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The Changing Face of the High Street

The Co-op

The row of houses and shops on the High Street between Bakehouse Lane and Church Street, before the development of the Co-op
The Co-op at the peak of its power and popularity in 1965
The Housing Association propoerties which now occupy the site of the former Co-op
The three photos above show the changes to this site over the hundred years between 1905 and 2005

For most people living in Burton in the last century, "The Co-op" was a series of shops (later one large shop with a number of sections) occupying the area between Bakehouse Lane and Osborne House, which stands on the corner of Church Street.

The development of the site in the early years of the last century.

Left - the map of 1886 shows a large gap between the houses near the corner of Bakehouse Lane and those opposite what is now the bottom of Pioneer Avenue.

Right - by 1922, two properties had been added to those near Bakehouse Lane, and the new Co-op building was in also in place.

Before the Co-op arrived, the north side of the High Street between Church Street and Bakehouse Lane was occupied by a series of houses and small shops
So long had the Co-op been a fixture of this part of the High Street, that few people could remember what had been there before it was built.

Fortunately, a few photos have survived, and in the view on the right (from about 1905) we can see a row of shops and private houses, with Eben Taylor's shoe shop at the eastern end.

(For a more detailed description of the businesses which operated here, see shops 17-20 in the "Shops of Burton" feature here)

The different roof heights and styles indicate that they were built over a period of time, rather than as one integrated terrace. Closer inspection of available photos shows that the three properties at the Bakehouse Lane end were built of stone and the central buildings were of brick. At any rate, they provided retail facilities and services for what was then a town growing fairly rapidly as the footwear and clothing industries (which had arrived in the 1870s-1890s) began to flourish.

The main Co-op building housing the administartion offices and including a large hall on the upper floor.
The main Co-op building was put up in about 1913, standing on the site of Eben Taylor's shop. The photo on the left shows what an imposing structure it was, compared with what had gone before. It announced that retailing in Burton had entered a new era, being part of a nationwide organisation rather than a large shop run by a particular family.

Although the lower floor with the shop frontage underwent several make-overs and re-fits over the next sixty years, the main structure of the building remained substantially unchanged for the whole of its life.

As the Co-op's operations expanded, the need for more retail floor space became increasingly urgent. The solution to the problem was the gradual take-over of the whole row of shops up to the corner of Bakehouse Lane. This was accomplished in two main stages.

In 1936, the Co-op bought the site next door, demolished the house and shop, and expanded westwards. In the 1950s and 60s the remainder of the row was brought under Co-op owndership and the frontage was again re-modelled to unify the image presented to the buying public.

The middle years of the last century saw the era of Co-op expansion.

Left - by 1938, the Co-op had taken over the two adjacent properties.
Right - The Co-op at its zenith in 1971. All the properties up to Bakehouse Lane had been assimilated into one retail operation.

The full story of the Co-op in Burton has been thoroughly researched for the Society and can be read by clicking here.

In latter part of the last century, there was a major shift in retailing, caused by the rise of the major supermarket chains like Tesco and Sainsbury, and the emergence of stores like Comet which sold major domestic appliances and televisions. The Co-op found itself unable to compete effectively, and decline set in. Final closure of the main site came in March 1989. All the buildings disappeared in a matter of weeks as they were demolished one by one. The site stood empty for about six years, until residential housing was built there.

Above - the end of an era, as the Co-op is demolished in 1989

Below left - four years later, the war memorial returns to the Cross. By then, many Burton people were starting to think that
the blue painted boards in front of the old Co-op site were becoming a permanent fixture.

Below right - Housing Association properties now occupy the site where thousands of people once shopped. It would be fair to
say that their design has received a very mixed reception.

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