And Berwick-upon-Tweed makes 33…
Ever since I paid a visit to the old out-of-town Woolies in Stockton back in July, Berwick-upon-Tweed (store #232) has been the only one of the 33 North East Woolworths stores missing from my collection of photographs.
The other 32 shops that shut down following Woolies’ collapse have all been featured in this blog already. It won’t surprise you, therefore, to discover that I visited Berwick in August, with a view to capturing that final elusive shot. Not that it’s really the end, of course – there are still plenty more of the 807 stores nationwide to visit (though only when I’m passing them anyway), as well as quite a few of the North East stores that had already closed down long before the Woolworths name disappeared from the high street in 2009.
Dominated by the spired Town Hall, there’s no doubt that Berwick’s main thoroughfare of Marygate is a truly impressive and memorable urban space, despite the best efforts of traffic and market stalls to clutter it up.
It’s fitting, therefore, that the town’s imposing old Woolies building, completed in March 1937, should occupy a prominent spot in Marygate. Architecturally, the property perhaps most resembles a stretched version of the old Woolworths in Gosforth (#716), which was built about a year later.
Taken over by Home Bargains following Woolworths’ collapse, the store features the same toned down burgundy and grey fascia that I noted previously at the Tamworth and Prestatyn Home Bargains branches – both themselves former Woolies sites. Indeed, the colour scheme isn’t so far away from the famous carmine red that defined every Woolies’ fascia well into the twentieth century, as shown in the 1930s postcard below. The image, interestingly, also suggests that the stone façade was at one time painted white.
However, Woolworths’ presence in Berwick predates the current building, with the first Woolies store in the town opening a decade earlier, on 28 August 1926. This was apparently in Marygate too, though I’m yet to work out exactly where it was, or whether the building that it occupied still exists.
The earlier photo above, featured in this interesting gallery of historic images of Berwick, was clearly taken before the present Woolworths building was constructed – from what I can make out, it must have replaced the properties that you can see between the statue and the left-hand edge of the photo. However, it’s impossible to make out whether the original Woolies is there among the huddle of shops lining the street. The prominent statue, incidentally, is conspicuous by its absence in my present-day shots, or, indeed, in the 1930s postcard. Perhaps someone from Berwick can shed light on what happened to it?