This is Dorset Bus’ 100th post
“Enjoy one-stop shopping at Woolco” screams the centrefold advert within the Summer 1977 timetable. At the time of its construction, Woolco Bournemouth was the largest store in Britain and this F W Woolworth pioneer out-of-town location had been open for nine years by this time, having started trading 45 years ago this year. Woolco was the only advert within the timetable, other than for the Transport Department’s buses & coaches and for council facilities.
Woolco’s location was ideal for buses along Castle Lane West. As such, Bournemouth Transport’s 14, 32, 33, 34 and 40 “pass right outside the door” or near enough.
But there were no route or frequency enhancements because of the Hampshire Centre, the major constituent of which was Woolco itself. The centre featured in timetable’s index of places served (helpfully labelled as “How to Get There”) but could you find it in the individual route timetable matrices or on the route map? No no no.
By 1978, Bournemouth Transport & Hants & Dorset had reached an agreement that modestly reduced the PVR and offered a modicum of co-operation between the two operators. H&D renumbered its Bournemouth routes 1nn and its timetables of the period features Bournemouth Transport’s 1-41 at the front of its books. To empathise tall this, both operators’ buses appeared on the timetables’ front covers. Note the bus-side advert for Woolco>/p>
It wasn’t particularly easy to get to from Bournemouth town centre, with just four buses an hour, departing past each hour at somewhat inconvenient times from The Square at ..03 (ser 32); ..33 (ser 32); ..50 (ser 33); and ..50 (ser 34). Compare that to Bournemouth to Castlepoint today.
The way the 33/4 circulars operated plus the 14 (Boscombe-Throop) and irregular 40 (Bear Cross-Somerford) afforded some suburban travel opportunities but it wasn’t till Charlie’s Cars started in 1987 that the Hampshire Centre got the sort of bus service it really deserved. Even then, demand was shaky and Charlie’s couldn’t sustain a service.
The 14 (Boscombe-Throop) operated every hour. The 32 (Bournemouth-Charminster-Jumpers Corner) was twice an hour; the 33/4 Bournemouth circulars every hour each; and the 40 Somerford-Bear Cross was irregular.
The July 1980 timetable cover shows that Hants & Dorset’s half-cab operation was still four months away from the end. Note the Woolco on the Bournemouth Transport bus and also those for the Bournemouth-based former Portman Building Society and the Busabout ticket on those operated by H &D
Upon Woolco’s closure, it became an Asda. The centre was ripped down ten years ago to make way for Castlepoint, which still sports an Asda but never held a Woolworth.
Woolco was therefore the out-of-town brand of Woolworth. Woolworth had some of a planning battle to win before Woolco could be built. It seems strange that, back then, it was hard for 1960s England and its planning system to understand the American mall concept.