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Memories of Bristol England Forum

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This is an easy to use messaging forum for everyone researching their family history or local history. The focus is on the Bristol area. Local Historians and Family Historians have a great deal of knowledge to share. This service is entirely free, with the hope that you and the historian and genealogy community as a whole will benefit from it.

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Memories of Bristol England Forum
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Fairfax House

I wonder if you can help me i am trying to find out when fairfax house opened, my father in law opened it and i have the actual photo from the newspaper but i would like to find the newspaper artical but no one seems to know the date.

i would be very grateful if you could help.

Re: Fairfax House

I BET many people would be surprised to hear that its over 40 years have gone by since the Co-op’s Fairfax House was demollshed and replaced by The Galleries car park. When it opened. as the Bristol Co-ops flagship department store, at 11am on Thursday. March 29. 1962.

The general manager Mr Cavender said optimistically: Fairfax House can become Bristol's Picadilly Circus. Needless to say it didn’t. At the slap-up lunch in the stores own restaurant he concluded Fairfax House has been designed ‘with the desire that it should be a credit to the city of Bristol and particularly to our own membership and it can truly be described as the only store that has been built for from the savings of ordinary people.

Lord Alexander of Hillsborough. the Bristol-born VIP who had been a Labour and Co-op MP in Sheffield until 1950 cut the whte ribbon tape at the Union Street entrance and said — as much to the stores detractors as to the 1,000 strong crowd. “It’s not owned my a couple of capitalists it’s yours' - It was a devil of a building to construct,500 feet long and squeezed between Farfax Street and what was then Narrow Wine Street straddling the river Frome and with the marshy ground sloping away in two directions it didn't help that the foundations had actually been constructed for a million-pound shop, cinema and restaurant development which never came to fruiton.

It was a difficult buildlng to get around with three levels of entry, four main elevations and a narrow strip in the middle. You'd go in at the ground floor Union Street entrance only to discover that you were on the Fairfax Street second floor. Despite this, the building did include many innovations. It was six stories high and had its own multi-storey car park and was the first Brstol building to be clad in glass modaic. It was also an early example of a mantenance-free exterior the best shopfitters were called in and did an excellent job. But plans for miniature railway and a Japanese tea garden came to nought.

But with everything from its baby clothes department to its funeral service under one roof, the Co-op was said to provide everything you might need from the cradle to the grave. In 1985 Fairfax House was sold for £6 million to Ladbroke City, and County Land, the company behind the Galleries development at that time. It was demolished in 1988.

Regards Paul Townsend Webmaster

Re: Fairfax House

thank you so much we have been searching for a few years and hadnt come up with any thing.
thank you very much x

Re: Fairfax House

When we were kids Fairfax house was a great place to play "chase" in,am I right in thinking that originally the elevators were permanantly moving and had no doors?

Re: Fairfax House

My Daughter who is 42 says it cant possibly be 40 years since they pulled fairfax house down because she thinks it was still there when she worked in fairfax street.

Re: Fairfax House

You are quite right about those elevators Martin, they were without doors and moved constantly. I had a great time as a kid jumping on and off them! I've never seen the like of them since and no doubt they would be banned on health and safety grounds these days.

Re: Fairfax House

Im afraid i cant help you as to when it opened but i remember goin to see santa there every year for yonks as a young un, scared i stupid!!!

Re: Fairfax House

The unusual elevators were called Paternoster. The boxes are on a continuous loop, similar to a rosary. I understand that the large bead on a rosary is called a paternoster.

A ride in a paternoster lift is an 'interesting' experience, especially if you go over the top.

Other than Fairfax House the only one I have used was at Northwick Park Hospital. Apparently it is still used by the staff but may be replaced at some time in the future.

Have a look for 'paternoster' in Wikipedia for one near you!

Re: Fairfax House

I worked at Fairfax House as the Masseeley operator printing the price cards for the goods in the shop, the Paternoster lifts were great fun we thought when the store opened.
Before that I was in the old Co-op doing the same job but stuck way up in the highest part on the roof in a little room which was called "The Ticket room".
I remember Mrs Knight who was on the Stationary dept.and the 'boys' from the footwear dept. Johnny, Maurice and Brian who used to come up to the Ticket Room for their tea break.
This was in the late 50's early 60's.
My friend and I sat on the wall accross the road from the old building and watched it being demolished, very sad.