On 9th October 2007, over 3 years of disruptive construction finally came to an end, as Derby's new shopping centre was opened.
The Westfield Centre, named after the Australian company which designed, built and manages it, has more than 190 shops, large and small, and an eating area which consists of outlets cooking food from around the world; everything from Kentucky Fried Chicken to jacket potatoes, to Thai to Chinese, to Indian. The Westfield website describes the centre as follows:
Flooded with natural daylight the malls and public areas of Westfield Derby are the perfect setting for some of the country’s biggest brands, from fashion to lifestyle and leisure.
For goodness sake! It's only a shopping centre! But then again, shopping seems to be the new national pastime and I suppose that a fancy new 'mall' does bring in the out of town money. In its favour, it is clean and bright, warm and dry; even in the middle of a November white-out. On the downside, it is totally lacking in character or quirkiness or history of any kind! You could pick it up and dump it almost anywhere in the Western world and it would sit nicely amongst all of the others like it.
Once, the site on which this shopping centre stands housed a mill; Castlefield Mill, a lace mill built by John Boden in 1821. It was the heart around which the town had grown, but by the 1950s, Derby Corporation were looking to make changes, primary amongst which was the de-industrialisation of the town centre. In March 1961, the announcement was made that the mill had been sold and planning permission granted for a new shopping centre. The first such centre was the Main Centre, a 3.5 acre site consisting of an open pedestrianised core surrounded by shops. This opened on July 4th, 1963.
In 1975, the Main Centre was joined by the 12 acre, £7,000,000 Eagle Centre; Derby's first indoor shopping centre. It included the Eagle Market which was the UK's largest indoor market. The market stalls were arranged in a hexagonal honeycomb pattern and I remember it being a nightmare to navigate. People would spend ages going round and round in circles! (More accurately, I suppose I should say they were going round in hexagons, but that sounds plain daft!)
The Eagle Market still exists (though its layout is now a boring grid pattern) and much of the old Eagle Centre still remains; tagged on to the back of the Westfield and refurbished so as not to look too much the poor neighbour.
In their days, both the Main Centre and the Eagle Centre were considered 'state of the art'. I wonder how long the Westfield will be thought of in that way. Modern developments never seem to have the durability of the historic. They don't grow old very gracefully!