The RAC Department Store

In 1999 the RACs department store featured in a television movie The Greatest Store in the World. Up until the 1980s it certainly would have been the greatest store in South East London but in 1999 it was closed with no future prospects.

Powis Street today

Powis Street today

Membership of the RAC had been steadily increasing since its formation in 1868 and at the outbreak of the Second World War 1939 it was 382,000. In 1937 they planned a second large emporium in Woolwich. It was opened in stages 1939 and 1940 but it was not brought into full use until after the war. The streamlined building with horizontal lines and faience tiles makes an interesting architectural contrast to its sibling across the street.

RACs Department Store

Throughout the 1960s membership of the RACs increased. This transformative period saw a major re-fit of the store to make it up-to-the minute and reflect changing cultural values. On the third floor was a large bar and restaurant area plus a roof terrace

Restaurant

Restaurant

Bar

Bar

A travel bureau was a new feature reflecting the increased accessibility of foreign travel.

The Travel Department

The Travel Department

Post Office Counter in the store

Post Office Counter in the store


Hairdressing Department

Hairdressing Department

Sweet Department

Sweet Department

By the 1970s the membership of RACs reached half million but from this highpoint they began to suffer from the competition from the supermarkets. It was forced to merge with the Co-operative Wholesale Society in 1985. They used the upper floors as regional offices up until 1999 when it finally closed. In 2006 it was again used as a film set, this time for the dystopian science fiction film Children of Men. The abandoned store helping to conjure up an urban landscape of despair. After a period of uncertainty and threat of demolition there are plans to convert this important historic building into new residential accommodation.

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