175 years on, the smiling service shop gets a face lift

1st May 2012

It’s hard to believe that the new, smart exterior of the shop on the corner of Queen Street and Wellwood Street in Amble was operating as a thriving grocery shop 175 years ago. As the first ever “Walter Wilsons” grocery store in the country – slogan “smiling service” – the shop was the hub of the community as far back as 1837.

The owner of the building, Chris Pickering, has totally refurbished the building and took advantage of the English Heritage / Northumberland County Council shop front improvement scheme to improve the exterior. It was decided to strip out all of the 1988 alterations, expose the original masonry and reinstate the 19th century window design.

During the refurbishment there were quite a few surprises along the way:

  • When 1980s panelling was removed, the terrible state of the stone columns could be seen, which was probably why they had been covered up. All of the stone on the two elevations has now been repaired or replaced.
  • During the stripping out, an original 1920’s timber sign with “Walter Wilson’s Smiling Service” on it was found along with a faded “Smiling Service” shield painted into the first floor.
  • Workmen uncovered more than 17 layers of paint 1 grey, 5 green, 1 yellow, 6 later green layers added, 2 maroon, and 2- 3 stone colours on top of the original wood.

But now the smart, refurbished shop is smiling once more with all the refurbishments, which include: New glazing and re-instated traditional frontage. The first floor has been opened up to create 3 bright and spacious offices (118m2), whilst the ground floor has been refurbished creating staffroom, W.C. and 72m2 of shop floor with over 18m of glazed frontage to Queen Street and Wellwood Street. There is also a smart kitchen/ staff room.

Agent Tim Heatherington of George F White says: “The restoration of this lovely old building makes a big difference to this part of Amble. It’s in a great, focal position, it’s been beautifully restored and there’s plenty of parking nearby. It would be ideal for any kind of retail business and you have the advantage of space for offices on the first floor.

It is now available at a guide rent of £15,000 per annum, with flexible terms available. To see the full property listing click here.

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