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Shoppers stunned by Co-op closure

SHOPPERS visiting Castle House department store were stunned to hear of its closure.

The Co-op has been in the city centre since 1929 and is the third oldest department store still trading, after John Lewis - formerly Cole Brothers - and Atkinsons.

Gerald Cawthorne, aged 78, of Pitsmoor, said: "I've been coming to the Co-op for at least 30 years. It's not a bad shop and has decent, friendly service.

" We mainly buy groceries but have also used the furniture department and other parts of the store. It's such an old established set-up and I'm just amazed to hear it's closing."

Christine Cartwright, 60, of Chapeltown, has been a visitor to Castle House ever since she was a child.

She said: "It's a busy store. I use the cafe, it's lovely up there. I've also bought household things, food and shoes. The clothes are a bit old fashioned, though."

But other shoppers were less upset by the news. Pete Johnson, 69, of Lane Top, said: "All the shops are going downhill because of places like Meadowhall. Co-ops used to be cheap but they are now far more expensive than they used to be."

In recent years, established department stores have faced cut-price competitors like TJ Hughes, which has taken over the former Rackhams store, and TK Maxx at Orchard Square.

Castle House was opened in 1962 by Brightside and Carbrook Co-operative Society, which had grown from humble beginnings with a small shop in Carbrook, which opened in 1869.

The company - which merged with Sheffield and Ecclesall Co-op in the 1980s to become Sheffield Co-operative Society - expanded in late Victorian times and the early 20th century, establishing stores around the city.

Its first city centre base was at the corner of Exchange Street and Waingate, which opened in 1929 and had a total frontage of 330ft.

The grand building - billed as the "Magnificent Central Premises" - was purpose-built in Portland stone with a Swedish granite frontage. Inside, opulent features included bronze and walnut doors and marble staircases.

When Castle House was given planning permission in 1959, the huge black polished granite facade was controversial, members of the planning committee comparing it with a gravestone. But the building went ahead at a cost of 1 million.

A report in The Star from the store's opening day, on October 16 1962, told how shoppers admired the "spacious luxury" of the new five-storey building. Cutting-edge features included unsupported concrete spiral staircases and air conditioning. It was named Castle House because the Co-op's 1920s store was built on part of the former Sheffield Castle site.

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City centre Co-op closure shock

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