…on the ashes of a former cotton mill on Foundry Street
On the 20th June 1986, Dukinfield witnessed a sea change in its shopping habits, with the opening of a new Morrisons store on the site of Queen Mill. Prior to then, the norm for Duki residents meant a bus or taxi to Hyde, Stalybridge or Ashton-under-Lyne. All three centres had the popular Kwik Save stores on Reynard Street, Melbourne Street and Bow Street. Tameside’s only ASDA was on the 400/409/410 routes on Langham Street, off Oldham Road. The borough’s biggest store was Hyde’s Fine Fare, even after subdivision with Do-it-All taking one half of the hypermarket.
Other than that, the average supermarket in the Tameside of 1986 would be the same size as the entrance of Eastlands’ ASDA store. In Ashton, this also meant Victor Value on Staveleigh Way and Presto underneath the council offices. Slightly cut off by Park Parade and a one way system was the impressive Arcadia (Co-op) store. Besides Kwik Save and Fine Fare, Hyde had a modest Gateway, a small TESCO in The Mall, and a food hall in the Co-op store on Greenfield Street. Stalybridge’s other supermarkets were LoCost, formerly Liptons and Maypole Dairy before then and the Co-op store on Grosvenor Street. Tameside’s main centres also had a good mix of local shops, open and indoor market stalls and chain stores.
Dukinfield, despite having a slightly smaller population than Stalybridge, had no such facility. Its only ‘supermarkets’ were the Norwest Co-op on Astley Street, Sorby’s on Concord Way and the LoCost opposite The Forester pub. The former store replaced smaller Co-ops on Birch Lane, Town Lane (part of which now Concord Way), two on Chapel Street and Cheetham Hill Road/Lodge Lane. Though useful enough for the Dukinfield Central estate, it was useless for residents around Yew Tree Lane and Tennyson Avenue.
Several negotiations later, Dukinfield gained its supermarket with notice to demolish Queen Mill confirmed by 1984. At the time, Queen Mill had ceased cotton production, becoming the home of Sterling Mouldings till its demolition. Originally, the proposed store was designed to incorporate Sidney Stott’s Queen Mill tower, but the copper roof had corroded beyond repair leading to its demolition.
A Superstore is Born
Prior to its opening on Friday 20 June 1986, some Greater Manchester Transport buses (Tameside depot) were decked with adverts between decks and on the rear engine. By Friday, Dukinfield had a superstore to call its own. The idea of entering a supermarket with an instore café and a separate wines and spirit section seemed exotic to a seven year old used to Victor Value on Thursdays, and occasional trips to Polar Pantry (Stalybridge) on a Saturday morning.
The instore café had a view of The Hollies surgery, car park and the closed Drifters Disco. Its Wines and Spirits section was opposite the café. Compared with the utilitarian boxy layouts of Fine Fare and other 1970s built superstores in the borough, its counters were set out like an indoor market. Most of which is possibly influenced by Morrisons’ market stall roots and inherent in today’s Morrisons stores.
Its original opening hours were 0900 – 1800 hours on Mondays, Tuesdays and Saturdays. On Wednesdays, Thursdays and Fridays, the store was open till 2000 hours. There was no Sunday opening till 1994. There was 17 checkouts, including an Express till (10 items or less), and a wider disabled till for wheelchair bound shoppers. The wines and spirits section had two tills. Cigarettes, pipe tobacco and newspapers were sold from a kiosk facing the checkouts. As well as two main entrances (facing south and east), there was a third entrance nearest the seventeenth till by a small covered car park. Trolleys and baskets were stored by the checkout and the main entrances.
Contrary to popular belief, Dukinfield wasn’t the first part of Tameside to have a Morrisons. The 1920s saw Morrisons (then as Wm Morrison) run a stall on Ashton Market, stated in mural form inside the recently refurbished indoor market.
There were plans to add a garden centre towards the Albion Hotel bus stop. Standing in the way was the derelict Oxford Cinema building, latterly used as Drifters Disco. By February 1989, the former cinema was demolished. Instead of a garden centre, Morrisons added a filling station which opened the following year.
1994 saw continued expansion of the store with spare warehouse space being absorbed by extra retail space. The frozen food section was moved from half way down the store to the end of the store. A hot pie shop was added with the butchers’ counter moving to the end with the frozen food section. Other additions included a hot chicken counter.
The café was moved to the small covered car park, with interior design inspired by Northern fish and chip restaurants. In place of the old café was an expanded cigarette counter with customer service and National Lottery tills. Newspapers and popular magazines were moved there. Toilets took over the space occupied by the former cigarette kiosk.
From 1994 to 2002, there was also regular bus routes which stopped outside the main entrance. Dennis’ Coaches’ Dukinfield and Hyde extension of the 216 route saw a half hourly daytime service, ideal for elderly shoppers who would have had difficulty walking from the Albion Hotel bus stops.
The Dukinfield store today
When Morrisons opened their Dukinfield store, the Bradford based grocery chain was virtually unknown in some parts of Greater Manchester, let alone South East England. Prior to 1986, Morrisons was only well known in Greater Manchester around Eccles and Wigan (Lancashire United Transport territory to many bus freaks) following the takeover of Dave Whelan’s store chain (Whelan’s).
25 years on, Morrisons became a national player, with expansion South of Stafford buoyed by the acquisition of Safeway. In Tameside, there are also stores in Denton and Hyde – the latter one taking over the former Fine Fare Hypermarket in 2002 – including the former Do-it-All concession (initially Fine Fare’s ‘Fix and Fit’ department).
Today, the Dukinfield store is a long way off from its 1986 incarnation. Firstly, there’s Sunday opening and late night opening six days a week (open till 2100 hours on weekdays and Saturdays). Secondly, technology has seen self service tills and chained pens replaced by Chip and Pin machines. Thirdly, the store now sells electrical goods – unheard of in the average Tameside supermarket of 1986, except for the Co-op’s stores.
Shortly after, the average Dukinfield shopper warmed to the joys of a more convenient Big Shop, albeit to the detriment of Stalybridge, Hyde and Ashton shopkeepers and stallholders. Exotic it seemed in contrast to visiting individual shops, it was only the beginning of what would soon become the norm by the end of the decade. Even now, this shows no sign of ending, with free parking a more viable alternative to town centre parking fees.
Anybody got a spare pound coin for the trolley?
S.V., 20 June 2011.