The wonder of Wymondham's Woolies

The recent closure of Woolworth's stores has prompted Wymondham historian Philip Yaxley to uncover the fascinating history of the town's own branch in Market Street.

The recent closure of Woolworth's stores has prompted Wymondham historian Philip Yaxley to uncover the fascinating history of the town's own branch in Market Street.

Back in the early months of 1953, there was a buzz about Wymondham.

Practically, the only topic of conversation, apart from perhaps the Coronation festivities later in the year, was the eagerly awaited opening of a branchg of F.W Woolworth and Co Ltd in the town.


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So on Friday, March 13 in that Queen's Coronation Year, shoppers flocked into Wymondham for the opening of the new store 'with its display windows attractively laid out'. It was located in the Market Street premises which had formerly been occupied by Peacock's, and today by One Stop and the Post Office.

The shop had remained empty for almost three years since Peacock's vacated it and the new occupiers were welcomed with open arms by both townsfolk and the then Wymondham Urban District Council. In many ways, Peacock's 'where you could get anything for sixpence' was similar to Woolworth's and, of course, the council would be able to collect the rates once again on the building.

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One newspaper commentator remarked that Woolies would bring 'a certain trading prestige' and 'should be further encouragement to people living in the rural areas around Wymondham to do their shopping here instead of travelling to Norwich'. Furthermore, the advent of the new store, which would employ about 20 staff, meant there would be no empty shops in the town's main shopping centre - unlike sadly today.

The Market Street premises eventually proved too small for the trading of a major retailer and in November 1981, Woolworth's moved to the Market Place and occupied a bigger store, which had been built on the site of the old King's Head pub. The celebrated coaching inn had closed on October 31, 1962 and was later controversially demolished, but the site remained a boarded up eyesore for many years, until the Woolies store was erected.

The 'new superstore', as it was generously described at the time, immediately proved a big hit with shoppers and a few days after its opening, Nicholas Ray, the manager, said: 'The response has been amazing. We have been absolutely packed from the time we opened.'

Extra floor space enabled a much more extensive range of goods to be offered.

So, Wymondham shoppers continues to enjoy the 'Wonder of Woolies' until the recent closure after almost 56 years of trading in the town. Let's hope that very soon, the building, which boasts a prime location on the Market Place, will again become part of the shopping scene.

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