‘The store which sold everything’ – 100 years since opening of Hartlepool shop

The Central Hartlepool Co Operative store, Gaumont cinema on Stockton Street and the Durham Paper Mills buildings in the background feature in this aerial photograph taken in 1924.

The Central Hartlepool Co Operative store, Gaumont cinema on Stockton Street and the Durham Paper Mills buildings in the background feature in this aerial photograph taken in 1924.

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History was in the making 100 years ago - as the finishing touches were made to the Co-operative Society’s new Central Stores in Hartlepool.

Built at the junction of Park Road and Stockton Street, the Edwardian-designed building took contractors Lionel G. Ekins four years to complete. It opened in October 1915.

The building of the Central Stores.

The building of the Central Stores.

“The foundation stones for the imposing new shop were laid in 1911, and the ground floor opened for trade first. It proved immediately popular, offering a wide range of goods at very reasonable prices,” reported the Mail.

“A former farmhouse stood next to the new store. It had numerous stables in the grounds, plus a deep well. The Facchini family lived in the house between 1928 and 1949, while Hartlepool brewery J.W. Cameron later used the grounds for storage.”

The Hartlepools boasted five separate Co-op groups during the mid-Victorian era, until a town-wide Co-operative Society was formed in 1882. Thomas Tweddle was appointed as chairman and the group’s first shop, in Charles Street, opened in 1883.

Advertisements for the new store proclaimed that “goods would be sold at the same prices as those of respectable traders in the town”. Sales, and profits, soon proved buoyant.

“Described as “the finest block of business buildings in the town”, it had “an imposing tower and arcade, a Board Room panelled in oak and a comfortably furnished ladies’ rest room”.”

Hartlepool Mail

Over the next few years the Society took charge of more than a dozen premises across the Hartlepools, including a bakery, shops, stables, a building department and meat factory.

The year 1901 saw the Society purchase Owton Fens Farm and, as membership flourished to more than 20,000, so plans to build a new town-centre Central Stores were drawn up.

Described as “the finest block of business buildings in the town”, it had “an imposing tower and arcade, a Board Room panelled in oak and a comfortably furnished ladies’ rest room.”

But Hartlepudlians were granted little time to enjoy it. War was raging across Europe and, soon after opening, the grand shop was commissioned by the military as a command base.

“The Commanding Officer was asked to put up notices prohibiting soldiers striking matches on the tiles of the new building,” according to Hartlepool History Then and Now website.

The Central Stores survived two world wars and the Great Depression of the 1930s but, by the 1960s, profits were falling. In 1988 the store was put up for sale and by 1996 it was operating as a nightclub.

Today, the building exists as an apartment and business block. In many people’s memories, however, it will always be the Central Stores.

l To find more about the history of the store visit www.hhtandn.org