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NOSTALGIA: Former worker shares memories and pictures of Sheffield’s popular former Co-op department store 

The old dining hall.
The old dining hall.

Excavation of land underneath a former department store in Sheffield has unearthed more than just layers of dirt.

Archaeologists are hoping the dig will enable them to find out more about the remains of a former medieval castle that once stood in Castlegate.

Inside the old dining hall.

Inside the old dining hall.

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In more recent history, another landmark that once stood in the area is the former Co-operative department store – and news of the excavation has brought back fond memories for those who used to work at the site during its storied history.

One former member of staff, Stuart Cooke, came forward to share a 72-page souvenir book that commemorated the opening of the Co-operative in 1929. He also revealed a collection of pictures dating back to the 1930s.

The 75-year-old, who spent his whole career working at the store, told how he will always have fond memories of the Co-op, which sold everything from shoes and furniture to groceries during its 70-year history.

Details of hardware inside the brochure.

Details of hardware inside the brochure.

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Mr Cooke, of Regent Court, Hillsborough, said: “It was a really buzzing place and a family atmosphere.

“There were brothers and sisters, fathers and their children who worked there and you called all of the big bosses by their Christian name – it was that type of place. 

“We used to get different generations coming in too to get their shoes fitted. I would be fitting shoes for a lad for school and then realise that I did the same for his father years earlier! 

A front window at the Co-op.

A front window at the Co-op.

“There was everything under one roof, it was a great place.”

After leaving Chaucer Secondary and Modern School aged 15, he went to work at the Co-op depot for six months in Broughton Lane, Attercliffe, in 1958.

Then he was sent to work in the shoe department in a pre-fab building in Exchange Street.

This was built in the late 1940s as a temporary replacement for the original and short-lived Co-op store that was opened in 1929 but destroyed in the Blitz in 1940.

Part of the brochure.

Part of the brochure.

Mr Cooke was then deployed to the new Co-op store that opened at Castle House in the early 1960s and rose through the ranks to become head of men's footwear.

He retired aged 60 in 2003 and Castle House was shut just a few years later.

The souvenir book and old pictures he now has in his possession were set for the dumpit site until he recovered them.

He explained: “I heard that they were clearing out Castle House and a former colleague said they had found them in a drawer.

“I like history and I thought they were rare and of some value so I made copies of them. They give a great insight into what it used to look like.”

The five-storey Grade-II listed Castle House has been mainly empty over the last decade.

Inside the old Co-op.

Inside the old Co-op.

But ambitious plans have recently been revealed to open a food hall inside part of it and for other floors to be used as a hub for digital businesses. 

Castle Market was demolished in 2016 which paved the way for the archaeological dig to discover more about the medieval-era Sheffield Castle, which started several weeks ago. 

Initial plans are being drawn up for the future of the old market site, which is set to include more green areas as well as pedestrianised zones.

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Mr Cooke said he was pleased that the area is on the brink of regeneration once again.

He said: “It is great to hear that they are looking at doing something with the building because I hate to see places left derelict – especially a landmark building like that.

“And the archaeological dig is very exciting too. I wonder what they will find?

“When the new development at Castle House opens I'm going to see if they want to use the pictures and the old brochure as part of an art exhibition inside.”

Elegant staircase.

Elegant staircase.

The old shoe department at the Co-op.

The old shoe department at the Co-op.

The souvenir book.

The souvenir book.

Stuart Cooke.

Stuart Cooke.