The Sunderland store which was a hit with the stars of Coronation Street

Last week we recounted the events of December 14, 1954 - the night Joplings in Sunderland was destroyed by fire.

Monday, 5th September 2016, 10:00 am
Updated Monday, 5th September 2016, 12:06 pm
Stars of Coronation Street at Joplings.
Stars of Coronation Street at Joplings.

Philip Curtis, of Sunderland Antiquarian Society, today tells how the department store rose from the ashes.

It would have been easy to call it a day.

Ann Rawling is next in line to see Santa Claus at Joplings in 1960.

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But the directors of Joplings store were determined to rebuild as quickly as possible after the fire.

There was a suitable site close by in John Street. This was the bomb site where St Thomas’ Church and its vicarage had once stood before being destroyed on March 14, 1943, by a German parachute mine.

While building work was underway, the store carried on in a number of premises. Furniture, electrical and china were sold from the Home Gift Centre in Blandford Street.

The Fashion Centre in John Street catered for ladies’ clothing, and the footwear department was housed in a temporary store on the High Street site.

Children enjoying the Christmas toy fair in 1962.

Men’s bespoke tailoring was housed further along the street.

Work on the new store progressed quickly. By December 1955 - one year after the fire - the new floors were nearing completion. The new store would boast an escalator as well as a lift.

Then came the big day. The grand opening in May 1956. A commissionaire was on duty to greet customers.

There was lots to admire. The store boasted Sunderland’s first-ever escalator (although it only went one way - up).

Ann Rawling is next in line to see Santa Claus at Joplings in 1960.

John Street had been brought back to life, and Woolworths, in Fawcett Street, extended its own store to include an entrance in John Street, across the road from Joplings.

They were great days, and Joplings was never slow to introduce innovation. It produced its own currency in the form of tokens which could be repaid over a number of weeks.

Saturday was always the busiest day and most departments employed extra staff to deal with the high number of customers.

Joplings was the place to be if you wanted to meet the stars. There were regular appearances by television personalities including Michael Miles, Ken Dodd, Val Doonican and the stars of Coronation Street.

Children enjoying the Christmas toy fair in 1962.

Regular fashion events were also arranged with the region’s top models showing off the latest clothing on sale.

However the best days were slowly coming to an end.

The westward movement of the commercial centre of the city placed increasing pressure upon shops and stores situated outside The Bridges to retain profitability.

Many old established family businesses closed down and Joplings eventually became a casualty.

Joplings remained in the ownership of Hedley, Swann & Co. but eventually the store was taken over by Merchant Retail Group which, in 2005, sold out to Owen Owen Ltd for £5million (plus another £3m for stock).

Two years later, on May 2007, Vergo Retail, took over.

On June 19, 2010, the store which had served Wearsiders since 1804 closed its doors for the final time and yet another piece of old Sunderland was lost forever.