What stood before Westwood Cross, Bluewater, Hempstead Valley, Fremlin Walk, Whitefriars and the McArthurGlen Designer Outlet?

Development is one thing we’ve all turn into used to over latest years – with websites being was housing left, proper and centre.

But what as soon as stood the place our established procuring centres are actually sited? We check out a few of the greatest in the county so you possibly can think about what life was like before the retailers arrived.

Westwood Cross has been an enormous success. Picture: Phil Houghton

Westwood Cross, Thanet

Thanet’s premier procuring centre stays massively well-liked – even when it did ship an infinite blow to the city centres of neighbouring Margate and Ramsgate when it opened for enterprise in 2005.

In truth, it may very well be stated it put them on life help…which is ironic on condition that Westwood Cross is sat on high of a former hospital web site.


Haine Hospital was opened in 1902 and catered for sufferers from throughout Thanet and, finally, Canterbury. During each world wars, it cared for injured servicemen – courtesy of its proximity to close by Manston Airport, then recognized merely as RAF Manston.

There stay relics round the procuring centre web site that are simple to overlook however present a glimpse into the previous.

The outdated gateway to Haine Hospital at Westwood Cross – certainly one of the final remaining relics of its previous
Engravings made by servicemen handled at the hospital can nonetheless be seen on the wall

Sections of curved partitions in the essential automobile park and on the perimeter of the web site embody engravings – lots of which have been made by servicemen who have been recuperating on the web site.

The hospital closed in 1986 – the constructing was left deserted till the web site was offered in 2002 for the procuring centre.

Fremlin Walk, Maidstone

The mid-2000s was one thing of a growth for brand spanking new procuring centres. Fuelled by the risk of Bluewater’s opening in 1999, many cities realised they wanted to up their sport. Just a disgrace the conventional excessive road mannequin was about to expertise such an enormous shake-up over the following decade.

Fremlin Walk, slap bang in Maidstone city centre, opened in 2005 and was seen as a serious transfer in the direction of the county city reclaiming its standing as a buyers’ paradise.

Fremlin Walk has ensured Maidstone has a compelling city centre providing

It was constructed – and took its identify – from the former Fremlin brewery which initially sat on the web site.


First opened in 1861, at one stage it was Kent’s greatest. But after being taken over by Whitbread in 1967 manufacturing began to say no and the web site was downgraded till finally closing for good in the 1970s. The bulk of the web site was demolished in 1981.

Fremlin Walk below development on the web site of the former brewery

As city chiefs regarded to revitalise the city, the remaining relics of the web site have been demolished and Fremlin Walk procuring centre emerged as an alternative.

The solely remaining a part of the outdated brewery constructing is the distinctive arch entrance on Earl Street.

The city’s Royal Star Arcade, in the meantime, was previously the city’s swanky lodge – firstly generally known as The Star, before it acquired a ‘royal’ prefix courtesy of a go to by a younger Queen Victoria – before it was repurposed right into a procuring precinct in the mid to late 1980s.

The Royal Star Hotel in Maidstone – now a procuring centre

Royal Victoria Place, Tunbridge Wells

Tunbridge Wells was by no means wanting a store of two. Across its sprawling city centre – linking the high and backside of the city – it was all the time large on retail.

Royal Victoria Place in Tunbridge Wells. Picture: RVP/ David Dettmann

But in the mid-1980s it determined it needed to extend its fame as a procuring vacation spot for west Kent in addition to pulling in punters from close by East Sussex.

So the Victoria Project was fashioned – designed to deliver the city into the fashionable period with a giant coated procuring advanced. Over time it advanced into being generally known as Royal Victoria Place – being formally opened in 1992 by none apart from Princess Diana.

Princess Diana arriving to chop the ribbon at the then-new Royal Victoria Place in Tunbridge Wells

The centre is simply off the city’s conventional excessive road, Calverley Road. The RVP web site nestles behind it and was beforehand a collection of terraced homes, a parking lot and smaller retailers – all of which have been topic to obligatory buy orders as a part of the growth plans.

Whitefriars, Canterbury

Canterbury is a metropolis wealthy in historical past and there may be maybe no higher instance of that than value pondering as you stroll round the retailers in Whitefriars.

Whitefriars below development in 2002. Picture: BAM

Because the web site has, over time, been a monastery (dissolved by Henry VIII in 1538), the authentic web site of two grammar faculties – each Simon Langton boys’ and ladies’ – and then extensively bombed throughout the Second World War. Rebuilt into retailers, places of work and an unsightly multistorey automobile park, many nonetheless have fond reminiscences of the outdated bridge which linked the higher flooring of the automobile park to the retailers and boasted Morelli’s ‘coffee shoppe’.

Shoppers at Whitefriars in Canterbury

Come the 1990s, the metropolis was eager to present the metropolis centre a contemporary revamp – work on the procuring centre began in 1999. As work acquired underway, archaeologists acquired the likelihood for a uncommon take a look at what lay beneath the medieval metropolis.

Six years after work started, the procuring advanced formally opened to the public.

Bluewater, Greenhithe

For all the success Bluewater has loved over the years, maybe its single greatest achievement was to make sure the remainder of the county’s retail hubs have been all compelled to up their sport because it leached prospects from throughout Kent city centres.

Aerial view of the development work at Bluewater in April 1998

Huge, free, automobile parks, cinemas and an enormous coated retail and restaurant space meant people from throughout Kent acquired of their vehicles, and spent a day – and their cash – there as a substitute.

Opened in 1999, it instantly trumped rival Lakeside simply over the different aspect of the Thames in Essex.

It’s a outstanding transformation for the web site which, when the diggers moved in, was an unlimited deserted chalk quarry. The cutaway cliff partitions of that are nonetheless clearly seen to buyers.

The sheer sides of the former quarry encompass Bluewater right now

Its life as a quarry dates again to the 19th century, with work persevering with at the web site till the 1980s by which period it had spent a number of many years producing cement. Coincidentally, a bunch of fossils have been discovered at the web site over the years – amongst them the historical stays of mammoth, bison and even rhinoceros.

Ashford Designer Outlet

For a few years, Ashford’s retail providing was all moderately beige. The city centre was useful and ticked the field when it got here to all the as soon as dominant chains, but it surely lacked being an actual vacation spot. If you needed a time out at the retailers, residents tended to move to Canterbury.

An aerial view of the Designer Outlet Centre with its distinctive design. Picture: Ady Kerry / Ashford Borough Council

But that each one modified when the Designer Outlet opened for enterprise in 2000. Originally referred to as the Ashford Meadows Leisure Park, planning started at the daybreak of the 1990s.

The well-designed – its distinctive ‘tent’ like canopies making it moderately eye-catching – and simply accessible web site noticed these arriving by automobile parked at the coronary heart of the advanced and cocooned by cut-price designer gear.

While Tunbridge Wells’ Royal Victoria Place had Princess Diana minimize the ribbon, Ashford had gardener Charlie Dimmock formally declare it open for enterprise.

The growth in Ashford sits on former railway works. Picture: McArthurGlen Designer Outlet Ashford

It is a outstanding transformation for what was as soon as a part of the city’s sprawling railway business.

The city was largely constructed up as a consequence of its rail heritage, with many areas round the mainline tracks devoted to sidings and engineering sheds – which is precisely what was as soon as sited the place the McArthurGlen web site now occupies.

Chatham Dockside Outlet

For a lot of the late 1980s and all through the 1990s, Medway discovered itself considerably bereft. The business which had outlined it – the as soon as thriving dockyard in Chatham – had left and taken with it the space’s financial spine.

Dockside Outlet Centre has helped remodel the waterfront in Chatham

But over the years it has been revived. The large complexes which solely hummed to the fixed throb of business have now been reworked, repurposed or just cleared to make approach for a modern-day providing; be it schooling, residential or retail.

Which brings us to the Chatham Dockside Outlet. It sits inside a refurbished Grade II-listed boiler store which as soon as fashioned a part of the sprawling dockyard advanced. As a part of the fashionable, but drenched in historical past, Chatham Maritime web site, it’s located near the Historic Dockyard – the repurposed tourism arm of the transformation – and the berths and piers which have been as soon as so important to the shipyard.

The Dockside Outlet was created from the former dockyard Old Boiler Shop

Opened in 2003, it’s the dwelling embodiment of repurposing for a contemporary period.

Hempsted Valley, Gillingham

Opened in 1978, Hempstead Valley was, in its day, a pioneer when it got here to vacation spot procuring complexes.

Taking a leaf out of the sprawling indoor malls in the US, it claims to be the first out-of-town procuring centre in the South East and was solely the second to supply a now-obligatory meals courtroom.

Hempstead Valley in 1982

Initially generally known as the Hempstead Savacentre, it was simply off the M2 and its early advertising described itself as “having a whole town in one store”, with free automobile parking and even boasting of the “cheapest petrol around”.

Aerial view of Hempstead Valley in 1997

As with all out-of-town centres since, its opening had an influence on the city centres of the different Medway cities.

As to what was there before? It was open fields and farmland – all of which was reworked into the procuring advanced which stays right now.

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