Waitrose Dorchester 120 opened on 18th March 1986.
The following article appeared in the Partnership in-house magazine at the time.
The newest Waitrose branch 120, Group A, is built in a cobbled arcade off a street of pleasantly old-fashioned shops. The entrance to the arcade is narrow and if there is any Dorchester shopper who still does not know about it, the new supermarket inside will come as a great surprise.
The Tudor Arcade was named after a 400-year-old stone archway and is open to the sky in places where there are tiled over-hanging eaves. The new Waitrose stands at the far end and, despite its impressive frontage, does not dominate its surroundings. It is only when seeing the building from the street at the rear that one realises just how large it is. How was that accomplished?
‘It’s what we call vernacular architecture,’ said Partnership architect Derek –‘it fits in with what’s around. There’s a lot of history in Dorchester and we’ve taken ideas from the local architecture which is mainly Georgian. We’ve used tiling, rendering and brickwork to bring the building down to a domestic scale. There are interesting roof shapes and spaces, and the partially covered arcade is like a little street scene.’
He explained that the designers had a formidable problem in rationalising the different levels in the building, and there are unusual features – such as a receiving dock from which goods are carried by a hoist across the ceiling of the arcade, and down again onto the selling floor on the other side.
Another headache for the architects was the exciting discovery, during excavation for the new building of 20 Neolithic post holes. Construction work was halted while a team of archaeologists worked on the site, and the position of each post hole was noted– the size of a fully grown oak trunk – this is commemorated by a tiled plaque on the ground floor of the car park.
The Branch Manager said “There are about 17000 people living in Dorchester, but we are looking for a catchment area of perhaps 10 – 15 miles radius. That includes Weymouth and Wareham as well as many small towns. It’s a rural area. People round here are used to travelling. We’re expecting trolley trade coming in from a fair distance, doing a weekly or even a fortnightly shop. Dorchester is a market town and on Wednesdays and Saturdays it gets very busy indeed.’
The Deputy Branch Manager is Derek who was born in Lyndhurst in the New Forest and whose first job was at Waitrose Lymington in 1970. After a few years there and in Romsey, he joined the computer ordering implementation team and after two years of trials and tests he spent some time travelling round the branches, training staff in the use of the new system. His last job was a Deputy Branch Manager at Havant.
The new supermarket has a lofty dining room with a pine pitched roof and structural beams. The huge window looks out onto the river Frome and peaceful countryside. The walls are embellished with two large paintings of Dorchester through the ages – a theme which is echoed in an attractive mural outside in the shopping arcade.
To Waitrose habitués, perhaps the most striking feature of the Dorchester supermarket will be the new style business dress – a crisp combination of brown and white plain and striped garments. Women Partners sport striped waistcoats over dresses and those working with patisserie or delicatessen have aprons and oversleeves in an elegant brown and white variant of the traditional ‘butcher’s apron’ stripe. The men wear what some of them describe as brown jackets, with padded shoulders and flaps on the pockets.
‘They’re smarter – they look more like a suit jacket,’ said one of the young Partners.
Waitrose Dorchester opened with a bang. By five to nine of Tuesday 18th March , the Tudor Arcade was crowded with customers waiting to get in, and half an hour later, the supermarket had every till in use.
Vol 68 No 9
ADDRESS: Tudor Arcade South Street Dorchester Dorset DT1 1BN