Mystery of Shields Road ‘Woolies’ building solved

The building in question. Photograph by Graham Soult

The building in question

Since I first blogged about it just over a year ago under the heading ‘Is this shop in Shields Road, Byker an old Woolies?’, the history of the building in question at 47-49 Shields Road (pictured above) has prompted quite a discussion – but, until now, no definitive answer.

In the course of the discussions, we have already established that Byker *did* have a Woolworths prior to the most recent incarnation (store #1256) at Newcastle Shopping Park. However, this was located further up Shields Road at number 63, in premises occupied by Decorflair until just a few weeks ago.

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

Former Woolworths (now Decorflair), Shields Road, Byker

Through reader contributions, we knew that Woolies had traded from that site since at least 1963, while an old newspaper cutting from Newcastle’s Local Studies Library revealed that the store closed on 1 June 1985.

How the Chronicle broke the news

How the Chronicle broke the news

However, none of this explained Byker Woolworths’ store number being 276. As I’ve noted before, each new Woolies store had a unique store number, with the first store (Liverpool, in 1910) given the number 1, and subsequent numbers allocated (usually) in chronological order. On this basis, 276 suggested an opening date of August or September 1927, raising the question of whether Byker’s Woolies had indeed occupied a different site prior to the Decorflair building.

Now, Brian E Clark seems to have come up with the answer:

Your question… (was this a Woolies shop) It certainly was! I am 70 years old, and spent the first 23 years of my life living in the Old Byker of 178 Kendal Street. I can remember that the shop front was re-set back from the building line on the left side of the frontage 3 or 4 feet… The shop moved further up Shields Road as you know, but this must have been in the late 50s early 60s. I do not remember it having an upstairs for the public.

So, there we have it – confirmation, it would seem, that the building at 47-49 Shields Road was indeed a purpose-built Woolworths, probably moving to the new location at number 63 sometime between the late 1950s and 1963. [UPDATE: Woolworths records now confirm that the relocation took place in 1954.]

Many thanks indeed to Brian for providing the missing piece of information, and to everyone else who has contributed to this particular discussion so far. Thanks to George Tullin and Peter, we already have a shot of number 63 in use as a Woolworths; all we need now is to find an old photograph depicting the original (47-49 Shields Road) Byker Woolies in all its glory – something that has, as yet, eluded me.

8 Responses to “Mystery of Shields Road ‘Woolies’ building solved”

  1. Soult's Retail View » Remembering Byker Woolies’ Mr Corson and his Staff said:

    Mar 25, 11 at 18:03

    [...] old ‘house journal’, The New Bond, almost as often as I’ve written about the history of Byker’s Woolworths stores, so I was pleased to find a reference to the latter in a recently acquired edition of the [...]

  2. Peter (Newcastle Historian) said:

    Mar 27, 11 at 22:04

    I am probably looking in the wrong place, but your blog comments about the old Woolworths in Byker, Newcastle, ends with . . .

    “All we need now is to find an old photograph depicting the original Byker Woolies in all its glory – something that has, as yet, eluded me”.

    Yet, I am sure you will have seen my post on Skyscraper City (Link Below) at “Item 4″ . . .

    http://www.skyscrapercity.com/showpost.php?p=65944949&postcount=46

    In fact, I’m sure we have talked about it, I just can’t find the reference on here!

    Cheers.

  3. Graham Soult said:

    Mar 28, 11 at 07:51

    Hi Peter, the emphasis there is on the word *original* Byker Woolies – i.e. the one that’s now A&S Discount Store at 47-49 Shields Road, and pictured at the top of this post! I’ve clarified the wording in the post to make it a bit clearer.

    I am still yet to find an old photo showing *that* building in use as a Woolworths, even though we now know it was one. I already featured your very welcome pic – of what we now know was Byker’s second, relocated Woolies – at http://www.soultsretailview.co.uk/2010/10/29/piecing-together-the-history-of-shields-roads-old-woolies/.

    Hope that makes sense – it is quite a complicated story, and one that has been pieced together over several posts thanks to readers’ contributions.

  4. Soult's Retail View » Redcar’s original ex-Woolies – and a new real shop among the virtual ones said:

    May 05, 11 at 16:03

    [...] design of the main section, interestingly, is almost identical to the original Woolworths in Byker’s Shields Road, below, though Redcar’s is in a generally better state of repair. This similarity is [...]

  5. Soult's Retail View » Is this shop in Shields Road, Byker an old Woolies? said:

    Aug 10, 11 at 15:51

    [...] building (above), in Shields Road in Byker, once a Woolworths? [UPDATE: We now know it WAS - see here for the full [...]

  6. Soult's Retail View » The ongoing mystery of Byker’s (possible) former Woolies said:

    Aug 10, 11 at 15:52

    [...] to many of the other former Woolies that I’d visited. [UPDATE: We now know it WAS - see here for the full [...]

  7. Soult's Retail View » As South Shields’ Woolies is filled, there’s good news for Byker and Wallsend too said:

    Sep 23, 11 at 19:23

    [...] sites. Regular readers will recall that the former Woolworths at 63 Shields Road in Byker (#276) closed on 1 June 1985, and then housed painting and decorating retailer Decorflair until the start of this year. Former [...]

  8. Bill Heslington said:

    Oct 20, 11 at 19:27

    I was a Trainee Manager at the Byker Woolworths in 1955/56 and can confirm that the Decorflair shop shown was in fact Woolwoths. It seemed to be a fairly modern building when I was there althogh I don’t know when it was built. Some years ago I paid a nostalgic visit, (having been away from the North East for many years)and looked around the Decorflair shop and found the internal structure to be pretty much the same. The upper floor was once used as a staff canteen and offices and the alleyway to right gave access to the stockroom, part of which was underground. I have many happy memories of working there before moving to the Sunderland branch


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