Over to you – your ex-Woolies pics from Warrington, Batley and Beverley
With Woolworths having occupied something like 1,400 UK sites over the years, the chances of any one person having the time (or inclination) to track them all down is pretty slim. So, I’m always pleased when friends and colleagues help me out by snapping the occasional ex-Woolies that they spot while out on their travels. Happily, the M62 corridor provides a convenient thread for linking together the latest three (otherwise fairly unconnected) submissions.
First up, Beth Anderson (from the excellent Newcastle upon Tyne Daily Photo blog) recently sent me some shots of the former Woolworths store in Warrington’s Sankey Street (store #22), which has already had two new occupants since Woolies’ demise.
The premises reopened in December 2009, to much fanfare, as the first in a planned chain of Asco-branded supermarkets, with the new venture’s bosses promising that Asco would offer a “real alternative” to the major grocers. Less than five months later, however, the business had “temporarily closed”, reportedly leaving both suppliers and staff out of pocket.
In May, the newspaper Crains Manchester Business – now itself sadly defunct – reported that Asco Stores Ltd had “been wound up following pressure from creditors”, after “five companies owed a total of £53,620 joined a petition against the company at Liverpool District Registry last week.”
The site has subsequently been taken over by Poundland, adding to the company’s ever-growing roster of former Woolworths locations. However, unlike many of Poundland’s other ex-Woolies sites – such as those in Scarborough, South Shields or Cannock – the rather beautiful and ornate property was not purpose-built for Woolies, but was constructed, as its datestone testifies, in 1861. The initials ‘RG’ stand for Robert Garnett, the Warrington cabinet maker and local benefactor who built the property as his showroom, and whose impressive but disused Cabinet Works also survive.
Heading east from Warrington along the M62 brings us to Batley in West Yorkshire, where Seamaster tweeted me this photo of the town’s ex-Woolies store (#472) in Commercial Street.
Pictured at Flickr in its former guise, the Woolworths store on the site closed on 2 January 2009, and is now a discount store called JBM Bargains. There seems to be very little information out there about the business, though it appears that the owners also have a branch in nearby Otley that was until recently branded Captain Value. Dating from 1932, the building, of course, is classic Woolies, its wide frontage very similar in composition and materials to the slightly later (1937) store in Berwick upon Tweed.
Final stop, at the far end of the motorway in the East Riding of Yorkshire, is the market town of Beverley, where Jon Carling recently captured this phone pic of the former Woolworths (store #444) at 43-45 Toll Gavel. Again, the building looks every inch an old Woolies, with a frontage that is particularly reminiscent of the Bishop Auckland store.
Since closing as a Woolworths on 2 January 2009, the store has prompted something of a retail reshuffle in Beverley. Boots took over the site in July that year, combining its three previous smaller stores in the town, with Heron Foods relocating in turn to the largest of the former Boots sites at 15-17 Toll Gavel. Meanwhile, the old Heron Foods at 10 Toll Gavel appears to have become an Oxfam Bookshop, and the old Boots Opticians at no. 12 a branch of Vision Express.
Though these various movements may not have brought in the big new names, such as Next, that were wished for immediately after Woolies’ demise, it’s impressive that Beverley seems to have such a buoyant and fast-moving retail property market, capped off by the iconic York-based retailer Browns opening a £2m department store in the town last March. With lots of retail activity, and what looks like an attractive and lively historic centre, I think I’d better add Beverley to my list of interesting places to visit.
Meanwhile, do feel free to keep sending in your pictures of former Woolworths! You can email an attachment using the contact form, or send a link to your picture via Twitter to @soult, and I’ll feature as many as I can in future posts.