A potted history of Woolworths

Members and friends of Lancaster Park WI ready for their August outing to Craster for lunch and then onto Howick for a guided walk in the grounds followed by afternoon tea.
Members and friends of Lancaster Park WI ready for their August outing to Craster for lunch and then onto Howick for a guided walk in the grounds followed by afternoon tea.

LANCASTER PARK WI

In The history of Woolworths in the North East, Graham Soult, an architect and planner, gave members a potted history of Woolworths and took them on an architectural tour of this familiar landmark with his photos and fact finding records.

Growing up in Seaham he had happy memories of regular pocket money spending trips to his local Woolworths at a time when there were 1,000 stores in the UK.

He showed us a treasured photo of his grandmother with friends at the Leicester store, where she worked from 1933 to 1939, when she married and in keeping with the times had to leave. More information came from the regular “In store” magazine recording sales, products, staff activities, celebrations and trips.

Woolworths was started in New York in 1897 by Frank Winfield, grandfather of Barbara Hutton, with other stores following in the USA and Canada. The first British store opened in Liverpool in 1909, with nothing costing more than 6d.

It steadily expanded throughout Britain, moving into Middlesbrough, then Newcastle, and on to Ashington, which opened its doors in 1926.

As the purpose-built stores arrived, a unique design developed, with mosaic flooring at the entrance and an elegant set of three windows on the upper floor. Some of these features still remain visible today and Graham has photographed many of them, some of which he shared with us.

Woolworths went into administration in 2008. A total of 807 stores closed in 40 days, the last one in January 2009, just short of 100 years from the first British store opening.

Janice Danes gave the vote of thanks for a fascinating talk on a subject familiar to all of us.

The next meeting is on Thursday, October 1. It will be a cookery demonstration by Christine Rogers. All visitors and new members welcome.