The Wellfield Centre was demolished to be replaced by the Menai Centre. I would like to ask some questions regarding the Wellfield and the new Menai Centre.
* The Wellfield was a shopping centre of considerable size which included a car park. Demolishing the Wellfield and building a new shopping centre cost a large amount of money. Does anyone have information as to why it was decided to go to the expense of destroying the Wellfield and building a new centre.
* When the decision was made to demolish the Wellfield was there a lot of opposition or was the general feeling that removing the Wellfield was overdue and a good idea.
* What are your views about destroying the Wellfield Centre and replacing it with the Menai Centre. Do you think the Wellfield was an outdated eyesore or was getting rid of the Wellfield a bad idea. Defenders of the Wellfield argued that it had a mixture of independant and chain shops whilst the Menai Centre only has chain shops. Opponents of the Menai Centre argue that the majority of units in the Menai Centre are empty and only 7 units have been filled. Two of the units are being used by Debenhams and Superdrug who previously had premises at other locations in Bangor which means only five of the units are from retailers investing in Bangor for the first time. The company running the Menai Centre is now in administration. Becuase of this opponents of the Menai Centre argue that it has become an expensive white elephant.
A personal reply.
The Wellfield development was of course a commercial, privately financed development that never had any grand public or social purpose. For some, such as Debenhams, an early 'anchor tenant' it clearly offered something unique to Bangor - that being - modern, sizable, central, units akin to other UK shopping destinations. At the same time it promoted a degree of expansion and additional employment by existing shops upscaling their operations.
Wellfield to many was outdated, maintenance costs were high and there were empty units even in good times. 1960's architecture too doesn't tend to lend itself to public outcry and neither do shopping centres - generally, and so it went with little fuss from the general population. The building was, realistically, not sufficiently groundbreaking or unique to lend itself for protection or concern from building nerds, from CADW right down to myself. At the end of the day Wellfields strength lay in it's central location and as such it lent itself easily as a building plot for a remodeled centre.
I think people's expectations as shoppers have changed, and no doubt the developers and shops would say that they have moved there to meet that demand. Equally they can point to the 'longest high street in Wales' to justify the fact that there is ample accommodation for relocation (and new start ups) in traditional units, and there were many who made this transition quite comfortably. I remember speaking to Oxfam 'staff' at the time who were very happy about their move to the high street. To many this offered additional footfall due to passing trade, something that wasn't prevalent in the cul-de-sac that was the Wellfield.
The reality today is that we are in a recession, weaker companies have disappeared. However large chains such as Focus and MFI have been replaced with equally large operations such as TKMax and Dunelm Mill, representing a change in demand and supply rather than wholesale decline. On the high street I see we have lost a local bookseller, only to gain another. New niche businesses such as Noodle One have a firm footing and high quality cafes such as 1815 and Blue Sky complete well along with Costa.
I think The Menai Centre in due course will be replaced, it is destined to be the building plot of major retail development well into the future. I think that whatever happens the Centre will tick over, whilst there are retailers there, there is an income, whilst there are empty shops, there are prospects of further income - be that for a company, an administrator or a future purchaser.
Whilst it was being built it sustained construction jobs and whilst the plot stood flat it offered up temporary views of the University from the High Street. Life is change, and when protecting and fighting for buildings fights need to be picked.
My main concern to be honest would be elements of the design of the new centre rather than it's existence. Travel the rather pokey corridor by M&S, which appears to be an area piling high in bird excrement. Look up and you can see large green staining/mold/growth to the render of the 'new' building. Whilst in the detail you can see some poor workmanship. Neither does it really sit well with the remnants of the Wellfield on the High Street. The only other argument I see would be the environmental impact of having a new centre development every 40 years.
If you seek a hardened supporter of the old building I do recall one website was created by Jim Killock http://jim.killock.org.uk/ I don't think it's about anymore. I say 'hardened supporter' part of me thinks it may have been tongue in cheek.
In reply to this post by Admin (Matt)
Thank you for response. When the Menai Centre was built, the aim was to attract big chains to Bangor. It is possible that Cathco was too ambitious in this. Bangor is a small city with a population of just 12000 and because of this is attracting big name retailers going to be difficult as big chains would prefer to invest in large towns and cities as they have bigger populations and hence a bigger potential customer base. Could this be a factor as to why the majority of the units have not been let.
I'd agree with that. For argument sake, partly
The large chains like the biggest reach practicable. The relative low rents and wages here allow for a presence without breaking the bank. At worst with smaller square footage of sales space.
When considering a site, such as bangor the resident population total is only one consideration. They will consider the makeup, so in our case the student population, who will spend the vast amount of their grants, loans and parents money in the city.
They will consider the catchment area, the distance people travel to shop. So rather than just 12000 Bangor's real shopping footfall is far higher. Eg I shop there regularly, but actually live the other side of Caernarfon.
Bangor is the shopping centre of north west Wales. Fuelled by the University, hospital, a55, railway station... Central anglesey/gwynedd location...
This post was updated on .
It's not easy to judge it in terms of bangor not being a good place to undertake retail. Most towns and cities have empty shops. We're not in any way unique there.
Really dead retail areas are in the old villages. Previously sustained by the local primary trades, usually mining. Eg Bethesda. But that's not bangor, which with a small tourist trade to add to the above list makes it still a live and kicking place!
It is interesting that you mention retail in small villages. Around Christmas the Mail and Chronicle publish articles advising people to do their Christmas shopping in small towns and villages with very little in the way of shops which I find rather odd.
Going back to the Wellfield Centre, if my memory is correct, the Wellfield did not have much footfall despite being located in the middle of the high street and was nevery very busy.
Was the low Wellfield footfall due to design? The new centre is built with outward facing stores rather than the creation of a new 'wellfield' plaza/open mall. I suspect that the Menai design suits smaller cities/towns as it increases the presence of the stores and subsequently attracts more passing trade.
In reply to this post by ian
When I was reading news reports on the internet from the time the decison was made to demolish the Wellfield and replace it with the Menai Centre, the original plan was to have 11 large units and it was felt these large units were not suitable for the shops in the Wellfield to move to because a fair number of the shops in the Wellfield were small independant shops. The Menai Centre has 21 units of varying size and I feel some of the units would have been the right size for the small shops. Were any of the shop owners in the Wellfield offered tenancies in the Menai Centre or were Cathco only interested in bringing in chains. Some of the shops in the Wellfield did move to the high street such as Snowdon Books and John Williams Music. Were there any shops that had nowhere to go and closed completely when the Wellfield closed.
Both interesting articles. The second points to the developers buying 'normal' shops on the high street for the displaced tenants.
Most of the shops I can recall relocated. Argos to a new Extra store on Caernarfon Road and the rest to the high street as their leases came up for renewal. To largely 'better' premises. I'm not sure if any were offered rents in the Menai Centre, or even really wanted to be part of it anyway.
Another good article... Retrospective wise
The urban development of Bangor began in earnest during the nineteenth century and incorporated the
maritime quarter at Hirael, next to the coast, followed by the development of the Dean Street area that
bridged the gap between the original medieval town and Hirael. The building of the railway station in
the middle of the century brought the High Street further south, whilst the development of the
southwestern end of Bangor and the northern side of the valley (the location of the University) began in
the early twentieth century.
The development of Bangor during the nineteenth century is most apparent from the cartographic
evidence, which show Bangor’s expansion as a city in considerable detail. The earliest map to represent
the study area in detail is John Wood’s Map of 1834 that shows the study area as an enclosed field,
bordered by the Afon Adda to the north, Church Street and the proposed line of Garth Road to the west,
Castle Street to the south and a row of terraced houses facing Well Street to the east (Figure 3).
The 1840 Tithe Map and Schedule (Figure 4) is generally similar to the John Wood Map except that
Garth Road has been constructed to the west and south. The study area is still located in the enclosed
field and is listed on the Tithe Schedule as Field Number 872: a “meadowland” owned by George Day
Hawkins Pennant of the Penrhyn Estate. Meadowland was described in the Act for the Commutation of
Tithes (1836) as “all grasslands which are not arable, woodland or commonland and which have not
been under the plough within the three years preceding Christmas 1836” (Jones 1970, 72). It was likely
that the study area would have been used for hay and pasture. The Penrhyn Estate owned the land north
of the river between what is now Glanrafon Hill and Holyhead Road (both of which are visible on the
map). To the south and east of the estate, the land (including the properties on the southern half of
Glanrafon Road) is part of the “City of Bangor” Cathedral land.
The 1st, 2nd and 3rd Edition Ordnance Survey Maps (1890, 1900 and 1914 respectively) show the area
fully developed, with Wellfield House and the Masonic Hall occupying the site. Wellfield House was
constructed in the 1850’s and prior to demolition it was a doctor’s residence (Plate 12). The maps show
the approach to the House via Garth Road, directly opposite Tan y Fynwent Road. The house and
associated outbuildings are located in the central and southern portions of the study area, whilst the
northern portion is occupied by the gardens. The Masonic Hall is located at the southwestern end of the
site and comprises a rectangular building and a small outbuilding to the northeast (the Masonic Hall
was built in 1882 and housed two Masonic Lodges, the C & A Conservative Club and Offices of the
Inland Revenue and County Court; see Plate 12). The area of the grounds of Wellfield House that
fronted onto the High Street was considerably altered in 1939, with the construction of the
Woolworth’s shopping Centre. Woolworth’s was located to the east of the Masonic Hall.
The construction of the Wellfield Centre was the final stage of development in the study area. It was
designed to reinvigorate and modernise Bangor City Centre and construction commenced in the latter
part of 1962, removing all traces of Wellfield House and its grounds, as well as the Masonic Hall. The
developers were Bredwood Investments Ltd and the chief Architect was Mr Roy Greenhalgh (North
Wales Chronicle January 1963) The project was well underway by the time the foundation stone and
plaque were laid by the Lord Lieutenant of the County of Caernarvonshire, Sir Michael Duff Bar on the
23rd January 1963. The Chronicle reported that the centre was close to opening in April 1964 and
advertisements announcing Town centre shops to let appeared in the 1 May 1964 edition. The
Wellfield Centre contained 53 shop units, a supermarket and a store along with 10,000 feet of office
space, underground car parks for 91 cars, underground delivery roads and bays and a petrol station.
The central shopping area consisted of an open courtyard in an attempt to emulate modern European cities.
The cost of the development was about £600,000 and was described in the Chronicle as “a shoppers
paradise” that was “designed with the modern housewife in mind” (Hopewell 2005).
Reports in 1970 during a change of management of the centre to a local firm, Jones and Beardmore,
were not so optimistic. The store and 34 of the units remained empty. A photograph shows many units
still closed off with wooden slats. The situation was never completely resolved and many units
remained empty until the 1980s. Shops present in the early stages of the Wellfield development
included a Tesco supermarket, a large bookshop (Booklands), along with shops supplying musical
instruments, records, fruit and vegetables and soft furnishings. A public house was set up at the end of
the courtyard. The centre was partially refurbished in 1984 with the addition of a covered mall and a
new entrance and lifts from Garth Road. An ambitious plan to roof the courtyard and add extra units
was put before the planning committee in June 85 but the development company pulled out in response
to plans to build two major new supermarkets in Bangor. The 1984 refurbishments heralded a slight
upturn in the fortunes of the centre with the new covered mall attracting new retailers. Many units
remained empty, however, and the building of the new Deiniol Centre and out of town supermarkets
shortly after the refurbishments ensured that no further development would take place. In the latter
years after most of the major concerns moved elsewhere (Tesco and Bookland had both left well before
the refurbishment) most of the smaller units were taken up by local businesses and the centre could be
seen to be providing significant niche accommodation for the smaller trader (Hopewell 2005).
The area to the west of the study area was investigated with a series of excavations during the 1980’s.
A total of six excavations of varying size were undertaken on both sides of Waterloo Street and along
Berllan Bach (now the location of the Deiniol Shopping Centre),
Wellfield Redevelopment The Menai Shopping Centre Bangor
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