Nominated by: C20 Regional Group
Have C20 acted upon before? no
Dates from: 1950s
Built for: Beales
Architect: Jackson and Greenen
Conservation Area: Old Christchurch Road Conservation Area
The Beales family started trading in Bournemouth in 1881 and developed a chain of department stores across England (plus one in Scotland) totalling twenty-three when the chain went into administration in January 2020 in the face of retailing difficulties and the looming Covid pandemic. The flagship and HQ Bournemouth store closed in March 2020 and has been vacant and unused since.
The Old Christchurch Road site has been occupied by a Beales store since 1881 and the present 1950s building by Bournemouth architects Jackson and Greenen – architects of Bournemouth’s Grade II listed Yellow Bus Garage – replaced the store destroyed in a 1943 air-raid. It occupies one end of an irregular block, which also includes a Grade II listed House of Fraser store, in the town centre’s primary retail area. All-of-a-piece and purpose built, at seven storeys with a basement it is of considerable mass and scale with elevations of brickwork bands above the ground floor separated by continuous lines of glazing suggestive of pre-war moderne. As a premier shopping destination Beales was synonymous with Bournemouth and for post-war generations part of the town’s identity. The chain had remained in Beale family ownership until 1995 and a retired window-dresser recalls the store as a good employer and remembers its attractive interiors and restaurants with good views. Its closure came as a shock to many and a too-typical example of the hollowing out of town centres and high streets.
A planning application to convert most of the building to residential use was refused in 2016 because of a wish to retain retail floor space in the town’s primary shopping area against a backdrop of a sizable public campaign to retain Beales as a store – “I back BEALES.” The future of the store remains uncertain. While the Beales name has been revived in stores in Poole, Southport and Peterborough, there seems no similar prospect for the Bournemouth store. Local reports suggest East Cliff Properties Ltd acquired the site late in 2020 and have retained architects David James to work on a proposal for a mixed commercial and higher end residential scheme. As yet, there has been no planning application. Last update: September 2021