Waitrose Cirencester relocated on 21st November 1995.
The following article appeared in the In-house magazine at the time.
Cirencester’s relocated store opened on 21st November 1995, and the contrast between the new and the old shop could not have been greater.
Almost four times the size of its predecessor, branch 220 looked stunning. For 22 years Cirencester had been one of the smallest Waitrose branches but thanks to its re-location to the other side of town, it became the third largest Waitrose branch at the time. It went from 7000 sq ft to 26268 sq ft, and from 34 car parking spaces to 300.
It was built almost on top of an old Roman cemetery which contained more than 3000 burials. The history of the site called for some sympathetic design work. Reconstituted Cotswold stone, a slate roof, a traditional dry stone wall built by local craftsmen and natural wood barrier rails and cycle racks in the car park, all helped the store blend in with its surroundings.
The store’s coffee shop, which sold 25 different types of coffee, sits on the curve of the building overlooking the dry stone wall and the low wall built by Waitrose to mark the route of the Roman wall which used to surround the town.
The Partners’ dining room over looks the Roman amphitheatre cut into the hillside.
The second largest and most important town after London, in Roman Britain, Cirencester was surrounded by a stone wall, probably about 20 feet high and 8 feet wide, complete with a parapet to walk along.
Until planning approval was granted for the supermarket to be built, historians were not 100% certain what route the wall had taken at this end of town. As part of the scheme, archaeologists were given time to dig the site and complete mapping the wall’s position around the town.
Archaeological Manager of Cotswold Archaeological Trust, Neil said, ‘It was really quite exciting, like fitting the last piece of the jigsaw. Up until then, we hadn’t been quite sure of the wall’s route. Now we have a pretty good idea of where it went all around the town. We also demonstrated that the wall was so deeply buried that the store could be built over the top without disturbing it.’
A stone from the base of the Roman wall uncovered by the dig was placed on a plinth on the new low wall built to mark the route of the ancient wall. Outside the wall lies the 3000 strong Roman cemetery which was excavated in the early 1970s. A plaque describing the history of the site, together with some pictures have been erected by Waitrose.
The dig also found evidence of the old railway yard above the Roman deposits, which was in use by the Great Western Railway between 1841 and 1964. The station building, designed by the engineer Brunel, can still be seen in Cirencester, but all the tracks, goods yards and other railway buildings have gone. Waitrose was built where the railway yard’s signal box and animal pens for the nearby cattle market stood.
Chronicle Vol 55 No 47