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Keddies was a small chain of department stores in Essex, England, with its flagship store in a prime location in Southend High Street (originally called the Broadway). The business had a national reputation (was recognised in The Fashion Handbook[1] and had their name on the side of a Matchbox model 17C[2]) until it closed for business on 26 February 1996 after going into administration.[3]

Early years[edit]

The store was started by George James Keddie in 1892 at 144-146 High Street as a Drapery.[4] The store expanded to become a full department store, selling everything from penny lines to more extravagant goods. In the 1920s Keddies opened drapery stores in London Road, Hadleigh (on the corner with Rectory Road); Market Hill, Coggeshall (Sold 1928 [5]) and on The Broadway, Leigh-on-Sea (on the corner with Oakleigh Park Drive).[4] The business boomed during the 1920s even though there was competition from J L Dixons and Brightwells. With this success the main store was completely rebuilt and expanded in 1934, with an impressive frontage that aped the main Selfridges store in Oxford Street, London.[3] People would take the train from the east-end of London to shop at Keddies.[citation needed]

Keddies continued to grow, and in 1960 they bought a disused cinema, the Essoldo, that was located behind their store and opened Southend's first supermarket, which was also one of the first supermarkets in the UK, Supa-Save.[3] In addition a large extension was added to the rear of their store, including an office block called Maitland House (after the Keddie's family name) which was designed by the modernist architects Yorke, Rosenberg and Mardall. Photos of the iconic store interior in 1963 are on the RIBA picture website. An article on the design of the building appeared in the October–December 1963 edition of Concrete Monthly, the magazine from the Cement and Concrete Association.[6] Maitland House was used by the Access (credit card) credit card company from 1972-1996.


In the 1970s Keddies opened branches in Romford, Stratford High Street (former Boardmans store) and in Queen Street, Colchester, but these had all closed by the late 1980s and the Colchester store closed in 1996 (the Stratford store closed in 1984 being demolished and making way for Boardman House).[7] The Colchester store was on two sides of Queen Street, with one side now being replaced by Priory Walk, while the Eastern side stood until partial demolition in 2017, with the remaining building being converted into a Curzon cinema.

In the 1970s Supa-Save was closed because of competition from chain supermarkets entering Southend. The old building was demolished and the department store extended over the site. The store was also extended downstairs when Nat West built a new bank on the site of the old National Provincial Bank, the new banking hall being located on the first floor and accessed by escalators. The original frontage was covered over with white slats to try and visually tie the old building into the new tiled bank building, with only a few of the columns left exposed and painted blue.

The stores owner, David Keddie formed, and became chairman of, Essex Radio in 1981.[8] This later became Essex FM and then Heart Essex. Under his full name, Murray David Maitland Keddie, he became High Sheriff of Essex in 1986.


In the 1980s the store was modernised and refitted in anticipation of more business coming to Southend with the opening of the Royals Shopping Centre, with chain stores HMV, Tie Rack and Olympus sports opening departments. However this new found optimism did not last and the company went into administration. On 26 February 1996 after 104 years of trading the store was closed.[3]

Building today[edit]

The building was bought by developers, who wanted to rebuild behind the 1930s fascia; however they found that frontage had been badly damaged by the addition of the slats in the 60s. Instead the developers built a fibreglass copy which still sits in the High Street. However, since the rebuilding there have been many tenants, with Tesco, JJB, GAP, Clinton Cards, Republic, Superdrug, Sports Direct, USC and HMV all holding tenancy.[3]

The rear of the building facing Warrior Square was empty until the early 2000s when it was converted into a Travelodge, bar and restaurant and a nightclub. Maitland House was the former home to InsureandGo and also houses the transmitters for Heart Essex and BBC Essex. It is currently home to call centre service provider Ventrica [3]

External links[edit]


  1. ^ The Fashion Handbook by Tim Jackson & David Shaw
  2. ^ "17C London Bus, Keddies No.1 in Essex".
  3. ^ a b c d e f Skinner, Nicholas. "Keddies". Southend Timeline. Retrieved 17 September 2014.
  4. ^ a b Worpole, Chris. "G. J. Keddie & Sons". Hadleigh and Thundersley Community Archive. Hadleigh History. Retrieved 17 September 2014.
  5. ^ "Essex Records Office". Retrieved 18 October 2018.
  6. ^ "Concrete Quarterly - Issue 59 Winter 1963" (PDF). Retrieved 18 October 2018.
  7. ^ "Stratford St Johns Conservation Area Page 18" (PDF). Retrieved 1 December 2014.
  8. ^ "Keddies". In and Around Southend-on-Sea. Retrieved 17 September 2014.