We all love a bit of retail therapy and the UK high street offers a wealth of choice when it comes to our shopping needs but have you ever wondered about, or indeed even noticed, the disappearance of many of our one-time favourite shops? What happened to these once popular stores? Let’s take a stroll down memory lane to find out the fate of just some of them.
Toys “R” Us
Toys “R” Us was an American toy retailer founded in 1948 by Charles Lazarus. The company had not had an annual profit since 2013.
Hamleys, Woolworths and Hawkins Bazaar all suffered from the onslaught of internet shopping, plus the discounters and supermarkets before them, but Toys R Us didn’t learn from their example. On 14 March 2018, that all Toys “R” Us stores in the United Kingdom would close.
Whether you were in need of the latest 12 inch hit record, or suddenly found yourself with a sweet tooth, a room in need of a lick of paint, the latest kitchen gadget or reasonably priced clothes and toys for the kids, not to mention garden furniture and pot plants, bedding and a whole host of other household goodies, then Woolworths was the go to store. All your needs under one roof.
Founded in America in 1878 by Frank Winfield Woolworth in the form of “Woolworth’s great five cent store”, Woolies as it affectionately came to be known, was the first shop to allow the public to handle the merchandise prior to purchasing it.
The store was extremely popular for many years on both sides of the pond but due to increasing competition on the ever changing high street, the store found itself in trouble and closed for business in January 2009. The final branch to close its doors was in Glasgow with the loss of over 30,000 jobs overall.
Talk of reviving the store have as yet not come into fruition.
Founded in 1841 by German brothers Clemens and August Brenninkmeijer, C&A started out as a Dutch textile company. In 1906 Clemens’s son begun discounting in Amsterdam and by 1910 he had ten stores across the Netherlands.
The company went on to become a major retailer on the UK high street and also began opening out of town stores, chiefly selling shoes and clothing for men, women and children.
In 2000 the company announced it was to close its UK stores due to stiff competition from the likes of Next, Gap, Matalan and supermarket clothing lines. This, combined with ever increasing high street rental costs and the accusation that it had failed to keep abreast of the latest fashion trends, saw the last stores in Hounslow West London and Bradford close their doors to UK shoppers in May 2001, sending 4800 workers to the dole queues.
Radio Rentals was one of those stores where many families went to hire out radios and subsequently television sets for their homes.
The first shop was opened in a Brighton backstreet in the 1930s by Percy Perring-Thoms and offered customers the opportunity to pay weekly for radios. They began hiring out TVs when they too became popular and later still video recorders and even washing machines, as such items were very expensive for most people to buy outright up until the 1980s when electronic items and the parts required for them became much cheaper.
The brand still operates in Australia and New Zealand.
Founded in Merseyside in the latter part of the nineteenth century, this well-known butcher shop had at its peak 1400 shops in the UK by 1997.
Fresh meat and a friendly personal service was much appreciated back in the day when shoppers went to several different shops to purchase specific items but this chain could not sustain itself with the ever increasing competition from the upcoming supermarkets, who began to offer pre-packed cuts of fresh and frozen meat at lower prices and shoppers found they could go to one place for all their grocery needs. Consumers also began to shy away from red meat in far greater numbers, preferring to opt for poultry instead.
The chain went into administration in 2006 and with it, the family butcher shop with its saw-dusted floors became pretty much a thing of the past.
Although there has been a return of the butcher shop in recent years, these outlets now tend to cater to a niche market, rather than that which Dewhurst once commanded.
This once hugely popular arty card, gift and stationary shop was a dominant presence on the high street by the 1970s with twenty UK outlets. The first store opened its doors in upmarket Hampstead in North London and by the mid-1990s the chain had increased its number to 165 stores.
Perhaps best remembered for its cheeky pin-up poster of a young lady playing tennis whilst baring her bottom in 1976 and later a bare chested muscular denim clad hunk holding a baby, the shop had a large customer base until it too fell prey to the large supermarkets, who began to sell similar items. Mostly through, the chain was massively hit by the growing trend in online card purchases, were customers were invited to personalise their own cards and gifts. Added to this, once again surging high street rents put the final nail in the company’s coffin.
After trading for over fifty years, Athena ceased to be on the UK high street in 2014 when its Exeter branch in Devon closed down.
Athena now operates solely online. Sadly, it no longer offers prints of the iconic 1970s tennis playing lady.
You probably bought your first single here and it almost seems like a distant memory now, but it wasn’t that long ago that you’d find Our Price on most High Streets.
Our Price first launched in 1971 by Gary Nesbitt, Edward Stollins and Mike Isaacs. Their first store was located in London’s Finchley Road. Until 1976, the first six stores were branded The Tape Revolution. From 1976, the up-start chain re-branded to Our Price and went on to own hundreds of shops around the UK.
By the mid-90s some big-business buyout shenanigans involving WH Smith and Virgin, was the beginning of the end for the chain. Stores began to vanish and the brand was finally changed to VShops which were all but gone by 2013.
Pre Amazon and Netflix, this was the place to go for a cheap night in with the latest film release or an old favourite on video and subsequently DVD, you could even grab a bumper bag of popcorn to munch as you curled up on the sofa for that Friday night in experience.
The first store was opened across the pond in Dallas Texas in 1985 by one David Cook, renting out videos on a nightly basis.
A 1987, a big court case win against games giant Nintendo saw Blockbuster go on to hire out increasingly popular games titles too.
The chain enjoyed much success until the growing trend toward the online streaming of films became more and more popular, with Netflix and Redbox’s growing success causing the company to finally file for bankruptcy in 2010.
There remain a handful of franchise stores scattered across the US but Blockbusters has now vanished from the British high street.
There was a definitely something about leisurely browsing through row upon row of records, tapes, videos and later CDs and DVDs on a Saturday afternoon at the UKs last remaining record shop. A certain therapeutic experience could be had from such an exercise and many of us will recall with some degree of nostalgia spending a portion of our first pay packets on the purchase of our very first record or the latest number one hit at HMV.
Founded in London’s Oxford Street in the summer of 1921, HMV was the last of the big record shops to fall, with its major competitors Tower Records, Our Price and Virgin Records having already fallen by the wayside.
Easily recognisable by the famous logo of Nipper the Jack Russell Terror seated beside a gramophone, HMV was a massive presence on British, Irish, Canadian and even Hong Kong high streets.
Another victim of online gaming and streaming and failing to keep up with ever increasing technology and customer requirements, the Irish stores were the first to close in February 2013, with UK branches quickly following suit from March of the same year when the company’s mounting debts were purchased from its creditors by restructuring company Hilco.
HMV’s flagship store at 363 Oxford street; the world’s largest record store, reopened in 2013 and although a handful of other stores were also saved following the Hilco takeover, the company now chiefly operates with success online; many would argue it should have made that move long before it did but as a high street presence it is now all but gone and with it the end of an era.
His Masters Voice is now sadly somewhat subdued.
Freeman Hardy Willis
Many moons ago when a new pair of shoes was required mum would take the kids to the local shoe shop, one of which was the well-known Freeman Hardy Willis. All they sold was footwear and several pairs would be tried on for size before the final all important purchase was made. Although some shoe shops do remain, they are no longer the first port of call for many of us, with most clothing retailers, supermarkets and online shoe shopping options now widely available.
Established in 1875, Freeman Hardy Willis took its name from three individuals employed by the company, Russian shoemaker Alfred Willis being one of them. The company went on to purchase competitors Dolcis and Lilly and Skinner in later years and had branches in cities UK wide but by the early 90s big changes were afoot, with subsidiary company The British Shoe Corporation converting many of the chain’s stores to Hush Puppies branches, with those remaining coming into the ownership of entrepreneur Stephen Hinchliffe. However, after just one year he was found to have illegally obtained loans to purchase the stores and was jailed for his deception. As a result, by 1996 Freeman Hardy Willis had ceased to be.
The remaining 44 shops were bought up by rival company Stead and Simpson, which itself went on to be bought by budget shoe chain Shoe Zone.
The Ikea of its day, those of us of a certain age will certainly remember the out of town MFI flat pack furniture shops. Mullard Furniture Industries was founded by British business partners Noel Lister and Donald Searle, who had previously traded in wartime surplus goods. The maiden name of Searle’s wife provided the company with its name, with the first store opening its doors in 1964
In 1971 the chain became a public limited company known as the MFI Group and went on to enter into a brief partnership with Asda in 1985 and subsequently Schreiber Furniture. However, following concerns about the future of the company Asda was quick to sever its ties.
Over the course of the years the MFI Group experienced serious financial difficulties and the frequency and length of their sales came under much criticism, as well as the discovery that many, if not most of their supposed sale kitchens had not been previously sold at stated pre-sale prices at all, in fact it became a bit of a running joke, so much so that when stating an intended trip to the store the question “have they got a sale on?” would arise and advertising slogans such as “Prices too good to last” were said to mislead customers. Such was the situation that the company was among the first to be investigated by BBC consumer show Watchdog, who were unceremoniously evicted from a branch when they arrived to look into the company’s behaviour.
Although the expansion of Swedish furniture chain IKEA and surprising growing competition from the likes of B&Q did not stop MFI form purchasing the Sofa Workshop in 2002, by the latter part of 2006 the company was in big trouble and was purchased for just £1 by Merchant Credit Partners, changing the name to Galiform. Big hitter Argos went on to become Britain’s largest retailer of furniture as of 2006.
This store started out as a football betting company in Liverpool in 1923. Well remembered no doubt for its weekly football pools where punters could have a weekly flutter on the outcome of top level footie matches in the UK, with the potential to win large sums of life changing cash by posting off their pools coupons and it can still be entered online.
Littlewoods went on to add another string to its bow, enjoying success in the mail order catalogue business, offering everything from clothes and toys to household goods.
In 1937 the company expanded further, opening its first high street shop, encompassing some 22,000 stores at the height of its success and by 1982 was the biggest family owned concern in Britain.
However, their success was not to endure and by the mid-90s Littlewoods began closing its shops when growing online shopping trends began to impact heavily on the chain. The company was sold off in 2002 and subsequently merged with onetime rival Kay’s Catalogues to later become the Shop Direct Group. Rival catalogue shop Index underwent a similar demise and Kays too has now ceased to be. Competitor catalogue store Argos appears to have weathered the storm, tapping into the online market early on and as a result, remains a dominant feature of the UK high street.
Related : Supermarket brands that have vanished
Prisons and historic palaces that once stood in London
You won’t believe the buildings that once stood in the very heart of the city!
London has expanded and altered much over the course of its existence and continues to do so and many old and wonderful historical buildings have thankfully remained. Sadly though, many more have also been lost and are little known about. Passing by some of the city’s well known and now sometime lesser interesting places it is fascinating to think about what once stood there. Here are just some of London’s lost buildings. Some more pleasant than others.
Named after the nobleman Ralph Baynard; who arrived in London following the Norman Conquest, this long-lost London fortification was situated by the River Thames at Blackfriars. Scant clues remain of its existence but if you were to glance up at the nearby street signs you would discover Castle Baynard Street nearby, a modern-day reminder of what once proudly stood at the site. King John had the castle demolished in 1213 but a grand mansion house was later built a short distance from the site. The royal house of York made use of the building, basing themselves there when in London during the lengthy Wars of the Roses, with Edward IV being crowned there.
The building later came into the hands of Henry VII when he took the crown from Yorkist King Richard III at the Battle of Bosworth Field in 1485. The new king then had it reconstructed into a royal residence.
King Henry III later gifted the residence to his first wife Catherine of Aragon as a wedding present. The Earl of Pembroke; the brother of Henry’s sixth and final wife Catherine Parr, came to own the building after the king’s death, and it passed through various hands until like many other buildings, it was destroyed in London’s Great Fire of 1666. Today, office buildings occupy the site.
Montfichet’s Castle (or Tower)
This little known castle was the near neighbour of Baynard’s Castle. Another Norman fortress, it was situated on Ludgate Hill midway between where St Paul’s Cathedral and Thameslink station now stand. Earliest recordings of the castle date back to the 1130s and it is thought that it was constructed late in the 11th century. During the revolt against King Henry II by his wifeEleanor of Aquitaine and their three sons, the castle’s defences were strengthened.
King John was also responsible for the demolition of this castle in 1213 and the site was later sold off to accommodate Blackfriars Priory. Waste pits and the remnants of ditches were uncovered in the 1980s when excavations were carried out by The Museum of London. It is also said that the Old Bailey was so named after the fort’s Bailey wall.
The Savoy Palace
Savoy Palace was said to be the very grandest house of the nobility during in the middle ages. Sited on the Strand beside the River Thames, this fine edifice was in what was even then a prime location, away from the stench of the City of London and approaching the grand Palace of Westminster. John of Gaunt owned the palace and when he introduced a very unpopular poll tax in 1381 the uprising that ensued; known as the Peasants Revolt, brought about the destruction of the building. The building and its contents were burned, smashed or simply tossed into the Thames by the unhappy mob.
Canterbury Tales creator Geoffrey Chaucer also began penning the famous works whilst living there as a clerk.
Later in 1512, Henry VII had a hospital erected on the site. The Savoy hospital for the poor and needy was said to be the first to employ medical staff on a permanent basis. Later still in 1642, the site became a military hospital then later still a barracks in 1679. It was destroyed by fire in 1779 when a prison had also come to be situated there.
Today the Savoy Hotel and Savoy Theatre occupy the site and take their names from it.
Strolling past or visiting the Tate Britain today, most of us would likely have no idea about the notorious prison that was once sprawled across the site, its neighbouring art collage and a pleasant large housing complex in the quiet leafy streets nearby. Millbank Prison was vast.
Opened in 1816, the prison was purchased by the philosopher and social reformer Jeremy Bentham on behalf of the Crown. The first arrivals were initially women, with men subsequently being incarcerated at Millbank from 1817. Those deemed to be likely candidates for reform were given five-ten year sentences in the institution; which was said to be a dreadful place, rife with disease and abject misery. Others were sent from there to great hulks on the Thames, from where they were transported to Australia.
There are far more clues to the existence of this Thames-side prison; if one knows where to look, than that of other lost buildings of London. Behind the Tate Britain is a low segment of wall, incorporated into the modern-day wall; yet much older and somehow out of place, thought to have surrounded the site, as well as the remnants of the moat to the rear of a residential building which once encircled the prison. It is now used by local residents for growing herbs and hanging out washing to dry. Excavations beneath the art college uncovered some of the prison’s cells and the nearby Morpeth Arms public house claims to have cells remaining in its cellar. There is also a belief that the Victorian redbrick Millbank housing estate was constructed from bricks recycled from the penitentiary. However, this is most unlikely since it well known that the prison was constructed of yellow brick, some of which have been discovered on the Thames foreshore close by, along with buttons bearing a symbol of the Crown, which are thought to be from the uniforms of the prisons officers who worked there, possibly coming loose as they escorted prisoners to waiting hulks in the Thames. Also a stone’s throw away in tranquil St John’s public gardens on Horseferry Road, lays quite out of sight the decaying gravestone of one of the prison’s Governors. A reminder that history lies all around us, yet is so often unseen or unnoticed.
So named because it was originally built into London’s old Roman wall, this hellish prison came to be when Henry II instigated legal reform giving the Crown more authority in administering justice. Newgate was rebuilt several times from the 12th century onwards until its demolition in 1902. Infamous for its horrific conditions, after a rebuild in 1782 the prison comprised of two main divisions, a common general section which housed societies poorest and most destitute and more comfortable state accommodation for those who could pay for it. Newgate was also the site of London’s public gallows, they having been relocated from Tyburn at modern day Marble Arch. Up until 1868, the execution of prisoners drew large crowds but after this time condemned men and women went to meet their maker from within the prison walls. Today we know the site better as the Central Criminal Court, or even better still as the Old Bailey but remnants of the prison do remain. In Amen Court to the rear of the present-day court building, you will find what survives of Newgate prison wall. Additionally, the prison bell; which rang out when an execution was imminent, can be found a short distance away in St Sepulchre’s church.
Supermarkets That No Longer Exist In The UK
Have you ever wondered what happened to the supermarket that you, your parents or grandparents used to shop at many years ago?
What Happened To Them?
Some historically popular supermarket brands used to be placed strategically in our towns and communities for our convenience.
In recent times, with the dominance of the major brands we know and love today, we have seen that a majority of independent and smaller chains of supermarkets have since disappeared, seemingly without a trace!
Where did they go, and why did they leave our towns and cities?
Here we can see where exactly they got to, and why we no longer see them on our travels!
Safeway was a staple essentials supermarket seen around towns and cities in the UK from as early as 1962. It was a subsidiary of its American parent company and boasted almost 500 stores around the UK.
It was, however, not designed to be around forever. After a successful merger with Argyll Foods in 2004, it was bought out entirely by WM Morrisons, with most of its existing stores and convenience shops being rebranded to the Morrisons empire and the rest of them being sold.
We last saw the Brand of Safeway in the UK in late 2005.
Allday’s supermarkets were seen in abundance in Scotland and Southeast England in the 1990s and hailed themselves as a chain of convenience stores.
The Alldays brand had high hopes for expanding and purchasing several more outlets that they successfully merged into the existing brand, but their profit did not match the brand’s expansion.
With a lot of courage and buyouts, they continued trading and accumulated almost 100 stores. However, in mid-2002, the brand put itself up for sale after a huge pre-tax loss and was bought out in its entirety by the Co-Operative Group.
Somerfield was a chain of supermarkets that were operating in the UK and were previously called Gateway.
Somerfield, which was operational as a self-service supermarket from 1960, operated primarily in the Southwest of the UK, Opened its first store under the new branding in Nottingham in 1991.
After many other acquisitions and talks in the background regarding the future of the discount supermarket, the last store was seen open in the UK in the summer of 2011 after a successful takeover from the Co-Operative group.
Sainsbury’s Freezer Centres
As we know it today, the supermarket giant Sainsbury’s once operated a chain of frozen food stores in the UK called Sainsbury’s Freezer Centres.
The first store opened its first store in 1974 near Bournemouth amid competition from rival frozen food stores. Still, the vision was not met with much success as not many people owned freezers, and, in 1975, stores that we being refurbished or built had freezer departments built into their plans.
In 1986 Sainsbury’s sold their freezer stores to a company called Bejam, and three years later, in 1989, these became part of the Iceland chain of frozen food stores.
Big W stores were designed to be on a vast scale and encompassed everything all under one roof!
Trading under the Kingfisher Group, which later became rebranded as Woolworths PLC (Which, incidentally, is no longer around anymore!) was operational between 1998 and 2004, so not an overly long time!
In 2004, Big W sold off a third of its store spaces to the likes of Tesco and Asda and rebranded to a more minor exercise called Woolworths out-of-town Stores.
You can no longer find the brand in any disguise on the high street.
Primarily a Northeast England supermarket, Hintons was founded in Middlesborough in 1871 and rapidly expanded in stores and had seven stores in its chain on Teesidde by 1919.
After Hinton’s continued success, it went on to by a chain of off-licenses which increased their premises numbers trading under this name to 55 stores and 30 off-licenses.
Hinton’s was acquired in 1984 by Argyll Foods, and they changed some of its products to the Presto brand while they still traded as HIntons, but slowly the Presto brand dominated, and the brand changed everything to the Presto brand shortly after.
Initially a Danish brand of cut-price supermarket products, Netto hit the UK in the very early 1990s bringing international food and bargain-basement food and products to the home.
Owned by the Salling Group, Netto had accumulated nearly 200 stores by May 2010 but was sold to Asda at this point.
However, Netto came back to the UK shores in 2014 as a collaboration with Sainsbury’s, which lasted two years before Sainsbury’s made the decision to dissolve this partnership and sell all of the stores, so Sainsbury’s could focus more on their investment ventures.
In the early 1960s, 1964 to be exact, Presto supermarkets became popular in Scotland and the North of England but ended up with a presence nationwide.
In 1982, the brand had accumulated 136 stores, and it had transferred all of its going concerts to Argyll Foods, which continued to operate under the presto umbrella until 1985 when a significant rebranding shuffle was decided upon and accumulated a lot of other affiliate stores into the Presto brand.
However, in 1987, the phasing into the Safeway brand began after the parent company Argyll Foods Acquired Safeway, and in 1998 the conversion was complete, and the Presto brand was no more.
As you can see, many of the major supermarket players we see today had some involvement with the disintegration of the smaller and older supermarket brands we used to see on our high streets and industrial estates many years ago.
The dominance of major brands such as Tesco, Sainsbury’s, Asda, and the Co-operative Group has taken over some of the smaller established brands as part of takeovers and business amalgamations.
By the giants being able to provide a holistic, self-service shopping experience on a more superior level, smaller and more independent supermarkets are a part of supermarket shopping history.
The Third Man On The Podium
The famous image of two African American athletes protesting at the 1968 Olympic games is one of those that has gone down in the history books but there is even more to the story than meets the eye.
It is said that every picture tells a story and in the spirit of the Olympic games we’d like to relate to you a sad yet empowering one.
Rewind to the Mexico games of 1968 and that iconic image of two African Americans, their fists held aloft as they stood on the podium, each with a hand clad in a single black glove in protest at the treatment of African Americans and the poverty many endured.
Tommie Smith had won the gold medal for the 200 metre race and his fellow countryman John Carlos had earned the bronze in the same race but as the Star- Spangled Banner rang out they stood not in triumph but shoeless; symbolic of poverty, each with one hand raised above their heads in protest, their faces not beaming but sombre and bowed down. A brave move in a time of high racial tension and with the recent assassinations of Martin Luther King and John Fitzgerald Kennedy still vivid in the hearts and minds of people across America and the world.
Although the photograph is well known and the protest immediately apparent, what is far less well known is the story of the third man on that podium and the part he played in the story, silver medallist Peter Norman.
Prior to the medal ceremony Smith and Carlos had approached Norman to inform him of their intention to use the moment as a platform for their protest and inquired of Norman if he was a believer in human rights and of God. Carlos reported that the Australian runner; who had broken an Aussie record with his performance which still stands to this day, said that yes he was very much a supporter of human rights and having come from a Salvation Army background, was a strong believer in God and he did not hesitate to offer his support. This at a time when his own homeland of Australia had a policy akin to that of South African apartheid.
There was a hitch though, Carlos had left his black gloves back in the Olympic village and it was Norman who suggested they each wear a single glove, hence each is seen raising opposing hands in the famous image. Furthermore, pinned to Norman’s chest is a human rights badge he had acquired from a white American teammate of Carlos and Smith, rower Paul Hoffman to show his support.
The consequences for Norman following the protest were lifelong. Although he qualified with ease for the subsequent Olympics, Australia did not send a team to represent their nation to the 1972 games. Norman went on to work as a gym teacher and in a butcher shop in subsequent years, his athletic career all but over for the stand he had made.
Many years later at the San Jose university campus, a statue was erected in honour of Smith and Carlos’ stand, each represented with fists in the air on a podium. Norman was not present though and Carlos felt strongly that he too had had earned his place alongside himself and Smith and so called the Australian to discuss the matter with his old friend. Norman’s response floored the American when he told him that the silver medal place must remain empty, leaving room for any man or woman to stand there and make their own individual stand for human rights.
Norman’s love for running never waned but in 1985, following a charity race he almost lost a leg when a torn Achilles tendon became gangrenous. Depression, painkiller addiction and heavy drinking ensued and Norman died of a heart attack in 2006 in Melbourne at the age of 64.
Perhaps the most poignant image though, is that of both Smith and Carlos carrying Norman’s coffin at his funeral, each having stood on another podium to pay tribute to their friend as they gave a eulogy to him.
It was only in 2012 that the Australian government issued a posthumous apology to Peter Norman for the treatment he received after simply doing the right thing.
When speaking of Peter Norman, John Carlos recalled expecting to see fear present in Norman’s eyes when asking him to support he and Smith but said he remembered seeing “only love” there.