The department store with an ornate brass lift

The crowds do a touch of window shopping.
The crowds do a touch of window shopping.
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Prominent stores have come and gone in Sunderland - but few are as loved as Blacketts.

The department store disappeared from the city scene more than 40 years ago.

A Blacketts television advert for the 1953 coronation.

A Blacketts television advert for the 1953 coronation.

But it has kept a place in the heart of Echo readers.

Philip Curtis, from the Sunderland Antiquarian Society, took a fond look back.

Over the past half century Sunderland has lost most of its department stores, one of the best-loved of those being Blacketts.

The business had grown from what was initially a very small shop which was first established in 1826.

A Blacketts advert.

A Blacketts advert.

It was set up by William Blackett on a site close to Union Street.

But the shop eventually moved into this street in 1879 when alterations were needed because of the building of the north end of the Central Railway Station.

In 1897 William was succeeded by his two sons, Charles and Egglestone and a limited liability company formed.

It was created with many customers being invited to become shareholders.

The china department.

The china department.

At around this time Blacketts, who then called themselves silk mercers, expanded quickly.

The flourishing business annexed ten smaller shop premises into their own.

The store then occupied a whole street block which was bounded by Union Street, Middle Street and Princes Street.

Ernest Measor took over the management of the store in 1905 and arranged for further extensions.

Blacketts from Union Street.

Blacketts from Union Street.

These saw the removal of the Princes Street junction with the store being expanded across the street’s opening in High Street West.

The new store stocked just about everything – from ladies’ lingerie to bedroom furniture.

Bedroom suites were being advertised from 10 guineas up to £30 and the store was proud that its windows were lit from the outside by electric light, while the interior was fitted with incandescent globes.

Particular features were the grand staircase and a magnificent brass lift which could be found right in the centre of the store.

There was also the chute system which dealt with customers’ money. Cash travelled through the chute to the cashier’s department where the change and receipt were returned in similar fashion.

Blacketts was twice damaged by enemy bombing raids during the Second World War, in 1941 and 1943, but on both occasions managed to open the following morning. Bosses were justly proud of that achievement.

Another shot of the Blacketts interior.

Another shot of the Blacketts interior.

The damage led to the removal of the store’s two distinctive towers and enabled modernisation to take place.

In 1963, the store was taken over by the Hind Group but as the 1960s came to a close, business began to decline. In 1972, the store closed making 150 workers redundant.

Six years later, the premises were demolished and shop units built on the site. However the grandiose of the architecture of Blacketts store was lost with its replacement being basic cuboid in shape.

Another little piece of the old town was gone forever.

Blacketts in around 1900 with its distinctive tower.

Blacketts in around 1900 with its distinctive tower.

Blacketts record bar.

Blacketts record bar.

The Blacketts interior in 1968.

The Blacketts interior in 1968.

The demolition of the Blacketts department store on Friday, June 9, 1978.

The demolition of the Blacketts department store on Friday, June 9, 1978.