The Keddies department store was one of the mainstays of Southend High Street, a family run store that had an imposing presence in a prime position.
Generations of Southenders grew up with the store being a part of their lives, Santa’s grotto was a must visit each and every year, the grottos got more and more spectacular, one year in particular saw a sleigh ride through the sky installed... in fact it was a large model of a sleigh on a hydraulic rig with a scrolling screen passing either side of the sleigh at the front were a number of model reindeer, upon landing you left the sleigh and walked into Santa’s house where the big red jolly fellow was sitting.
The family owned store originally opened in 1892 and proved popular form the first day, with a penny market and more extravagant goods.
A major rebuilding of the store in 1934 saw it gain elegant columns and leaded windows reproducing the frontage of that of Selfridges flagship store in London’s Oxford Street. The new store was also built with a flat roof, this was to provide a roof garden and tennis courts, however these facilities were never installed.
When the Essoldo cinema closed on 14th May 1960, the Keddies bought the building and set about gutting the building as a cinema they set about transforming the old cinema into Supa-Save one of first supermarkets in the UK and Southend first. The building was demolished some years later to make way for an extension to the Keddies Department Store, this included the office tower block Maitland House was built on the roof of the Keddies building, it was decided that the grand columned frontage was out of keeping with the new concrete office block perched above, so a new white wooden slatted facade was erected over the 1934 frontage.
In preparation of the opening of the Royals Shopping Centre on 23rd March 1988 Keddies had begun a major refurbishment program in 1987 it was completed in 1989.
It was thought that Keddies would be there forever but on Friday 12th January 1996 it was announced that the store was to enter administration Coopers Lybrand were appointed to oversee the winding down of the store. The announcement sent shockwaves through the town, as the closing down sales started people from far and wide visited the store for remembering fond time of their childhood or ex-staff members returning to where generations of family members had worked. Second Floor: Babywear, Beatties Toys & Models, Beauty Salon, Dillons Books, Childrenswear, Computers & Games, Fabrics, Haberdashery, Hairdressing, Pictures & Framing, Restaurant & Bar, Self Service Restaurant, School Uniforms.
On the final day of trading 26th February 1996 the store heaved at the seams with the vast number of people packing into the store for one last bargain one last look around one last memory.
At the time of closure there were four floors in use:
Lower Ground: Accounts, Bedding, Carpets & Rugs, Fireplaces, Furniture, Gift Vouchers, Lighting & Mirrors
The Ground Floor: The ground floor was broken in to three sections: Mezzanine Precinct, Ground Precinct, Ground Warrior Square,
Mezzanine Precinct: Audio Hi-Fi, Electrical, Electrical Small Appliances, Fitted Kitchens, Sports, Telephones
Ground Precinct: Bathroom Accessories, Cigarettes, Confectionery, Cosmetics, Fashion Accessories, Handbags, Heel Bar, Hosiery, Jewellery, Key cutting, Luggage, Menswear, National Lottery, Newspaper and Magazines, Pens, Perfumery, Records & Tapes (HMV), Watches and Clocks, Watch Repair, Wigs, Wines & Spirits.
Ground Warrior Square: Bed Linen, China, Clocks (Keddies), Cookware, Cutlery & Silverware, Florist, Glassware, Housewares, Kitchenware, Linens, Public Payphones.
First Floor: Baby Room, Bridal Gifts List, Bridal Gowns, Ladies Coats, Coffee Shop, Dresses & Eveningwear, Hats, Jumpers (Knitwear Shop), Ladies Fashion, Lingerie, Mens Formal Wear, Millinery, Nightwear, Occasionwear, Scholl Footcare & Shoes, swimwear, Travel Bureau, Wedding lists.
The announcement sent shockwaves through the town, as the closing down sales started people from far and wide visited the store for remembering fond time of their childhood or ex-staff members returning to where generations of family members had worked.
Second Floor: Babywear, Beatties Toys & Models, Beauty Salon, Dillons Books, Childrenswear, Computers & Games, Fabrics, Haberdashery, Hairdressing, Pictures & Framing, Restaurant & Bar, Self Service Restaurant, School Uniforms.
The building remained empty for a year before the wooden cladding was removed to expose the 1934 ornate pillars, Seen to the left is the building after the cladding was removed, the small section painted blue was the only section not cladded. .
The 1934 "Selfridges" frontage, and the keddies name
Sadly after being inspected it was found that they had deteriorated beyond economical repair, so they were demolished; however the new owners decided to build a replica in its place.
The new building housed three retail units over two floors, the upper floor became a JJB Sports, whilst the ground floor was divided into two sections one large and a second smaller unit. The larger of the two units under went a £multi-million refit to became a Tesco Metro opening in 1998, with the smaller of the ground floor units becoming Superdrug.
However the Tesco Metro store was closed down just two years after it opened, with the last trading day being on Sunday 11th June 2000. The reason was put down to poor profit levels due to lower sales numbers than expected.
The lease on the prime High Street site was quickly sold by Tesco to the fashion retailer GAP who quickly opened their store later on in 2000.
Throughout 2000 plans had been bounding about for a new £1.5 million nightclub in the back of the building on Chichester Road overlooking Warrior Square. The proposed 900 capacity “Mc’Clusky’s Bar would have created around 70 jobs, however the proposals were abandoned in September 2000.
The plans for a new nightclub in the Chichester Road part of the build returned in February 2002, the proposed nightclub was to be named “The Piazza”. The plans were for a 900-1000 capacity club with 50-60 staff employed. The club would have had two bars, one on the ground floor the other on a mezzanine floor. An entertainment licence permitting the giant club to open until 2:00am was applied for. Plans were approved for the club with a restriction on the number of revellers limited to 800 with the bars on the ground floor and the basement in November 2002.
In May 2003 major new plans were announced to invest £15million in rejuvenating the Chichester Road frontage of the old Keddies building. Plans included a new hotel, casino, bars, offices, flats, restaurant and night club with 20per cent of the flats being affordable housing. The proposals by Astimwood were designed to create up to 350jobs.
On Tuesday 12th August 2003 the designer fashion store Gap announced it had failed to hit its predicted sales targets since it had opened. They then announced that the store would cease trading on Saturday 23rd August 2003, with 20 member of staff loosing their jobs with another 15 being re-deployed to other Gap stores.
The vacated store was taken over by Clintons Cards at the end of August 2003.
In October 2003 Shea Properties announced plans to build a £4million nightclub in a disused section of the Chichester Road section of the Keddies building. Then in December 2003 Travelodge announced plans to open a 56 bedroom hotel in another section of the Chichester Road section of the building.
In June 2004 it was announced that a major American casino operator was interested in operating the proposed Keddies Casino, however the casino never opened.
In July 2005 plans emerged for a £1million pub, the Varsity operated by the Barracuda Group was designed for students, and was expected to cater for 660 people opened in September 2005.
On 30th September 2005 Mayhem nightclub opened in part of Maitland House located above the Chichester Road part of the old Keddies building, Maitland House was partly used as offices by Keddies.
In November 2007 plans were submitted for an 11-storey extension above the Travelodge on Chichester Road. The proposal by Barratt Homes was to have 94 flats with 17 set aside as affordable houses. The new proposals included inset balconies and steel cladding in various colours, and metal screens. A previous application for 64 flats had been approved in 2004, the design changes to increase the number of flats was to make the project viable.
The two shops on the ground floor of the High Street side were sub-divided in early 2009, Clintons Cards retained half the unit whilst Republic Clothing took over the other half.
In July 2009 new plans were submitted for an 11 storey extension to the side and rear of the old Keddies building, with a further two floors added to Maitland House–building. This time the applicant was Swan Housing group were applied for 80 flats for sale or rent, with a further 56 designated as starter homes. Swan Housing proposed the reduction in flats after Barratt Homes pulled out due to the economic situation, the reduction in flat number was also to provide larger better quality homes, The new building would have had security door entrance systems and lifts so that only residents could access the building, the cost of the project was put at £9million.
The Swan proposals were passed by Southend Council in August 2010.
As of April 2012 no work has been commenced on the Sawn proposals.