SJ8498 : Woolworth's, Manchester

taken 40 years ago, near to Manchester, Great Britain

Woolworth's, Manchester
Woolworth's, Manchester
The Woolworth's department store at the corner of Oldham Street and Piccadilly in Manchester, photographed a few days after the disastrous fire of 8th May 1979 which killed 10 people and left a further 47 needing hospital treatment.

The store comprised six floors along with two basement levels and at the time was said to be the largest Woolworth store in Europe. Crucially, the store had no sprinkler system fitted. It is believed that the fire was started by a damaged electrical cable that had furniture stacked in front of it.

The disaster led to a major shake-up in UK fire laws after it was revealed that polyurethane foam fillings in furniture at the store made the situation much worse. The foam would burn rapidly, producing large amounts of thick dense smoke which would have soon obscured the exit signs. This would have led to confusion and, together with the irritants in the smoke affecting people’s vision and causing breathing difficulties, would have hindered any escape. The changes in legislation are believed to have saved thousands of lives since.

At the time, on 8 May 1979, the Woolworth store blaze was the city's worst fire disaster since World War II.

LinkExternal link “Fatal city store fire remembered” (BBC News)
LinkExternal link (Archive LinkExternal link ) (UK Fire Service report)
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SJ8498, 2993 images   (more nearby )
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Date Taken
Saturday, 12 May, 1979   (more nearby)
Wednesday, 1 December, 2010
Department store (former)   (more nearby)
Subject Location
OSGB36: geotagged! SJ 8439 9833 [10m precision]
WGS84: 53:28.8874N 2:14.2013W
Camera Location
OSGB36: geotagged! SJ 8437 9831
View Direction
Northeast (about 45 degrees)
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