A Letter from Nantwich

September 2010  

Town centre shop gets that sinking feeling












The street scene in The Square on an end-of-summer afternoon. The Holland and Barrett shop, just right of centre, stands behind safety fencing.

THE Nantwich shop of Holland and Barrett got that sinking feeling on Friday, September 10 - much to the consternation of shop staff and people in nearby commercial premises.

   The shop is said to have sunk by a foot initially, followed by a further foot shortly afterwards. In case that conjures up visions of premises in not-far-away Northwich - another salt town - where buildings did, literally, drop by several feet because of salt workings giving way, I should say that following a quick look at the building a few days later I am sure the shop is still the same at ground level. I think any change of levels is in the first storey, which is either part of the shop or one of the flats over town centre commercial premises.

   Blue acro poles - quite a few for what must be a mammoth task - can be seen in one of the upper windows (above).

   Apparently cracks appeared in the walls of the building - again, not visible on the exterior - and structural engineers deemed it in danger of imminent collapse (according to The Nantwich Chronicle of September 15). 

   But the shop looks a little like a land version of the Marie Celeste - the ghost ship found drifting at sea with no-one on board - with the shop windows looking just as they would on a normal day, and all the items sold by Holland and Barrett on display as if it were just 



get out of the area. Including those in the on-street dining area at Nantwich Book Shop where, according to proprietor Steve Lawson, customers left saying they were "not paying for the meal now". Why? It wasn't the shop's fault that the eating experience had been curtailed. The meal had been produced to order. Some people . . .!


LOCAL historian Andrew Lamberton says: "I'm not surprised that the shop has suffered subsidence.

I know that the building that is now Christian's kitchen shop, a little away from Holland and Barrett, was built on shifting sand. Also, I know that WHSmith's shop was built partly or wholly over the Church graveyard. 

   "As to the history of the Holland and Barrett building, I've no idea how old it is. I can trace its occupiers back to 1834. From at least 1977 to 1939 and before it was Bowens, drapers and outfitters. Other occupiers were: 1834 to 1841, Richard Hall, ironmonger; 1851 to 1871, John Platt, draper; 1876, John Walley,  draper; 1892, Alfred Browning, hosier; 1914,  Lawton Bros., drapers."


IN a footnote to its report, The Nantwich Chronicle, said: "The store is partly on the site which once housed the old Nantwich courthouse, which collapsed twice - in 1737 and 1759."

closed for the day.

    On a normal day, that is, apart from three large posters in which Holland and Barrett apologise for the temporary closure "as re-fit works take place". Passers-by are reassured that "We are working hard to open as soon as possible" - although a space at the bottom of the poster, for a date when this might be, has been left blank. However, Holland and Barrett are reported in The Chronicle as saying contractors are "busy on the case."

   But it must be a little disconcerting for the Nantwich Food and Drink Festival organisers who have been promising great things in Nantwich town centre on the weekend of September 24 to 26 - just a fortnight after the drama unfolded. Now a large area - virtually to the other side of High Street - stands behind fencing in front of the shop. (See the picture page on the festival) for what happened at the weekend.

   Clearly, Holland and Barrett didn't have a ready-printed poster that fitted the situation in Nantwich. But let's hope that the "re-fit" poster is more accurate than the other notice on the site fencing (right). If demolition really were necessary for public safety the town would lose a prominent building from its history.

   I read in on-line versions of local news that people in the town centre at the time were given five minutes to

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