10 British department stores that have come & gone over the years (Part III)

Despite our two previous instalments of great British department stores that had come and gone, there were still countless others that hadn't made the list. So here's part III, listing high street names that you requested as well as some you might not recognise.

Part III in 10 department stores that have come & gone over the years, including Beales, Hides, Bentalls and Keddies.
Pictured: Wickham's department store, built in 1927.

  1. Keddies

Keddies, founded in 1892 by George James Keddie, was a small chain of department stores based in Essex, England.

Its flagship flagship store was located on Southend High Street. In the 1970s Keddies expanded, opening branches in Romford, Stratford High Street, and in Queen Street, Colchester – but these all closed by the late 1980s.

After going into administration, Keddies closed its doors after 104 years of trading, on  February 26, 1996.

Twitter / @ac_taxis

2. Hides

Hides department store first opened its doors in 1851 and was located in Broadway, Bexleyheath.

The family-run retailer sold a variety of goods from carpets and china to cosmetics and toys.

The building was forced to close in 1979 and it was demolished and replaced with the Broadway Shopping Centre.

Twitter / @BexleyArchives3

3. Beales

Beales in Bournemouth first opened its doors in 1881 as The Fancy Fair by John Elmes Beale. At the time it was the biggest department store in Dorset.

The chain then expanded by acquiring other department stores, mostly in regional cities and towns, over the years. By the start of 2020, it had 23 stores.

In its latter years it went through a CVA and a change of ownership but it all came to head at the start of 2020 when the 139-year English old department store chain tumbled into administration.

It almost immediately closed down 12 of its 23 shops, and as no buyer was found amid the administration – coupled with the onset of the Covid pandemic – it was forced to close 10 shops earlier than planned.

Now only one Beales store remains, which currently operates in Poole.

Twitter / @FTCT

4. Bentalls

Bentalls, established in 1867 by Franck Bentall, is a British department store chain which was based in Kingston, south-west London.

Its flagship was built in 1935 and the retailer started expanding in 1947, via the acquisition of the Worthing department store. This was soon followed by Eldred Sayers & Son in Ealing and Mary Lee of Tunbridge Wells.

Bentalls subsequently opened a store in Bristol while closing stores in Chatham and Tunbridge Wells.


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In January 2001, Bentalls sold its loss-making Bristol store to their then-rival House of Fraser for £16.35 million.

In June of that year, the rival department store chain Fenwick purchased Bentalls for £70.8 million. At the time, it had six shops. Fenwick kept the Kingston flagship but closed all the other Bentalls stores.

In addition, rather than operate solely as a department store, the building of the Kingston flagship has formed part of the Bentall Centre shopping precinct that opened in 1992.

(Image: Wikipedia Commons)

5. Gorringes 

Gorringe’s department store was established in 1858 by Frederick Gorringe when he opened a small drapery shop in Buckingham Palace Road, London.

Shortly after opening it became popular with the local nobility and gentry and was patronized by the Ladies of Queen Victoria’s household.

Gorringes’ business continued to thrive and by 1869 the store occupied three separate units before eventually being replaced by one large department store.

Gorringes then closed it’s doors in 1968.

Image: Mark Matlach

6. Wickhams

Wickhams, built in 1927, was a department store on the north side of the Mile End Road in London’s East End, which was intended to be the “Harrods of East London”.

The building was originally designed to upstage the Selfridges department store on Oxford Street but failed to do so and the owners closed the doors in the 1960s.

Wickhams department store on Mile End Road was built in 1927 and was intended as the Harrods of east London. It closed in the 1960s. The strange gap in the middle of the buildings results from the refusal of one business, a jeweler's named Spiegelhalter, to sell up to the developers. The building now houses a Tesco at street level and function rooms upstairs.
Image: Derek Voller

7. Owen Owen

One of Liverpool’s most famous department stores was Owen Owen, which could be found in Clayton Square.

The retailer was founded by Welsh-born Owen Owen in 1868 before expanding into a national chain, opening stores in Coventry, Chester, Stourbridge and Preston.

The department store closed its doors in 1995.

Image
Twitter/ @CoventryGazette

8. Blackler’s 

Founded in 1908, Blackler’s was a large department store on the corner of Elliot Street and Great Charlotte Street in Liverpool. At its peak, it employed 1000 people.

The store was famous for its lavish Christmas grotto and rocking horse, which can now be found on display in the Museum of Liverpool.

Despite being damaged in The Blitz of May 1941 during WWII, the retailer survived but store eventually closed down in April 1988.

At the original site, a Wetherspoons chain pub now stands, named Richard John Blackler in honour of the store’s founder.

Image
@oldpicposter – 1950s Blackler’s Department Store Window Display, Liverpool.

9.  Debenham & Freebody

Founded in 1778, Debenham & Freebody was a department store located on 27–37 Wigmore Street in London, part of what is now the Debenhams chain.

The drapery store transformed from a drapery business into a fully-fledged department store in 1905 and became the first of over 60 nationwide stores.

In the 1970s Freebody was dropped from the store’s title and the chain adopted the holding company name of Debenhams Ltd.

The original Debenham & Freebody building is no longer used as a department store, as Debenhams moved its flagfshop and headquarters to Oxford Street. However, it is still in commercial use today and is grade II listed by Historic England.

Over the years, Debenhams grew into a major department store chain – trading on the London Stock Exchange and at one point having more than 150 stores and more than 12,000 employee.

However, it underwent CVAs and restructures, shut down a raft of stores during the pandemic, and fell into administration twice – within the space of 12 months. None were enough to save the retailer amid a challenging retail market and the pandemic, and just last December it started liquidation proceedings.

Debenhams currently has 118 stores remaining, but liquidation means they’re unlikely to survive.

Twitter / @langrabbie

10. Allders 

Allders department store was first opened in Croydon in 1862 by Joshua Allder and became the flagship store of a chain across England.

It was the third biggest department store in the UK after Harrods and Selfridges before it was broken up and sold after falling into administration in 2005.

The Croydon store continued trading until 2012 when a buyer for the firm could not be found, resulting in the loss of 850 jobs.

Twitter / @soult

Do you remember any of these? Tell us in a comment below.

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5 COMMENTS

  1. Department stores are too large and costly to operate, the leases are long and old and ridiculous and the short retail hours are so daft. Primark keeps open longer especially on Thursdays, Debenhams was closed half past 5 in the digital era. They opened a store which closed 12 years later a waste of money. Instead of companies expanding stores they should be closing them in towns which only get Saturday footfall many towns seem to only be busy on. Saturday everyone sheep going shopping the same day many click and collect causing unnecessary queues whilst people need to pay. Click and collect makes staff pointless, shops not stocking items people may as well have home delivery. It still costs money to deliver items then if returned and not sold in store they have to return to the depot the same as home delivery. Shops end up with stock like one Evans had size 32 bikini briefs reduced they didn’t sell even on the last day don’t know what happened to the last bits that weren’t sold in the closed down Evans. Size 30-32 and 34 don’t hardly sell in this country same as pointless plus size 14. Not having too many of those sizes would save money. Increasing the amount of the popular sizes would sell more brand new making more profits

  2. What a change of fortune for department stores. I worked for the Russell & Dorrell store in Worcester until it’s closure, then in its stand alone Furniture Store until it’s closure a few years later.

  3. Department stores have sadly had their day. I remember very vaguely Bourne and Hollingworth as it was shutting down when I was very young around 1983/1984.

    It later became the Plaza shopping centre and I think Next have it now though might be wrong.

    It’s a big pity that no bidder will buy the profitable rump of Debenhams which has been badly mismanaged and had no investment in years as I am sure a core store network of 70 to 90 stores would have been profitable.

    As it is once the pandemic goes many of these old stores will find a new use as mixed use developments of housing above ground and retail or other uses at ground and below.

    Government really needs to tax online and get rid of Business Rates which should be based on a local area’s economic performance based on store turnover not some pre 1991 valuation. Life has moved on massively since then.

    John Lewis I still like and Fenwick and hope they survive. Not a fan of H of F which has lost it’s way even under Ashcroft. Feels like a glorified Sports Direct. No Ta.

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