The Twentieth Century Society

Campaigning for outstanding buildings

UK Department Stores under threat

Debenhams, Taunton, North Street elevation

Photo: Jessica Holland

We are seeing increasing numbers of well designed C20 department stores coming up for demolition or unsympathetic alteration as more high street shops close in response to changing shopping habits and the pressure of the coronavirus pandemic. We have been speaking out in the media on the topic recently: our Director, Catherine Croft, appeared on BBC Radio 4’s You and Yours to discuss C20 stores at risk (listen here: at 15.12 to 21.37) and our Caseworker Coco Whittaker was also  interviewed on BBC Radio Somerset to outline our objections to the proposed demolition of Debenhams in Taunton (listen here: at 3:33:45 to 3:38:36).

The Society has submitted applications to list a number of top quality 20th century department store buildings; we have protested against the issuing of a Certificate of Immunity from listing the House of Fraser (Rackhams) store in Birmingham which paves the way for its demolition; we have objected to the demolition of locally significant Debenhams stores in Taunton, Guildford and Nuneaton; we stand in opposition to the proposals to replace most of the original windows of the Grade II listed Rylands building in Manchester, and have outlined similar concerns in pre-application consultations for other listed examples too.

We are carrying out research into 20th century stores and compiling a list of those at risk in the UK with the help of our regional groups. We are looking at suitable alternative uses and design strategies which can keep the architectural qualities of the buildings intact,  If you know that your own local store is closing, and you think it’s a good building which we should be concerned about please email, ideally with a photo and the full postal address.