The Twentieth Century Society

Campaigning for outstanding buildings

Department stores

Beales – Mansfield

Nominated by: Robert Evans
Have C20 acted upon before? no
Region: East Midlands
Dates from: Opened 1938, extended 1960s
Built for: Mansfield and Sutton Co-operative Society
Listed: Locally listed (as Queen Street frontage, 15-31, Stockwell Gate)
Conservation Area: Yes – Market Place

Beales came late to retailing in Mansfield in 2011 when they acquired the Queen Street/Stockwell Gate store through their purchase of the Anglia Co-operative Society’s ‘Westgate’ chain of department stores. The Anglia were the successors to a series of merged Co-operative Societies who had been retailing in Mansfield, beginning with the Mansfield Co-operative Society in 1865. Beales were a small national chain of twenty-three stores – founded in Bournemouth in 1881 – that went into administration in January 2020 in the face of retailing difficulties. The Covid pandemic forced their hand on a number of closures and the Mansfield store closed in March 2020.

In 1922 the Mansfield and Sutton Co-operative Society replaced a building destroyed by fire with a new store on Stockwell Gate and in 1938 opened a new building adjacent on Queen Street. It must have seemed strikingly modern against Mansfield’s existing townscape and speaks of the standing of, and local pride in, the Co-operative Movement. The building was extended in the 1960s in the same style to make it largely symmetrical and its considerable scale gives it real prominence in the retail centre.  It now appears as a large stone-faced building with a central, stepped clock tower including a tall area of glazing above an entrance on a sloping site. There are three storeys to the south, four to the north as the ground falls away, and a penthouse level. As well as the stepped tower it displays a number of art deco features such as ranges of metal framed windows separated vertically by shallow-fluted flat columns and horizontally by decorative panels and is surmounted by a band of fluted decoration. The shorter side elevation in Quaker Lane is similar but the Stockwell Gate side elevation is more recent and linked by two bridges to the Beales extension in the more recent Four Seasons Shopping Centre. Part of the ground floor has been occupied by the Co-operative Bank. The Conservation Area Character Appraisal references the building as ‘a distinctive building designed in an Art Deco style’ and identifies it as one of the area’s ‘primary landmark buildings’ and ‘of great local significance’.

At present vacant and unused. A public consultation is currently underway (November 2021) on Mansfield District Council’s draft town centre masterplan aimed at guiding the regeneration of the town centre over 15 years. It recognises the Queen Street frontage as ‘one of the more significant remaining inter-war buildings in the town centre’ and ‘worthy of retention and re-use’ and also acknowledges retention would reduce the carbon cost of development. The plan suggests the Queen Street building could be suitable for ‘a civic centre, other public sector uses, retail, college or university, student accommodation or leisure uses.’ Nonetheless, the size of the building suggests sympathetic re-use could be a challenge and, despite its local recognition, unless and until a viable scheme emerges, doubts must surround its future. Last update: November 2021

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