C&A Modes Part III: War and its Aftermath

Five of C&A’s UK stores were destroyed by bombing: Oxford Street (‘Bird Street’), Southampton, Sheffield, Portsmouth and Birmingham. A higher proportion of the company’s German stores was lost, with just two out of 17 stores surviving.

PeckhamJan09IMG_2760 (13) - Copy

Peckham’s C&A store of 1949

Replacing the stores on home ground in West Germany was a priority for C&A. In Britain, rebuilding and expansion was slower. Building licences were in force until 1954, and both materials and labour were in short supply. Unable to erect many new stores, C&A identified some suitable existing buildings. All of these were relatively new and modern. Amongst them was a store named Ronda which had been established in Croydon in 1933 by a member of the Brenninckmeyer family. It was rebranded as C&A in 1946. Others included an imposing brick building in Leicester (1946) and fashionably modern stores in Brixton (1947) and Peckham (1949).

Sheffield MF000132 Aug2000 (1)

C&A in Sheffield, photographed in August 2000 (K. Morrison)

Special licences allowed rebuilding in particularly devastated cities and so North & Partners (formerly North, Robin & Wilsdon) were able to design new C&A stores for Portsmouth and Sheffield. Stylistically, with their vertical window bays, these resembled the firm’s stores of the late 1930s, such as the branch in Nottingham. The windows at Sheffield had margin lights, a rather old-fashioned feature that was repeated at several later C&A stores, such as Birmingham (1956).

Southampton MF000097 June 2000

C&A in Southampton, photographed in 2000 (K. Morrison)

One of the first C&A stores to be designed in a post-war spirit, with a large panel of curtain walling above a solid canopy, was Southampton (1955). The spandrel panels under the windows were clad in mottled grey-brown tiles which became something of a C&A signature. They recurred at Bradford (1959), Hull (1960), Middlesbrough (1960), and also on Oxford Street, London (‘Bird Street’, 1959), which was the last of the bomb-damaged stores to be rebuilt.

By 1960 C&A had begun to display its badge on a sweeping neon multi-coloured fin that projected at right angles from façades: distinctive branding that was impossible for shoppers to miss.

Bradford MF000105 June 2000

C&A in Bradford, photographed in June 2000. (K. Morrison)

Hull MF000118 July2000 (1)

C&A in Hull, photographed in July 2000. (K. Morrison)

Middlesbrough MF000115 July 2000 - Copy

C&A in Middlesbrough, photographed in July 2000. (K. Morrison)

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