Feb 28 2011 By Dan Coombs
Ready to welcome shoppers: The Chimes Centre in Uxbridge
IS IT really 10 years since The Chimes opened in Uxbridge town centre? The Gazette takes a look at how the centre has transformed the shape of Uxbridge.
WHAT started life as a combination of a 420,000 square foot construction site and a pipedream, now dominates the landscape of Uxbridge High Street.
This month the centre will celebrate its 10th birthday, no doubt amidst much fanfare.
What was there before the shopping centre was built? To answer that question you do not have to travel back mere years, but centuries.
An archaeological dig on the site prior to its construction, bound by the High Street and Chippendale Waye, discovered not only evidence of Medieval life but even going back as far as the Bronze Age.
One excavation found a small pit containing over 100 cattle horn fragments, while others found bones of sheep and fish. Pottery dating back to as early as 1150 was also unearthed.
In a separate part of the site, Late Bronze Age and Early Iron Age pottery fragments were found in nine large trenches dug by archaeologists.
As early as 1300 Uxbridge had a weekly market and two annual fairs for the sale of livestock, a popular route in and out of London.
It is the location of Uxbridge today which serves The Chimes well, pulling in shoppers from afar, being easily accessible by public transport, despite regular weekend tube closures.
In the last few years, new challenges have emerged, in forms of the recession, and the opening of one of Europe's largest shopping centres, Westfield, just a 607 bus ride away. The Chimes saw off the recession well, and did not seem to suffer from a plague of empty shops which hit other centres so badly.
For demonstration of The Chimes' pull, figures show the centre attracts a footfall of 12 million customers per year.
The developments keep on coming, last year The Chimes was the first in the country to host the new look BHS department store, and converted one of its nine cinema screens to become a 3D Imax cinema.
The centre has also hosted fashion shows, modelling competitions, live musicians, and this Christmas played host to the town's light switch-on by number one selling star Olly Murs.
Judith Cooper, councillor for Uxbridge South, agrees that the shopping centre has transformed the town.
"I have lived here since 1968, and before The Chimes was built, Uxbridge was still looked at as a market town. I think it is a great asset for to the community, and I enjoy going there myself. It is well located with the bus station and the underground close by. The 10 years has certainly crept up on us."
What are your memories of The Chimes, and the area prior to The Chimes being built? E-mail email@example.com