Total Pageviews


Tuesday, 10 July 2012

Web Page 1058
14th July 2012

Top Picture: Woolworths wall of glass at the back of the Commercial Road store.

Second Picture:  The front of the store in the 1950’s

Before we start on this weeks page just a look back at last weeks. I asked if anyone would be interested in a nostalgia booklet. I have had a great response and so I will go ahead. The book is being proof read at the moment and so should hit the streets in about a fortnight. I anticipate the price to be in the region of £2.75 +p&p but I will be in touch soon.


The Wonder of Woolworths.
Although not strictly in our time scale but I have come across this fascinating history of the post war Woolworths in Commercial Road. After all we all went to Woolies.

The original Woolworth store in Commercial Road, Portsmouth was destroyed by enemy action on 11 January 1941 so the business was transferred to the branch in nearby London Road, Fratton. After the end of the war Woolworths Management Board decided to top up the Government's rebuilding grant and to commission a store in Portsmouth large enough to the stock their entire product range. The company architect, Harold Winbourne, adapted the modern design that he had used for other blitz reinstatements so as to incorporate a large curved wall with glazed panels at the back of the premises. The spectacular glazed window provided natural light and panoramic views to the customer restaurant in the new Store. The pictures and subsequent Woolworths pictures featured on this site were all taken by the Construction Department's own photographer in the autumn of 1952.

Later, this panoramic view from the building disappeared when the store was adapted in the Eighties when the land behind was made into a shopping centre, losing the back section, but it still stands today. This new store traded as a Woolworth superstore from 26 October 1950 until 27 December 2008.

 Woolworths own construction team built the store from the foundations up and the company announced that the phoenix rose from the ashes of the original premises destroyed by enemy bombing on 11 January 1941.

The was completed in Autumn 1952. The sheer scale of the Woolworth store compared to the neigbouring shops was not immediately apparent from the frontage. When the store first opened in 1950, building work on the upper floors and rear of the sales floor was still continuing but the whole store was not completed on schedule in 1953.
 What was on sale in this new store? After years of austerity, 1949 marked the official end of clothes rationing in the UK. Woolworth had started to build its fashion range during the war after dropping its sixpenny maximum in 1940.
Clothing was identified as a potential growth area for the Fifties.  In the new
Portsmouth store the company executives allocated a whole island counter to Clothing whilst the product selection included tights, stockings and underwear, along with children’s clothes ad a limited range of ladies blouses and pullovers for men and women. Even extension pieces were fixed to the counter tops to allow some of the garments to be displayed hanging. Previously Woolworths had arranged all of its products between glass dividers on the counter top.

Early fashion sales were encouraging. When the Portsmouth store was extended in 1953 the range was given a lot more space. The clothing counters had almost a quarter of the ground sales floor. By this time the displays included a whole island counter for kidswear, another for ladieswear and a third for menswear.
To complete the offer there was also a comprehensive range of lingerie, hosiery and belts. Prices were kept competitive with most garments selling for five shillings (25p) or less. A few items were offered at higher prices of up to 17/6 (seventeen shillings and sixpence or 87½p).
By 1955 the positive customer reaction to the clothing ranges had encouraged the company to experiment. They extended the range of higher priced lines and pushed ahead with more up-to-date display ideas. New lingerie ranges were also displayed hanging. A long-standing Leicestershire supplier made the range, which was of much higher quality than any Woolworth store had offered before. The 8/11d (44½p) price was very competitive.

The final wave of rebuilding saw the opening of an upper sales floor, with a customer restaurant and a large new clothing department. Garments were displayed hanging on the walls. The shop fittings included new spotlighting to give extra prominence to the feature. For the first time customers were invited to select for themselves from the displays rather than asking an assistant for help. The product selection included a number of garments costing between twenty and forty shillings (£1 to £2). Product quality was upgraded and the company Buyer chose a number of Ladybird garments. Woolworth insisted that their name rather than Ladybird should appear on the product labels.

 By the end of the 1950’s the new upmarket clothing ranges were offered in more than a dozen stores. Sales had grown steadily.The Woolworth Board was confident that they would be able to overtake Marks and Spencer in the Sixties, as more stores were modernised and the range was extended across the chain. But M&S had other ideas!

Showcases were a new feature at the Portsmouth store they were built into the back of the front windows and were used to display perfumes, fancy goods, clocks and jewellery. The displays normally included small sign cards indicated the counter number in-store where the item could be purchased.
 In the 1950s most large city centre Woolworth stores offered hot meals and drinks throughout the day. Where space allowed they had a large restaurant, which some stores called the Cafeteria. If space was tight they had a smaller Tea Bar. These were the equivalents of what the Americans called the Woolworth Lunch Counter or Soda Fountain. For many shoppers this was an oasis in the midst of a day's shopping.

In Portsmouth a spectacular curved staircase with huge picture windows,
led up to a large, modern Restaurant on a mezannine floor. The balcony had views across the sales floor below. Customers would help themselves to a tray and make their selection from the wide range of hot and cold meals that were on offer. Meals were served throughout the day, with the bacon and egg breakfast for one shilling and ninepence (about 9p) a firm favourite.

The large seating area was only ever seen empty before the store opened in the morning. Customers were allowed into the restaurant an hour before the main store opened, with the first service at 8am each day. For a spell the restaurant even opened on a Sunday, while the main store remained closed. By 8.30am customers struggled to find a seat for their cooked breakfast in the early 1950s! Further waves of customers crammed the restaurant for coffee and teacakes from 10.30 and for lunch from noon. Many people made the Woolies Restaurant a meeting point in Portsmouth. I am one of those who visited this restaurant with my Mum .Were you there too?
  Stay in touch,



You Write:

Christine Writes :

Loved the Brickwoods Mum was secretary to the chief architect at Brickwoods for many years in the 70s and 80s and my husband "enjoyed" plenty of holiday jobs whilst at university, labouring in the Brickwoods yards and delivering beer to the surrounding pubs. He met some real characters there, some who could not read or write but could throw a heavy barrel onto the lorry with great ease!

Griff Writes: 

The aircraft you show on the side bar is a De Havilland Dove  and the 4 engine version was the DH Heron. The 2nd aircraft photo is a Vickers Varsity and the photo was taken at Thorney Island (and not Portsmouth Airport) when Thorney was RAF No.2 Air Navigation School .....about 1956/7

News and Views:

Eric Sykes has died at the age of 89 after a short illness. In wide-ranging career, he will be remembered best for the long-running and widely acclaimed Sykes And A... TV series with Hattie Jacques. He also wrote scripts for stars such as Peter Sellers, Frankie Howerd and Stanley Unwin. His manager, Norma Farnes, said: "Eric Sykes, 89, star of TV, stage and films died peacefully after a short illness.

Also Oscar-winning film star Ernest Borgnine has died at the age of 95.

On this day 14th July 1960-1965

On 14/07/1960 the number one single was Good Timin' - Jimmy Jones and the number one album was South Pacific Soundtrack. The top rated TV show was Rawhide (ITV) and the box office smash was Psycho. A pound of today's money was worth £13.68 and Burnley were on the way to becoming the Season's Division 1 champions.

On 14/07/1961 the number one single was Runaway - Del Shannon and the number one album was South Pacific Soundtrack. The top rated TV show was Harpers West One (ATV) and the box office smash was One Hundred and One Dalmations. A pound of today's money was worth £13.25 and Tottenham Hotspur were on the way to becoming the Season's Division 1 champions.

On 14/07/1962 the number one single was I Can't Stop Loving You - Ray Charles and the number one album was West Side Story Soundtrack. The top rated TV show was Coronation Street (Granada) and the box office smash was Lawrence of Arabia.

On 14/07/1963 the number one single was I Like It - Gerry & the Pacemakers and the number one album was Please Please Me - The Beatles. The top rated TV show was Coronation Street (Granada) and the box office smash was The Great Escape. A pound of today's money was worth £12.64 and Everton were on the way to becoming the Season's Division 1 champions. The big news story of the week was UK Ministry of Defence proposed.

14/07/1964 the number one single was It's All Over Now - Rolling Stones and the number one album was Rolling Stones - The Rolling Stones. The top rated TV show was Labour Party Political Broadcast (all channels) and the box office smash was Dr Strangelove. A pound of today's money was worth £12.24 and Liverpool were on the way to becoming the Season's Division 1 champions.

On 14/07/1965 the number one single was Crying in the Chapel - Elvis Presley and the number one album was The Sound of Music Soundtrack. The top rated TV show was Coronation Street (Granada) and the box office smash was The Sound of Music. A pound of today's money was worth £11.69 and Manchester United were on the way to becoming the Season's Division 1 champions. The big news story of the week was Mont Blanc Tunnel officially opened.

No comments:

Post a Comment