White Rose Leeds: Staff tell their memories of the Morley shopping centre as it celebrates 25th birthday

Built on the site of the former Morley sewage works in 1997, the White Rose was the first of its kind in Leeds.

By Abbey Maclure
Sunday, 6th March 2022, 4:30 pm

Residents in the south of the city watched as the £64million pound development sprung to life, a 76-acre site equivalent to the size of 246 Olympic swimming pools.

Boasting a raft of flagship stores, 5,000 parking spaces and even its own beehive high in the roof, the centre has continued to welcome a stream of shoppers over the last 25 years.

To mark its silver birthday, staff have spoken out about what it's like to work at the White Rose - a pioneering new development of its time.

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Randolph Maynard, a fabric engineer, has worked in the centre since it opened in 1997 (Photo: James Hardisty)

Randolph Maynard has worked in the centre since it opened in 1997, initially as a services supervisor for Debenhams after coming over from Leeds city centre store.

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Now a fabric engineer, responsible for maintaining the building fabric of the entire centre, Randolph said the move from the centuries-old building to the shiny new Debenhams store was a "leap of faith".

"The interior of the Debenhams unit was like entering a new world of retail," the 57-year-old, of Middleton, told the Yorkshire Evening Post.

The White Rose shopping centre during its opening week in March 1997

“It was a new innovation with lots of bewildering features, in terms of the facilities that were available, the design and construction of the building and the computerisation which wasn’t available in the old Debenhams store.

"The innovation that was unleashed in the building was quite breathtaking. It was like entering the space age and full of the 'wow factor'.

"And the whole centre, not just Debenhams, was jaw-droppingly beautiful."

Gill Marsden, a No7 Beauty Advisor, has worked at the White Rose Boots for the past 25 years (Photo: James Hardisty)

Randolph watched as the construction of the White Rose took place and has seen many changes over the last 25 years, including the addition of the £25million outdoor leisure area, The Village, in 2017.

He added: "It was and remains a delight to be part of something that has made such a difference to Leeds and started the changes to the retail experience.”

There are 23 staff members still employed at the White Rose who have been with the centre since the year it opened.

Gill Marsden, now a No7 advisor, started as a photo assistant at the White Rose Boots store in 1997.

Some of her favourite events over the last 25 years have been book signings with famous faces, the arrival of the Coca Cola van at Christmas and centre 'lock-ins' - ticketed shopping events with live DJs and bands.

The 59-year-old, of Lofthouse, said: "I saw the centre being built and thought it was an ideal opportunity to work there. I was there from day one and helped to fill the shelves and get it ready for the opening day.

“It’s grown massively since then and I’ve seen it change quite a lot; I think people are spending a lot more now than they did then.

"You get your more mature ladies with money to spend coming through the day, then in the evening and on the weekend you get the younger crowd coming in before going out in town or to weddings.

"It’s a lovely place to work, it’s always buzzing and you meet different people every day."

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