Fond farewells to Kingswells

Kingswells shop exterior, Cross Square, Wakefield.
Kingswells shop exterior, Cross Square, Wakefield.

FOR centuries the name Kingswells has been associated with fashion in the city.

Generations of families have shopped in the department store, famous for its latest designs, coffee shop and grand building next to the cathedral.

But after being in the city centre since the 1700s, the store closed its doors for the final time on Saturday.

The tough decision to shut up shop for good was made by by father and son team Richard and John Donner.

The store had been in their family since the 1970s, when Richard’s father Isaak, founder of Double Two shirt brand company, took it on.

Richard Donner, 71, said: “It is sad that we have closed as the business has been a member of our family for a very long time and had a lot of us in it.

“It was very popular and I am pleased to have been involved with it, but that type of trade has changed and our footfall was down.

“I remember when it was like the Grace Brothers in the TV show Are You Being Served before we moved across the road.

“That area is becoming a place just for cafe bars, hairdressers and estate agents now as most of the individual shops have disappeared.”

The Kingswell family started the store on the corner of Northgate and Westmoreland Street, now mainly banks, in the 18th century and only sold up in 1970 when no family successor wanted to continue in retail.

It was sold to Hughes from Lancashire, which failed to make it a success. When the company went bankrupt, Wakefield Council approached Isaak Donner to keep the department store in Wakefield.

As well as clothing it sold luggage and accessories and had a popular Viennese Coffee Shop, offering home-made produce by Vienna-born Herma Donner.

Once the business grew, the Donners purchased Brotherton’s on Cross Square and ran both businesses before relocating to Cross Square permanently. The store had a refit in 2003 across two floors to accommodate both men’s and ladies’ wear, but custom fell over the past few years.

The Donners continue to run Double Two warehouse and factory shop on Thornes Lane Wharf, selling more than four million shirts and blouses a year.

Although the city has bid farewell to its best loved department store, shoppers will have access to a new wave of clothing from Debenhams in Trinity Walk from Friday, May 6.