St Neots (185): Opening

Finished with an 11 metre vaulted ceiling with around 250 panes of curved glass, Waitrose St Neots allows its customers to gaze up at the stars whilst they stand at the checkouts. This elegant design for the store, which opened on March 10th 1987, was created as a result of a collaboration between architects Biscoe and Stanton and the Waitrose team.

Glass and aluminium were the chief materials used to create the two tiers of 17 arches, the lower of which incorporates the colonnaded walkway. The vaulted roof contains its own air-conditioning system. Redistributing warm air on cool days and automatically opening shutters on hotter days was a real technological advancement for the time.

During the construction of the 200 space car park, builders unearthed two 13th century stone coffins containing skeletons! These massive coffins, more than six feet long, now rest in Shire Hall, Cambridge, where they are the subject of detailed archaeological examination.

For 500 years the Benedictine Priory that stood roughly on the site that is now the car park was the central focus of the town of St Neots. The coffins were likely to have been used to inter leading lights of the monastery. It is even possible to see the location of three of the columns which supported the monks’ dormitory above a small undercroft. Partners refer to the colonnade as “the cloister” and the dining room as “the refectory”, a further nod to the monastic history.

Facilities currently available at St Neots include fresh fish, cheese, delicatessen, patisserie, meat and bakery.

Address: Priory Lane, St Neots, Cambridgeshire, PE19 2BH

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