AFTER more than forty years in St Helens town centre, the Hardshaw Centre is entering its final weeks before its planned closure and demolition.

As previously reported by the Star, the centre is set to be demolished by the end of the year as the council aims to bring new life into the town centre with its huge £90m regeneration plans.

With new homes, offices, retail space, hotel, and market hall set to be built in the town centre, many Hardshaw Centre businesses have moved over to Church Square shopping centre in recent years, in an effort to consolidate the bulk of the town's retail offer in one area.

And while One Below and Heron Foods still remain inside the Hardshaw Centre for the time being, the shopping centre is all but empty, which has led many Star readers to reminisce about its heyday in St Helens.

READ > 'Major investment' made to rejuvenate closed pub and help bring area back to life

St Helens Star: The former mayor and mayoress of St Helens admiring the shopping centre's wishing wellThe former mayor and mayoress of St Helens admiring the shopping centre's wishing well (Image: St Helens Reporter/ St Helens Archive Service)
After the Star posted an image of the empty corridors and boarded up shops inside the Hardshaw Centre earlier this week, hundreds of people responded on social media.

Gary Crickson said: "It's sad. A lot of childhood memories here. It was brilliant when it first opened - Kes and Toy 'n' Hobby and then in later years, record tapes and CD's in Woolies."

Keith Langton wrote: "Used to be packed in there when I was a supervisor at Holland and Barrett. I used to get my dinner from what was the Country Larder."

St Helens Star: The former Presto food market circa 1982The former Presto food market circa 1982 (Image: St Helens Archive Service)
Vickie Towey commented: "I was the store manager of Going Places for many years. There was a great community spirit in the centre in the 1990s and 2000s between shop and store owners and customers. Lots of great laughs and happy memories. Happy times."

Andrea Atherton said: "The older generation used to love to meet up in here when the slabs were there, some of them didn’t have any family at home so this was an ideal meeting place for them to have a chat. Pity they got removed."

St Helens Star: Kes - AKA The Kid Eating Snake - inside the Hardshaw CentreKes - AKA The Kid Eating Snake - inside the Hardshaw Centre (Image: Play Sculptures)

To look further into the memories of the Hardshaw Centre, the Star was invited into the council's archive service inside the Gamble building on Victoria Square.

With the Hardshaw Centre constructed in the early 1980s, archived documents show early plans for the new shopping centre, which was built on the site of the former Greenall Whitley brewery site in St Helens town centre.

St Helens Star: A model design of the Hardshaw CentreA model design of the Hardshaw Centre (Image: St Helens Archive Service)
Further photographs also show the construction of the shopping centre as it nears completion, as well as memories from the complex.

These images include the former mayor and mayoress of St Helens posing for a photograph at the shopping centre's wishing well, shoppers listening to live music performances, and Kes the famous children's play area.

St Helens Star: Images from the development of the Hardshaw Centre from the former brewery siteImages from the development of the Hardshaw Centre from the former brewery site (Image: St Helens Archive Service)

Many Sintelliners have fond memories of the Hardshaw Centre and some have voiced concern about the decision to knock it down.

While the shopping centre has suffered from declining footfall figures in recent years, some residents suggested that it would have been better to reinvest in the shopping complex that lies directly next to the town's main bus station.

Others have questioned whether an improved Hardshaw Centre could have benefitted the town more than some parts of the regeneration plans, such as the 120-bed hotel.

Further commenters have suggested on social media that St Mary's Arcade should have been the first complex to go in the town centre, although this area is also planned to be demolished in phase two of the council's regeneration plans.

St Helens Star: A brochure to sell units inside the new Hardshaw Centre in the 1980sA brochure to sell units inside the new Hardshaw Centre in the 1980s (Image: St Helens Archive Service)
Speaking previously about the Hardshaw Centre, a spokesperson for St Helens Council said: "The footprint of the Hardshaw Centre forms a key part of the first phase of redevelopment which will see a wide avenue opening up the space from an improved bus station to the heart of Church Square.

“The purchase of the Hardshaw Centre – alongside purchase of several other properties in the area – paves the way for the creation of new high-quality office spaces and homes, an international hotel brand, a revitalised market hall and an enhanced bus station."

Former leader of St Helens Council and Labour candidate for St Helens North, Cllr David Baines has previously said that the town centre's regeneration plans are a "once in a life time opportunity" to transform the town centre.

References to St Helens’ heritage are also planned to be a part of the plans, including an outdoor ‘Kes’ play area, a ‘Pilkington blue’ colour scheme and references to Greenalls Brewery in the street furniture and the glass.

St Helens Star: The Hardshaw Centre entrance in 2005The Hardshaw Centre entrance in 2005 (Image: St Helens Archive Service)