Empires and us

Unpretty. Recent retail history in Brownhills is a patchwork of takeovers. Image from Bing! Maps, which I still consider to be a ridiculous name.

Reader Mick Roseblade writes in with a surprisingly common email enquiry. I’m answering this publicly, as I must have answered this four or five times by email to different people over the last couple of years.

I’m not sure why it generates such interest, but here goes.

Hi Bob,

Another one of your avid readers. Wonder if you can settle an argument that has started regarding the presence of Hillards in Brownhills.

Argument 1

Hillards arrived in Brownhills prior to Tescos and occupied the area at the top end of Ravenscourt.

Hillards decided to expand and built the store adjacent to Brownhills Market.

Hillards moved out of Ravenscourt and into the store. The Ravenscourt site was then occupied by Tescos.

Hillards were then subsequently taken over by Tescos and Tescos moved out of Ravenscourt and into the store adjacent to the Market (current location). In Stores then occupied the Ravenscourt site.

Argument 2

Hillards has never had a presence in Ravenscourt and the first sight of it was when they moved into the store it built – adjacent to the Market.

Tescos were then in residence in Ravenscourt and subsequently moved out when they took over Hillards. The In Stores then moved into Ravenscourt.

Basically the nub point is was Hillards ever present in Ravenscourt?

Any information regarding this would be greatly appreciated.


Mick R

Hi Mick. The answer is largely Argument 2.

The current Tesco store opened in 1986 as a flagship Hillards Hypermarket. Hillards were, at the time, the supermarket du jour, mid range, but aggressively opening new, large stores in towns like Brownhills.

In 1987 Hillards were bought by Tesco, and Hillards was rebranded with the Tesco name and disappeared totally.

There was a pre-existing Tesco at the back of Ravens Court – itself originally a Victor Value, which had been a tenant since Ravens Court opened – they were the anchor store. Victor Value – who were a downmarket supermarket chain –  were also bought by Tesco around 1968. If the name sounds familiar, Tesco tried rehashing it a couple of times.

For a time, Brownhills had two Tesco stores, until the one in Ravens Court closed. The overlap was at least six months – I can remember folk going into both and often finding some stuff cheaper in the Ravens Court shop. In this respect, the Wikipedia article on Brownhills is/was wrong.

After closure, the Ravens Court store was converted into an indoor market/arcade arrangement – this would be in the summer of 1988. It wasn’t originally owned by InShops, I think that came later. It was never a success as far as I can tell.

There was a Tesco ‘Home and Wear’ next door to the Ravens Court Tesco, last couple of units on the right hand side, that were latterly occupied by Latifs. That was a sort of precursor of Asda Living. I’m not sure when that closed.

Gerald Reece has a photo of the Tesco that was Hillards bearing both signs, taken during the changeover. Hillards one side, Tesco the other. A remarkable snapshot in time.

I’m unclear if the petrol station was part of the original development. Great Mills, the DIY chain, were the original tenant of what is now B&M. They then became Focus who acquired the Do-It-All stores. They closed  in 2011.

Brownhills had various other large (for their time) stores – George Mason, which later became Cut Price. A fairly large Co-op, later bulldozed for a new Kwik Save, where Farm Foods is now, and up at Streets Corner was Meadowmarket, latterly Kwik-Save and, for a short period,  Somerfield.

Hope that clears it up.

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6 Responses to Empires and us

  1. stymaster says:

    Yep, pretty much as I remember it. I don’t remember the two Tescos co-existing, myself, but clearly remember the Ravenscourt Tesco and Hillards.

  2. brian stringer says:

    I know Tesco’s was in Ravenscourt in 1968. I was delivering there for J. Lyons one Saturday morning and thought someone had heaved something at the side of the van. Found out later it was the explosion that blew up the railway bridge in Clayhanger

  3. PorkTorta says:

    Meadowmarket! I remember it well – many a weekly shop heaved back home over The Cape in carrier bags with an ‘M’ and a cow’s head on the side!

  4. David Evans says:

    HI Bob
    Pink, then Green Shield stamps come to mind as does my first experience of super(ish)market shopping. Oh the sheer bliss of having to queue up to pay at the check-out. Deep joy, indeed.

  5. martin says:

    Reading this makes one realise that Brownhills has suffered from the complete lack of an overall vision. With all the different fascias and whatnot chopping and changing as they have done it is really no wonder the customer base got bored or confused and drifted away.
    What has the ‘award-winning’ regeneration team at the Civic been doing all this time?

  6. Pingback: Buried dreams | BrownhillsBob's Brownhills Blog

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