    Thanks Brian – that doesn’t surprise me at all! I remember there also being one at Meadowhall when I was living in Sheffield in the mid 1990s.

    We just need to find someone with an old mall guide, to pinpoint its location for sure!

  6. Soult's Retail View » The old Woolies store that’s gone for a Burton said:

    Jan 16, 11 at 23:10

    [...] date seems spot on, but I’m not convinced by the supposed mid-1990s closure. As I’ve mentioned before, the transfer of the original Woolworths store number (147) to the Coopers Square branch would only [...]

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