Bentalls flagship department store in Kingston-Upon-Thames, Surrey once covered a vast site across the town centre. Established in 1867 the store grew from a small drapers on Clarence Street. As the family acquired more and more premises a patchwork of small stores combined to eventually be transformed in the 1930's to become one of Englands finest department stores, the largest outside of Central London.
With such innovations as the first centrepiece escalator hall in Britain. The Aston-Webb facade inspired by near-by Hampton Court Palace, with stonework by Eric Gill. As late as the 1980's the 'architectural patchwork' similar to many traditional English department stores remained including what was originally the 'Tudor Restaurant' dwarfed besides the Aston-Webb facade.
The site was transformed with investment from Norwich Union between 1987-1992 seeing the original store demolished and replaced by a large 5 storey store at the North of the site where 'Bentalls factory' sat, with a complimenting shopping centre to the South covering the majority of the original stores footprint. The demolition was phased to enable trading to continue.
The Aston-Webb facade with the trademark rounded corner is retained as the frontage of the 1990's centre, as is the vestibule which acted as the entrance to the original escalator store. The centrepiece to the new development being a vaulted glass ceiling under which St Pauls Cathedral could sit. The centre also contains the worlds longest single-truss escalator. Connecting the store and centre to two car parks is a glass bridge which crosses the Kingston one-way system. This was constructed in and transported from Scandinavia by barge.
Given Kingstons position as an affluent South-West London town its retail sector flourishes. Along with Bentalls the centre includes over 100 units such as Apple and Zara. Bentalls is now a member of the Fenwick Group whilst a bronze statue of Frank Bentall remains on the third floor entrance to the centre.
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