Store was once among the elite

IT seems almost inevitable that the buildings we associate with a particular era change, or get torn down and something new put in their place.

There could not be more apt an example of this than the former Schofield Centre, also known as the Headrow Centre, which is in the process of being redeveloped and renamed The Core.

However, it's always good to look back at how things began and this week we were contacted by Lilian Wood, 75, from Leeds, whose late sister, Iris May Bennett, worked at the original Schofields store.

Schofields was held in high esteem by the residents of Leeds. Prior to its demolition in the 1980s it was among a group of elite Leeds stores.

Mrs Wood's sister, who passed away in January, worked at the store after she left school at 14.

She said: "Originally, she worked in the ticket room, her wage was 14s 1d a week. She later worked in the jewellery department.

"She was the kind of person who never threw anything away and we recently discovered a souvenir programme from October 1947."

The occasion in question was the presentation of an oil portrait of Snowden Schofield, the store's founder, on the evening of October 21, 1947, "in commemoration of his outstanding career and as a token of esteem and affection after many years of happy association."

Mrs Bennett (nee Neal) was cordially invited. The evening, from 7pm-10pm, consisted of a piano solo by N Birks, a song by J Blackwood and an Irish interlude by Noreen and her Girls (with Mrs M Gilmore).

Snowden Schofield opened his shop at 1 Victoria Arcade, Leeds, on Saturday May 4, 1901 as a "fancy drapers and milliners" with a staff of two.

A visionary, he was ahead of his time who was constantly coming up with new ideas to attract and keep customers.

His first day's takings were said to be 62 3s 4 1/2d, of which 43 10s was in gold – an encouraging start.

His success meant that within two years he had expanded the store to take over number 4 Victoria Row, then numbers 2 and 3 in 1906, forming the beginnings of his department store.

By 1926, he had a staff of 300 and plans to double the size of the store, a task which was completed by 1930, just in time for the re-opening of the Headrow a year later.

The store expanded even further when the old Leeds Hippodrome music hall and Old Cock and Bottle Inn came up for sale.


In 1947, Schofield acquired the entire Victoria Arcade – a real coup at the time. Sadly, Schofield died two years later and before his dreams could be realised.

The business was sold to Clayform Properties in 1984 and the old store closed in August 1987. Then, in 1998, it was acquired by one Ali Al-Fayed, whose House of Fraser group has Harrods of London as its flagship store.

In September 1996, the Schofield Centre was renamed the Headrow Centre following a 1m refurb. It will shortly be reborn again.

Dean Johnstone, chief executive of Minds Ahead and joint leader of the centre of excellence in Leeds.

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