A report has called for the ‘imaginative reuse’ of six of Nottinghamshire’s most iconic department stores. It comes as UK department stores face “an existential crisis thanks to the pandemic and rapidly changing shopping habits”.
SAVE Britain’s Heritage, a group seeking to protect historic buildings, has compiled a list of the country’s most endangered former department stores. Many face an uncertain future as high street retail continues to decline through 2022.
Six department stores, five in Nottingham and one in Mansfield, were listed in the report. He argues that these so-called “cathedrals of commerce” should be reused in imaginative and innovative ways, respecting the buildings history.
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Marcus Binney, Executive Chairman of SAVE Britain’s Heritage, says: “London has Fortnums, Harrods and Selfridges, but across Britain towns, villages, spas and seaside resorts are home to beautiful department stores built on proud corner sites or prominently on main streets. Many were designed by renowned local architects and founded by prominent local families and all are destinations in themselves. Yet a decade of online shopping and Covid has resulted in an avalanche of closures. A race is now on to bring them back to life. It’s a tough challenge, but as Hattie Lloyd’s report shows, there’s also hope.”
Below is a list of the buildings listed in the report:
Griffin & Spalding
The report describes the former Griffin & Spalding building in Old Market Square, which was recently inhabited by Debenhams, as “an iconic feature in the historic center of the town”. It was founded in 1846 by two brothers, Edward and Robert Dickinson and in 1878 the majority of the business was purchased by W. Griffin and JT Spalding.
The couple expanded the store about 10 years later, and then again in 1911, replacing two older buildings to the east. During the excavations for this, the report states “a rather macabre discovery was made”. Four skeletons and an additional skull were found and believed to be “at least a century old at the time and most likely plague victims”.
In 1924 the Portland stone facade was built by Bromley and Watkins. It was bought by Debenhams in 1944, formally rebranded in 1973, and is now vacant when the business collapsed into administration last year.
jessop and son
The Grade II listed building in King Street was designed by Watson Fothergill. It happened in 1895 for Zebedee Jessop, a Lincolnshire-born businessman and friend of James Marshall’s “thriving department store Marshall & Snelgrove”.
In 1933 John Lewis purchased what is now known as Fothergill House. SAVE Britain’s Heritage says: ‘The full refurbishment of the King Street premises was completed in 2018. The building has been converted into offices on the upper floors with catering units on the ground floor, although the tower and some of the bedrooms upper floors were still out of use as recently as 2019.”
The very first Woolworths in the town opened at Lister Gate in 1914. It is now the only purpose-built Woolworths building to be Grade II listed. Unfortunately, the main shopping street has declined in recent years as footfall has been affected by the ongoing and tumultuous redevelopment of Broad Marsh.
“In-house architect BC Donaldson of Woolworths designed this striking symmetrical facade clad in majolica tiles,” says SAVE. “Steel casement windows with decorative panels are separated by giant pilasters surrounded by Art Deco motifs.” The building was inhabited by an M&S Home store until it closed in 2020, months after the start of the coronavirus pandemic in the UK. Nottingham City Council has since granted the owners of the building, Hunter UK Retail Limited Partnership, permission to convert the property into student accommodation.
“Astonishingly grand, the former Nottingham Co-operative Store in Upper Parliament Street is a fine terracotta-fronted structure, built between 1915 and 1916 to plans by William V. Betts. In Renaissance Revival style, the exteriors incorporate fantastic carved features including pilasters, garlands, columns and a domed turret, among other additions made in the late 1920s,” SAVE Britain’s Heritage said.
It at one time housed the Elizabethan Ballroom and a Silver Spoon Restaurant, which was also used for events. The Beatles played here alongside Gerry and the Pacemakers in 1963.
The co-op ceased operations in 2001 and in 2009 the building was restored by Henry Boot Developments. It has been transformed into office, residential and commercial space, including a casino.
Clothing giant Zara now inhabits what has been described as ‘undoubtedly one of Alfred Nelson Bromley’s finest buildings for Boots’. The neighboring buildings were demolished to make way for road widening works and it was after these that the opportunity was taken to create “a more impressive central depot built in 1902/5 in a neo-style – Ornate Renaissance”.
Today Boots mainly focuses on pharmacy, optometry and photography, but it operated as a department store for much of the 20th century. This, according to SAVE Britain’s Heritage, was “the result of both Boot’s own ambition and the influence of his wife Florence, who played an active part in the business”.
The building was a flagship store and included a cafe, photo gallery, smoking room and a “boot book lovers library”. In the 1960s, it still had departments for pets, toys, gardening, records, jewelry, leather goods, and winemaking. Boots left in 1972.
Mansfield and Sutton Cooperative Society
The Beales department store was based in the building until this year, it was previously occupied – and built – by the Mansfield and Sutton Co-operative Society from 1935.
The building is actually an extension of the main Co-op building on Stockwell Gate which opened in 1922 after the original in the same location was destroyed by fire in 1918. The first part of the building was completed in 1938 , and an extension added in 1963.
SAVE Britain’s Heritage adds: “After sitting empty for two years, hope for the building’s future has finally emerged after Mansfield District Council purchased the site in early 2022, with the intention of using the premises as its new headquarters.A city regeneration master plan announced in late 2021 proposes to introduce a mix of uses, including residential accommodation, student accommodation and office space – alongside retail – through this building and fifteen others in the city center.
“The council has also received government funding to formulate a design code for the project, fostering a unified local vernacular across the redevelopments.”