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Wycombe from A-Z: O is for Octagon
Once upon a time Wycombe really was a historic market down.
Back in the good old days there were very few tall buildings in the town centre and the streets had been relatively unchanged for hundreds of years.
When it came to shopping the town centre was full of individual businesses each of which specialised in a particular type of merchandise and they were nearly all owned by local business people.
I started this blog with the words 'once up on a time' however the scene that I went on to describe would be familiar to people living in Wycombe as recent as the mid 1960's.
The 60's saw great change in our country indeed the post-war era was one where modern thinking and ideas overtook the safe and steady lifestyle of the past.
Shopping was another area which changed in that decade. The supermarket chains we know today started in infiltrate the towns and Wycombe was no exception.
Wycombe also embraced the new modern thinking and wonders such as the Abbey Way flyover and Newlands car park were constructed.
A shopping centre was also built in the town centre to bring the modern arcade style of retail to our historic market town.
Of course Wycombe was already full of buildings so the decision was taken to pull down some historic buildings in streets such as White Hart Street, Paul's Row and the surrounding area to clear space for a shopping centre.
Constructed in the late 1960's and officially opened in the early 70's Wycombe's Octagon centre brought our retail facilities into the modern age.
With the new centre came the concept of self-service rather than the traditional personal service offered by the trusty shopkeepers.
Shoppers could travel into town by bus or car and arrive straight in the shopping precincts.
At the centre of the Octagon was a large open space with an eight sided octagonal motif in the floor. Surrounding the motif was a large chemist and the legendary Murray's department store.
Murray's was the first large scale department store in our town centre however the business pre-dated the Octagon. Sadly it closed in 1985 after just fifteen years as the centre piece store in the Ocatgon.
I wonder who can remember any of the other notable businesses there such as Pat's Flowers, Brighter Homes or the Southern Electric shop?
Perhaps you remember the stone plinths and ramps that used to surround the Sainsbury's supermarket?
The floor of the centre was paved in dark engineering bricks which gave a most marvellous atmosphere and texture to walk on. Sadly the bricks were removed in the 1990's and replaced with tiles.
The Octagon may have brought Wycombe in the the modern shopping age but at what cost?
Lots of our historic buildings were demolished and our town has never been the same since.
Was the loss of our towns historic nature too much of a price to pay? I think so. We would have been better if large shopping centres had never come to Wycombe.
What do you think?
LINKS (All from the Sharing Wycombe's Old Photographs site):
1. The Octagon Floor Motif
6. Pats Flowers
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