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A store with a special place in history

PUBLISHED: 09:32 19 December 2008 | UPDATED: 22:03 05 July 2010

The burnt-out Woolworths store in London Road North, Lowestoft, following the bombing raid in May, 1941.

The burnt-out Woolworths store in London Road North, Lowestoft, following the bombing raid in May, 1941.

WOOLWORTHS has been a feature of high streets in towns up and down the country for 99 years and the store in Lowestoft has always been a prominent attraction.

WOOLWORTHS has been a feature of high streets in towns up and down the country for 99 years and the store in Lowestoft has always been a prominent attraction.

As the store chain has gone into administration its future looks gloomy and other national organisations are in a bidding war for a number of prime retail locations.

The store in London Road North has been at the heart of the town's shopping and pedestrian centre so its passing will mean a loss to many people.

Bob Collis, a member of Lowestoft Aviation Society and keen historian, recalls how the store received a direct hit from German bombers during the second world war.

“The Lowestoft Woolworths store was burnt out as a result of enemy action in May 1941.

“I'm pleased to say that despite extensive damage to the store and other buildings in the town there are no reports of any fatalities during the raid,” said Mr Collis.

The official report on the raid shows how Lowestoft was targeted by German bombers.

On May 5, 1941, at eight minutes past midnight a German bomber dropped two high explosive bombs. One sank a vessel at the mouth of the harbour and other embedded itself in the decking of South Pier and failed to explode.

However, less than an hour later at 1.02am another bomber dropped 10 high explosive bombs and four oil incendiary bombs between Clapham Road and London Road North.

Some of these bombs seriously damaged houses in Clapham Road, and a laundry at The Prairie (now the site of the Britten Centre). Two fell on the bus garage and yard in Gordon Road and five bombs fell on the Woolworth's store where a serious fire broke out.

The store and that of the adjoining Timpson's shoe store were destroyed before the fire service brought the flames under control at 2.35am.

Despite the fire no further attacks on the town took place at that time although another German bomber dropped 18 bombs in the sea off Claremont Pier which caused windows to shatter on properties in the Kirkley Cliff area.

The current Woolworths store was built on the same site and opened in 1950.

It has successfully traded in the town for almost 60 years and been a feature of many shopping extravaganzas including late-night openings during the Christmas period.

Have you any memories of shopping or working in the Lowestoft branch of Woolworths?

Write to: Richard Wood, Turning Back The Clock, The Journal, 147 London Road North, Lowestoft NR32 1NB, email richard.wood@archant.co.uk or telephone 01502 525834.

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