How much has our local high street in Southport changed in recent years?
These amazing photos offer a fascinating snapshot of how Chapel Street in Southport town centre looked in May 2011.
Do you remember when HMV had a large store there? When Toni&Guy Hairdressers was on the corner with London Street? When the BHS department store treated shoppers to various departments across four floors?
Since we published the images in our Stand Up For Southport Facebook group, they have sparked huge interest in Southport’s past, its present and its future.
Nearly 19,000 people have seen the post already with over 150 comments as people reminisce about their favourite shops and what life was like a decade ago.
There have been many changes! Sometimes, these have been as a result of seismic shock in a particular firm, such as HMV, which has been part of closures nationwide; sometimes the changes reveal gradual changes in trends which are being partly driven by a change in habits, not least by a growth in internet shopping.
It’s important to say that Chapel Street is in good health today, with some positive changes on the horizon.
After being empty for seven years, planning permission has been granted for the conversion of the former BHS store into a cafe, a pub and three retail units on the ground floor; 30 apart hotel rooms on the upper floors; and a roof terrace on the top.
The last few months has seen a series of new ventures opening on Chapel Street. Earlier this year, Waterstones bookshop opened in the former Peacocks store opposite Southport Railway Station; Barnardo’s opened in the former HMV site; while VFM opened in the former Tienne site.
Last year saw new arrivals including One Below, Hugo Lounge and The Fragrance Shop.
The closure of the BHS chain came as a shock in the summer of 2016, ending an 88-year presence on the high street. But it was symptomatic of a bigger change in shopping habits.
The UK lost 83% of its main department stores in the five years since the collapse of the BHS chain.
March 2020 saw Southport lose both the Beales and Debenhams department stores on Lord Street, although a new Beales department store has emerged – only the fourth of the new Beales stores to open in the UK, a real compliment to the renewed investor confidence in Southport.
Currys Digital is another shop which has gone since 2011, with the firm since preferring to target retail parks rather than town or city centres.
Fashion stores have changed. A decade ago, you would have found Internacionale at the entrance to Southport Train Station, with New Look and H&M opposite and Damart nearby. This wasn’t long after the closure of Top Shop, Burtons and Dorothy Perkins. Clothes shopping is more frequently being done online with fewer shops as a result, although we do have some top quality options still in Southport.
Coffee culture is thriving though. While the former Blacks outdoor clothing shop on the corner of Eastbank Street sat empty in 2011, it is now occupied by a bustling Costa Coffee, just a couple of minutes’ walk away from other popular cafes including Remedy and Caffe Nero.
Speaking on Stand Up For Southport, Emma Louise Ollerenshaw said: “Forgot we used to have a Thorntons. Miss HMV most! Have to go to Wigan now.”
Nicola Jayne said: “I loved BHS at Christmas!”
Morgan Walton said: “Can’t forget the McDonalds that was on Eastbank Street! Don’t know why that closed as it was always full to my memory.”
Carol Akister said: “I remember Chapel Street with Etam, Woollies, Littlewoods, Saxone, Broadbents and Boots, but I left in 1983 to move to Warrington after qualifying as a SEN at Greaves Hall, seen pics since, don’t recognise the place, even the train station has changed, used to get the hospital bus to Greaves Hall from there… takes me back and I feel so old now!”
Susan Staceym said: “Can’t believe how things have changed. I worked in Burtons, Youngsters Toys, then Broadbents, all on Chapel Street. My mum worked in Woolworths. All of them gone.”
We still have some popular favourites that remain on Chapel Street to this day, including Marks & Spencer, WH Smith, Clintons Cards and others.
When these 2011 pictures were taken, it was less than four years after the official opening of Chapel Street as a newly-pedestrianised area, which took place on Friday, July 6, 2007, as Mayor of Sefton, Cllr Richard Hands, officially unveiled a commemorative plaque.
Can you remember when the road was dominated by three lanes of traffic?
The debate over it continues to this day! Speaking on Stand Up For Southport, Neville Grundy said: “It could also be tricky for pedestrians trying to cross the road. Trees, benches and space to stroll around in are much better than fumes, noise and packed pavements.”
Katy Hibbert said: “I was a school kid who got the bus twice a day. It was tricky and dangerous with the buses and cars. There were so many near misses and always beeping and aggression from drivers. The pedestrianisation was and is a good thing.”
Stephen Morris said: “Tricky to cross? The road was about 200 yards long with four sets of traffic lights with crossings.”
- Do you have any old photos and memories of Southport in years gone by? Please email me at: MediaAndrewBrown@gmail,com
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