Is this shop in Shields Road, Byker an old Woolies?
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(UPDATE: Since I wrote this post, it’s been confirmed that the A&S Discount building was indeed Byker’s original Woolworths location, from 1927 until 1954)
Here’s a retail history question for you – was this building (above), in Shields Road in Byker, once a Woolworths?
I spotted it back in September when I was paying a visit to the more recently closed Woolworths at Byker’s Newcastle Shopping Park. As you can see, the building could definitely use some TLC, suffering from a delapidated upper floor, and a truly horrible fascia and shopfront treatment. On the other hand, wedged in next to the fairly new Morrisons store, it’s perhaps remarkable that the building has survived at all.
What struck me as I was walking by was the property’s architectural similarities to other Woolies stores that I’d seen before, such as those in Gosforth, Prestatyn and Morpeth:
More recently, the former Woolworths that I photographed in Alfreton, Derbyshire is perhaps the most similar of all:
Though the palette of materials varies in each case, all the properties above share the same sense of symmetry, a central pediment, and a similar pattern of fenestration – usually some variation of a 1-3-1 arrangement, with narrow windows either side of a wider, central window element. I know very little about the history of Woolworths architecture (though Jonathan Glancey has an excellent article on the subject here), but my hunch is that these would all have been purpose-built Woolworths stores, probably constructed during retailer’s heyday of the 1930s.
If anyone is able to confirm whether or not the building in Shields Road was once a Woolworths, and, if it was, when it closed, I’d be delighted to hear from you! So far I haven’t been able to find any evidence to support my theory, other than a reference from someone in the Journal’s online forums which confirms only that there was, historically, a Woolworths somewhere in Shields Road:
Can anyone remember the biscuit counter in Woolworths. I particularly remember the Woolies on Shields Road. If I remember rightly the biscuit counter was double sided and the assistants stood in the middle with tins of open biscuits all around them. There were all sorts of biscuits and you could get a 1llb of broken biscuits cheap. Also you could order a 1lb of mixed biscuits and get a few from each box.
As always, the comments box below eagerly awaits your contributions!