THESE photographs show the day shopping in Bournemouth changed dramatically.

The Hampshire Centre, on Castle Lane, was likened to the giant retail malls common in the USA.

Grahame Austin of Kitchenhams Commercial Photography has shared these photos of the opening, which took place on October 29, 1968 and attracted massive local interest.

From the Hampshire Centre to Castlepoint: See all the pictures in a gallery

Bournemouth Town Council had fought for years to stop the development on Castle Lane West. In January 1964, the Echo was reporting on an appeal against the council’s refusal to allow an “American-style shopping centre”.

Shortly afterwards, the paper reported how “discussions are to take place between the planning authorities of Hampshire, Bournemouth and Dorset regarding out-of-town shopping centres”.

It pointed out that the Castle Lane proposal was “not strictly an out-of-town centre but getting on that way”.

The paper reported the views of Eric Neate, who told a meeting: “Why should 250 tons of goods a week be brought into the high-street and taken out again? The obvious thing is to handle these goods where there are adequate traffic facilities.

Bournemouth Echo:

“The centres of the towns should be used for selling ladies’ hats and small things of that sort – not for bulky goods like potatoes.”

Bournemouth was defeated following a public inquiry in its battle to stop the centre. The centre was going ahead and the contract to build it went to Parkstone company Cooper & Rowe.

The Hampshire Centre opened in October 1968, with the Echo running a special advertising supplement with the headline “’Out of town’ is very much in”.

Much of the publicity around its opening emphasised the American-style experience.

The biggest tenant, Woolco, already had 67 stores in the US and Canada.

The Echo reported: “One of the focal points of the Hampshire Centre will be the vast Woolco Department Store covering nearly two and a half acres. It is the third – and the biggest so far – of a nation-wide chain of out-of-town department stores planned by the Woolco Department Store Division of FW Woolworth & Co Ltd.”

The store could easily contain a football field, the paper pointed out.

Bournemouth Echo:

“Britain’s first Woolco store was opened near Leicester last autumn and many shoppers have forsaken the overcrowded city streets, with their parking problems, for the spacious out-of-town Woolco, where customers can shop at leisure, have a a cup of coffee with their friends, and know their cars are parked only yards from the main doors,” the Echo said.

Woolco’s opening day offers included car coats or top coats £5.19.6, wool worsted suits for £10 and Harris tweet sports jackets 5.19.6 The shop had 40 departments and more than 200 sales assistants, making it the biggest out-of-town department store in Britain, and all on one level.

At opposite end of the Hampshire Centre was the food store Williamson and Treadgolds, which had started trading in Bournemouth Arcade in 1882.

In between were Barclays and National Provincial banks plus a dozen small shops including Rosees Fashions (a Midlands firm making first venture south), Millets, Currys, Meesons and George Oliver (Footwear). There were snack bars, restaurants and a petrol station, with the whole thing opening until 8pm Tuesday to Friday and 6pm on Saturday – although it closed all day on Monday.

On the opening day, the Echo told how “shoppers will be able to drive in, park without difficulty, buy everything from the weekend joint to a £3,500 diamond and platinum ring, and drive out again”.

The official opening was performed by TV’s Oxo couple Katie and Philip, aka Mary Holland and Richard Clarke.

The mayor of Bournemouth, Alderman Michael Green, said of the centre: “Its progress will be watched with very close attention, not only locally but nationally, not only by the trading community but by the whole of the general public.”

The name the Hampshire Centre became inaccurate in 1974, when a local government review ‘moved’ Bournemouth into Dorset.

Bournemouth Echo:

There had always been fears that the Hampshire Centre would hit trade in Bournemouth town centre. But by the mid-1970s there were questions about whether the centre was thriving as expected, after a number of its units became empty.

The western end was eventually rebuilt to house Sainsbury’s and several other tenants. Woolco remained the largest store until it closed in 1986, giving way to Gateway and then Asda, with B&Q moving to the centre in the 1980s.

By the 1990s, with the Hampshire Centre looking increasingly tired, there were plans afoot to replace the development with a new shopping centre.

Bournemouth Echo:

The subsequent planning row echoed the one of the 1960s. Once more, there were concerns about the impact on the town centre, as well as the traffic on Castle Lane. Again Bournemouth council objected, only to lose its case at a public inquiry and eventually back the centre.

Work on demolishing the centre began in 2001. And with the Hampshire Centre name now an anachronism, the new centre took its name from the nearby road – becoming Castlepoint.