The Royals Shopping Centre was Southend’s First undercover shopping centre; however the birth of the new centre was not without great controversy for much of old Southend would have to go to provide the space to accommodate the new shopping centre.
Here we break down each area in to bite size chucks.
Before the Royals was envisioned the lower part of the High Street was lined with smaller shops, banks and restaurants, it had not been pedestrianized like much of the High Street had been.
Many well known local stores such as Goings Royal PH Stores and Tomassi's Restaurant were all located within the area of the planned shopping centre.
As plans slowly emerged the developers begun site assembly in 1972, this saw the buying up properties in Grove Road and on the High Street, those buildings they could not buy through negotiations were finally acquired through compulsory purchase orders that were issued in 1981.
This map is provided to help picture the layout of the area that was redeveloped.
This had included the Ritz cinema, the Ritz was one of the “Southend super cinemas” it had originally opened on Thursday 14th February 1935, the cinema closed to film entertainment in March 1972 it had then become a Top Rank bingo hall with the conversion from film to bingo costing the operator some £100,000 to undertake.
The lease was later sold onto Invicta Bingo until the building was abandoned during 1978. With the closure of the building it remained empty and frequented by pigeons and broken into by the homeless looking for somewhere to stay, the building rapidly fell into a state of dereliction.
Despite the best efforts of local preservation groups, local residents and cinema and theatre groups petitioning for the building to be preserved the wrecking ball moved in during January 1981.
Originally built in the 1880's the hotel became the Grand Pier Hotel in 1909.
Built in 1820, Prospects House was the home of Elizabeth Heygate wife of Sir William Heygate the Lord Mayor of London, it was later the birthplace of author Warwick Deeping (28 May 1877 – 20 April 1950)
With kind thanks to Nigel Gayner
The 24 houses that lined Grove Road were also up for demolition, the Ritz Cinema (see above) was at the bottom of Grove Road.
It was not just the buildings of Grove Road that were lost from the face of Southend but also the name "Grove Road" was also lost as the Royals Shopping Centre now covers the entire site
Grove Road was finally closed to both road and foot traffic in 1985.
Today the main walkway through the Royals Shopping Centre follows the route originally taken by Grove Road.
Another address that disappeared was Grove Terrace with its St Christopher’s Cafe, Chandlers Radio Taxis and the historic Grand Pier Hotel (see above).
Grove Terrace (Southend Timeline Collection)
With the buildings lining Grove Road steadily falling to the wrecking ball attention turned to the entire eastern side of the lower High Street. Many well known names were having to either close down or find new premises.
A rare survivor a letter from the old Barclays bank dated 19th February 1919. (Southend Timeline Collection)
With kind thanks to Nigel Gayner
With kind thanks to Nigel Gayner
Running along the top of the site was Heygate Avenue, that was also in for big changes with a large section of it's houses and shops destined to be demolished.
A view from the bus station showing a few of the buildings on Heygate Avenue (Southend Timeline Collection)
The last road to face the wrath of the wrecking ball was west side of Church Road
Once demolition of all the building had been completed the demolition crews quickly packed up and left the site. The plot of then had a wooden wall built around it and it remained a barren waste land for several years whilst anchor tenants for the new shopping centre were sourced and signed up.
The site with the buildings all but demolished, the lost Grove Road can be seen running directly through the middle of the site.
Construction of the Royals Shopping Centre finally began in November 1985, with the sinking of 350 concrete piles 90ft into the ground, at the same time large basements were dug and lined before work started on the metal frame of the building.
It took a further two years on continued construction before the centre was finally completed. The centre piece is the glass done some 80ft in diameter & 72ft high.
The centre was designed with an Edwardian look, the central glazed dome acted as a focal point, with the main walkways featuring glazed barrel vaulted roofs, giving the permitting the maximum amount of natural daylight into the centre.
Confirmation of one of the main anchor stores came in 1984 when the department store "Debenhams" announced it was going to be opening a three floor store within the Royals.
A hand-out given to those interested taking a shop in the Royals
The new indoor shopping centre was opened by Neighbours TV star and singer Jason Donavan on the 23rd March 1988. The Royals opened with more than 30 stores, and a food court, that housed nine different eateries with seating for 400 people, it was opened the same day by comedian Lenny Henry, the food court had a raised circular central pedestal that sat surrounded by water with two bridges to enable access to the no smoking area. Within the centre big names including Boots and Debenhams being joined by the third anchor store Littlewoods which was opened by TV personality Leslie Crowther on Tuesday 29th march 1988. As well as the three main anchor stores and units of various size for well known High Street names the Royals also included ten smaller "speciality" store surrounding the balcony above the food court.
To keep people informed of what was new and what was happening within the Royals the shopping centre issued its own in-house publication called "Royals Review" the issue seen on the left is from Summer 1993.
Alongside the national brands the area above the Food Court was lined with ten small retail units these were set aside for small independent local retailers.
In 1998 the Royals celebrated it's 10th anniversary, paper crowns were given away to children to mark the occasion.
The centre banned smoking throughout the centre on 2nd January 2001 this excluded Cafe Giardino until the national smoking ban came into force on 1st May 2007.
Littlewoods who operated the Index Catalogue Shop chain both as standalone stores and concessions within larger Littlewoods stores (as was in the Royals) closed the chain in 2004 due to increasing losses, the stand alone sites were sold off many to rival Argos with the concession stores within Littlewoods being absorbed into Littlewoods floor space.
Tesco opened an “Express” store on the Heygate Avenue frontage in 2005.
With the demise of Index the Littlewoods store chain disappeared in 2005 with the chain being sold off to the Primark Group, the Royals store opening on Tuesday 5th September 2006.
The food court which had been a major feature of the Royals since it had opened had been struggling to fill units for some time and so a major rebuilding program of the area commenced.
The centre had originally opened with a food court at the back of the centre on the lower floor with an ovoid shaped balcony running round the top lined with shops. However during a down turn in the retail trade many of the shops had closed the food court had also seen a down turn in residency with many of its units standing empty, it was decided to close the entire food court and begin a rebuilding of the area, the balcony overlooking the old food court was covered over creating an a two floor retail space, taken over by TK Maxx.
The centre celebrated its 20th anniversary in 2008, fashion retailer H&M opened a superstore within the centre on Friday 10th April 2009 converting a number of smaller units into one large unit.
The Royals joined in celebrating Chinese New Year in 2009 when it was The Year of the Ox with suitably decorated hats!
The Royals Shopping Centre celebrated its 25th anniversary in 2013.
In late October 2013 the owners of the Royals Orchard Street Investments announced that they had put the shopping centre up for sale with a price tag of £32.5million.
There have been many tenants trading over the years under the Royals dome over the years, some well known High Street names have come and gone whilst others have traded since day one.
Main Shopping Area
This has been quite a task to put together but it gives a brief idea of when and where store were and when they were, would be nice to have a list for every year but that would be like climbing Everest! In some places you will see "Not Listed" this is because the unit was either empty so no tenant was listed or the unit was knocked through to form a larger unit form two or three smaller units, also some of the units have been renumbered as changes to the size of units has been under taken. This list of store is just to give you the reader a look at how the centre has changed over the years.
|1||Cromwells Madhouse||Cromwells Madhouse||Cromwells Madhouse||Cromwells Madhouse||Cromwells Madhouse||Sports World||Costa Coffee||Costa Coffee||Costa Coffee||Costa Coffee|
|2||Sony Southend||Pay Your Weigh||Sharps Bedrooms||Sharps Bedrooms||Sharps Bedrooms||Utopia Coffee||Utopia Coffee||Utopia Coffee||Utopia Coffee||Utopia Coffee|
|3||Sony Southend||Absolutely Fruity||Animal Mad||Animal Mad||Animal Mad||Subway||Subway||Subway||Subway||Subway|
|4||Empty||Empty||Moben Kitchens||Moben Kitchens||Not Listed||Tesco||Tesco||Tesco||Tesco||Tesco|
|5||Empty||Empty||Expressions Portraits||Expressions Portraits||Not Listed||Not Listed||Not Listed||Not Listed||Not Listed||Not Listed|
|6||Stacks||Not Listed||One Stop||One Stop Dillons||One Stop||Not Listed||Not Listed||Not Listed||Not Listed||Not Listed|
|7||Stacks||Under Offer||Vision Express||Vision Express||Vision Express||Vision Express||Vision Express||Vision Express||Vision Express||Vision Express|
|9||First Sports||First Sports||First Sports||First Sports||Not Listed||Poundland||Poundland||Poundland||Poundland||Poundland|
|12||Nectar Beauty||Under Offer||Cardfair||Cardfair||Cardfair||Cardfair||Cardfair||Cardfair||Cardfair||Cardfair|
|13||Tandom||Shoe World||Shoe World||Shoe World||Shoe World||Shoe World||Shoe World||Shoe World||Shoe World||Shoe World|
|14||Berkertex Sales Shop||Berkertex||Sarah Beth Jewellery||Sarah Beth Jewellery||Sarah Beth Jewellery||Sarah Beth Jewellery||Sarah Beth Jewellery||Sarah Beth Jewellery||Sarah Beth Jewellery||Sarah Beth Jewellery|
|14a||First Sport||Framework||Café Giardino||Café Giardino||Café Giardino||Café Giardino||Café Giardino||Café Giardino||Café Giardino||BB's Coffee & Muffins|
|14b||Baron Jon||Baron Jon||Baron Jon||Baron Jon||Baron Jon||Baron Jon||Baron Jon||Baron Jon||Baron Jon||Baron Jon|
|15||Video Plus||Choices Video Plus||Choices||Choices||Choices||Choices||Not Listed||Not Listed||Not Listed||Not Listed|
|15a||Not Listed||Not Listed||Not Listed||Not Listed||Not Listed||Not Listed||Not Listed||Julian Graves||Julian Graves||Not Listed|
|15b||Not Listed||Not Listed||Not Listed||Not Listed||Not Listed||Not Listed||Not Listed||Diamonds & Pearls||Diamonds & Pearls||Tik Tok|
|16||Whittards of Chelsea||Whittards of Chelsea||Dr Herbs||Dr Herbs||Dr Herbs||Not Listed||Not Listed||Not Listed||Not Listed||Pandora|
|16a||Not Listed||Whittards of Chelsea||Not Listed||Not Listed||Not Listed||Not Listed||Not Listed||Not Listed||Not Listed||Not Listed|
|17||Houseproud||Empty||Not Listed||Not Listed||Not Listed||Not Listed||Not Listed||Not Listed||Not Listed||Supercuts|
|17a||Not Listed||Not Listed||Supercuts||Supercuts||Supercuts||Supercuts||Not Listed||Supercuts||Supercuts||Not Listed|
|17b||Not Listed||Not Listed||Not Listed||Not Listed||GiGi||GiGi||Not Listed||Not Listed||Not Listed||Not Listed|
|18||Athena||Athena||World of Pictures||World of Pictures||China World||China World||China World||Arts on Canvas||Not Listed||Not Listed|
|19||Classic Sound & Vision||Classic Sound & Vision||Classic Sound & Vision||Classic Sound & Vision||Not Listed||Not Listed||Not Listed||Game||Not Listed||Calendar Club|
|19a||Stage 1||Stage 1||Toys 'n' Tuck||Toys 'n' Tuck||Toys 'n' Tuck||Toys 'n' Tuck||Not Listed||Under Construction||H&M||H&M|
|20||K Shoes||K Shoes||Julian Graves||Clarks||Clarks||Clarks||Not Listed||Under Construction||H&M||H&M|
|21||Empty||Lynn Tait||Not Listed||Ice||Calendar Club||Not Listed||Julian Graves||Under Construction||H&M||H&M|
|21a||Not Listed||Not Listed||Not Listed||Not Listed||Not Listed||Calendar Club||Not Listed||Under Construction||H&M||H&M|
|21b||Not Listed||Not Listed||Not Listed||Julian Graves||Julian Graves||Julian Graves||Not Listed||Under Construction||H&M||H&M|
|22||Empty||Shalets||It's A Wrap||It's A Wrap||MG Rover||Not Listed||Not Listed||Under Construction||H&M||H&M|
|22a||Not Listed||Not Listed||X-Isle||X-Isle||X-Isle||X-Isle||X-Isle||X-Isle||X-Isle||X-Isle|
|23||Clarks||Clarks||Toni & Guy||Toni & Guy||Toni & Guy||Toni & Guy||Toni & Guy||Toni & Guy||Toni & Guy||Toni & Guy|
|24||Hammells||Hammells||The Officers Club||The Officers Club||Atlantic Fashion||Atlantic Fashion||Atlantic Fashion||Not Listed||Tom Wolfe||HQ Fashion|
|25||Hammells||Hammells||The Officers Club||The Officers Club||Atlantic Fashion||Atlantic Fashion||Atlantic Fashion||Not Listed||Tom Wolfe||HQ Fashion|