Tuesday 14 June 2011

Friars Square Shopping Precinct, Aylesbury. Part 1.

Morning! This is quite exciting for me because the pictures posted here have been sent by between channels' first ever contributor. Take a bow Sean Hancock, who sent me this motherlode of pictures depicting the rise and dear decline of the Friar's Square shopping complex in Aylesbury.

An example of early sixties 'brutalist' design, Friars Square was used by Stanley Kubrick for some of the location shooting on 'A Clockwork Orange'. It's not there anymore, at least not in the form shown in the photographs here. There seems to be a peculiar undercurrent of dread running through the place - the local duck breed was originally wiped out by 'duck fever' in the nineteenth century (although it sounds a bit like a David Essex album title) and in the seventies a pamphlet called 'What's Happening to Aylesbury?' was produced, which detailed tales of unemployment and bored youth causing mayhem on the streets and concrete underpasses. I think we'll be right at home here, then...

This ticks all the right boxes for this website, I think.

The biggest Woolies in the country.

How's this for a central feature? A damn great wedgy, glass-fronted cafeteria horned by two retro-futurist Mayan towers. Note how dark and dingy the surrounding area is, even in bright sunlight.

A market AND a sixties brutalist shopping precinct? Marvellous. All told, it looks a bit - well, bleak, bringing to mind post-war Dresden. At least the 'cafeteria' has gone and turned itself into a Wimpy. It'll be a burger eaten with a knife and fork first, and then down to the square where a young John Peel will sell you a wicker shopping basket on wheels from the shadows.

Pretty impressive, nice and clean - nothing can make this square look cluttered and untidy.

Ah. Looking a little more weathered a few years down the line, the market is in full swing. Lots of sprouts on offer - quite a few market stalls mark their prices up in that font even now. Any idea what it's called? I'll start us off with 'Brussels New'.

The Wimpey bar has been condemned and moved to redevelop are afoot. The spiral fire escape is rather lovely, like the inside of a whelk shell. There's a similar one atop Sheffield's Castle Market, next to the winding gear for the lift. I tried to go up it and then had to retreat quickly. God knows what the vertigo-suffering office workers of Aylesbury would have done in a fire.

Zodiac Toys in the background, when there were still toy shops in shopping precincts. Note the street furniture; prismic advertising posts and those deep concrete planters, nominally flower beds but actually a handy place to store soaked cigarette ends and crushed cans of lager.

Our Price, a chain much derided in its declining years, but try finding a record shop nowadays (HMV aside). To be fair most of the chain record shops all sold the same stuff, and when you did find that Jesus Lizard cassette you really wanted, it was £18.99. The only exception I found was the HMV down The Moor in Sheffield, which stocked an incredibly large amount of krautrock. You'd see people's mums flicking through the racks and looking at albums by Grobschnitt and Embryo in bewildement. So to conclude, Our Price was rubbish, good riddance.


More Aylesbury images to come. Don't have nightmares.


  1. The cafeteria/Wimpy building reminds me of those electric wall-mountable fires. My neighbour had one in her bathroom. My home town (Pontypridd) is losing it's vulgar, pigeon infested shopping precinct very soon. It takes hideous to a whole new level, but I shall miss it:

  2. I love the Wimpyteria. The triangular bit on the ground below reminds me of parts of the Tricorn (R.I.P.) in Portsmouth. I'm guessing that's safety glass with the hexagonal wire embedded in it. Am I right in thinking that's on its way out? It used to be everywhere (internal school doors etc) but I can't remember the last time I saw any.

  3. There was a Zodiac Toys in my local precinct when I was growing up. I never realised it was a franchise. Ditto 'Tomorrows World' in one of you earlier posts. Zodiac was a place of childhood dreams and wonder. I used to buy my Airfix models there and drool over the TCR (Total Control Racing) set where the cars would change lanes and overtake at the flick of a switch.
    Later, during a Gary Numan fixation I remember also drooling over a Jen SX1000 in Tomorrows World, the future had arrived (but I couldn't afford it).

  4. The Wimpy does look quite impressive. Having spent quite a lot of time in and around Portsmouth I have to agree with Bollops about the Tricorn similarities. http://www.retrowow.co.uk/architecture/60s/tricorn/reflections.html
    Have not been to Ponty for a couple of years but know what Lucewoman means.

  5. WOW - amazing set of pictures. Particularly the top one. You couldn't make it up.

  6. If only there was someone out there with a load of photographs of the Tricorn...
    Bollops, I believe it is safety glass - a friend of the medical persuasion claims to have seen pics of an autopsy done on someone who had fallen from a great height onto a large sheet of this wire-toughened stuff. Ugh.

  7. Good grief. That Wimpy cafe looks like a working prototype of the new media centre at Lords cricket ground

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  9. Really pleased with the posts they look excellent!! Nice to see the photos together where they can be enjoyed by everyone. On a side note, I'm thinking of getting in contact with Portsmouth council to see if they have any photos in their archives of the tricorn.

  10. How about some recognition for the owner of most of the Friars Square photographs? You can't just copy stuff from other sites without acknowledgement. The first six on this page belong to Ron Adams who can be found on Flickr under the id dlanor smada. I'm sure he wouldn't mind letting you use them but at least ask him first.

  11. love to see our old town its a great site
    manny thanks we need moor of this
    kind regards

  12. I remember having my first burger in that whimpy great views over the market it used to fascinate me as a child. It was amazing if flawed.

  13. HMV in Sheffield wasn't on The Moor, it was on Pinstone Street that led down to The Moor. Heading in that direction, though. Spent many hours in there. MM was on The Moor and was a pretty good record shop for a while.