August 30th 2008

The new 'Orchard' shopping centre in Didcot is now very much completed, although there are still a few empty shops. However, with over 40 new shops it has already made
it's mark on the town. With the opening of the 5-screen cinema complex and now the Cornerstone theatre and Centre of the Arts just oponed they mark the crowning glory
of the project. The majority of citizen no longer have to go by train or bus into Oxford or Reading for much of their goods. It appears to be let down only by the lack of
clothing shops for the older man or woman.

Modern design and built isn't everyone's cup of tea and there is certainly a cheapness about the design and build but the layout of the shopping complex is well designed
and being pedestrianised makes for very relaxed shopping and/or simply wandering around.

First a brief look at how the area around Station Road looked just before the clearance of the old industrial estate and the football ground took place.

1982. From the curve at the bottom Station Road. A clear view to the railway embankment, where the new by-pass now runs,
with the empty grounds of the railway hostel just in froit and the football ground on the right. A new housng estate
blanks this v iew today, with just a short gap where you can view the railway embnakment.

A slightly more south view, showing the the football ground. The Conker tree still stands.

A 1982 winter scene. The railway terraced houses looking down Station Road from the opening to the industrial estate. On the left is the gap created by the demolition of a group of five terraced housing to build the car park and supermarket.

From the opposite side of the road. The entrance to the industrial estate, which was still operating at the time. You can see the board naming the various companies. The old railway hostel is still standing between Station Road and the railway. It was used as homes
at this time and was demolished to make way for the new bypass that would divert traffic away from Station Road and the
new shopping centre.

Tappin's Garage. They moved to Milton Trading estate, near the power station. Recently the business was taken over
by Hayfordian but retain the Tappin name

At the top of station road (on the left) with a view eastwards down the Broadway

A westward view of the broadway, with the main shops on the right. The Tappin bus is probably awaiting a school run.

The trading estate was one of those places that was taken for granted and not very picturesque and simply existed. However it had already started to become rundown with empty premises decaying. However quite a large fire broke out, which brought some attention in the 90's. I managed to capture a few pictures of the activity. However, they are not very good as it was a very bleak day but they may be of some interest.

This picture not only captures the moment when the fire really started to take hold but also shows the football pitch and
Didcot Football Team's Club buildings. This is where the car park and Sainsbury Supermarket now stand. A new football
ground was built on the north side of the railway.

Almost too bleak to take exposures with the rather cheap camera used but this shows how extensive
the fire had become . The highlights really only show up because the flash operated automatically

The police officer moved everyone back as it became clear the fire was really getting bad

A crowd had gathered to watch the firemen's efforts at tackling the blaze

A cropped section from the photo above. Perhaps some will recognise themselves

2004. From around the same spot in 2004. The fencing on the right indicates that the work as began to clear the
football ground and industruial estate.

The northern side of the trading estate and the remains of the buildings that caught fire are well and truely removed.
This is now the sight of the garage and large car park

A more northerly view showing the railway in the background with a cross-country service running towards Oxford.
Just  in front of that you can see that the new bypass has already been built. The buildings on the right are in the
Riche's Sidings estate, which was linked to the railway

The foundation at the front was the white building you see in photo two

The road into the trading estate, where Sainsbury's now stands

The scene from lower down the Broadway looking across to Staqtion Road, with the power station in the background. This spot is
now the roadway into the Orchard Centre and a through road onto the by-pass. The road was named Hitchcock Way after the late councillor and train guard, Leslie (Les) Hitchcock


Didcot has always been a bit of a backwater, small market town. However, until the 70's it had the main shops of any high Street but they mostly disappeared with the main shopping street, the Broadway being filled with secondhand and charity shops. For anything

 After more than 30 years without a cinema we now have a new multi-screen cinema just over a year old. This was in the plan with our new town centre.

The entrance to the new Orchard Shopping Centre at the top of Station Road

The new cinema and pedestrianised shopping centre is in strong contrast to the 1900 design of the railway houses down Station Road.

The stops preventing traffic going onto the Broadway at the top of Station Road. The Broadway is the original main street and shopping centre, running east to west through Didcot. The old Town House stood in the background where the trees are. The council buildings are now out at Crowmarsh near Wallingford. This change came about when Didcot came under Oxfordshire. Prior to this it was in Berkshire

You may not be impressed with the rather cheap-looking design and build of the new  shopping centre but it is bright and clean and with over 40 welcome new shops there is more choice and you don't have to compete with noisy and smelly traffic

From the corner of Orchard Centre a continental look has come over Didcot, with people sitting outside Boswell's Cafe, with the modern design of the cinema in the background

Plenty of choices in the Orchard Centre. Sadly, there are no clothing shops for the older man or woman, as yet!

The area opens up at the bottom of the Orchard Centre. The steps forming a hollow is a nice addition making for a focal point where people can just sit to rest or ponder while shopping and it is also a natural stage for outdoor events to take place. Quite a transformation from the old commecial trading centre.

It's nice to have a Woolworth's again. However, these modern shops just don't have the character of of the old 'Woolworths'.

Looking onto Hitchcock Way

Sainsbury's Supermarket, where once was the north side of the trading estate and the football pitch

The curved, deep stair way creates a natural amphitheater for local gatherings

Parked cars and street dancing replaces football

This scene displays the spaciousness of the design along with the good mixture of shops. There is also a monthly Continental Market that adds interest and colour.

A dance demonstration. Just a pity that they used recorde music instead of the exitement of a live band or combo

Whatever the dislikes of these modern buildings and designs it is really nice to see the centre of Didcot become alive and looking spick & span. But I shall
nclude with my own pet grumble "Where are those clothes shops for older men and women"!

A Little about present day Didcot

Back to the Cornetstone

Back to Home Page


This page brought to you by:
VintageHammond.Com - We Buy-Sell-Trade Vintage Hammond Organs and Roll or Kari Organ/Vending Machine Moving Dollies Order Roll or Kari Dollies Here