The old Woolies store that’s gone for a Burton
Regular readers may recall a blog post from a year ago, when I reported upon my visits to the former Woolies stores at Coopers Square in Burton upon Trent (store #147, above) and Westfield Derby (#1242), both of which had closed down following the retailer’s collapse a year earlier.
From subsequent research, it became clear that neither of these stores were their respective town’s original Woolworths, so just before Christmas I set out to track down the long-forgotten Woolies sites in Burton and Derby that I’d missed first time around. I’ll write about Derby’s rather complex Woolies history later, but for now let me focus my attention on Burton.
As I noted previously, the Woolworths in Burton’s Coopers Square shopping centre dated from about 1982, taking over the unit that Sainsbury’s had formerly occupied. Before that, however, Woolies had a smaller shop on the town’s High Street, as revealed by Duncan’s great photograph of the closed-down store, apparently from 1993, and reproduced with his permission below.
Looking at my photograph of the same view today (above), you can see that the rather unattractive former Woolies property has been completely transformed, though its distinctive shape and the buildings either side are instantly recognisable from the 1993 shot.
Today, the former Woolies building houses two separate pubs – The Park, and a branch of Wetherspoon’s called The Lord Burton. Indeed, this change in uses illustrates the way in which the retail focus of Burton has shifted over the years, leaving this part of the High Street very much as a destination for leisure rather than shopping.
In the nice way that Wetherspoon’s website includes a brief history of each of its pubs, the entry for The Lord Burton makes reference to its previous function as a Woolworths store:
Until the mid 1990s, the site of this Wetherspoon pub was home to a branch of Woolworths. The Burton branch opened in 1923, when Woolworths leased 154 High Street from Pearson’s the tailor. It proved so popular that the firm took over number 155 the following year.
The 1923 opening 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 have happened if the old store had closed at the same time as the new one opened, a decade or so before the date suggested by Wetherspoons.
This would mean, of course, that Duncan’s photo was taken a whole decade after the store shut, though the building does have the appearance in that shot of having been empty for a long time.
I’m sure the answer isn’t far away… perhaps someone out there has memories of Burton’s original Woolworths and can help to pin down when it really did close?
[UPDATE, 18 Jan 2011: Duncan tells me “I’m sure my photo is around 1993, I only started taking photos around 1987… shops came just after, from about 1990 onwards, so even if 1993 is incorrect, it would only be by a year or so…” So, with Duncan sure of his photo date and me pretty confident of the store’s closure date, it looks like Wetherspoon’s website may well be the one with its dates out of synch…]
[UPDATE, 11 Mar 2012: Sorted! According to Woolworths’ own records, the Burton store relocated on 21 November 1983 – which means that Wetherspoon’s *is* about a decade out with its date.]