Hempstead Valley Shopping centre (aka Savacentre) near Gillingham Kent was constructed in the late 1970s just outside the village of Hempstead. It opened on 17th October 1978 so has celebrated its 30th Anniversary in 2008. These photos showing the construction of Hempstead Valley were kindly sent by Chris Shade. You can see the large sign showing the original name of Savacentre. A current photo of Savacentre is shown on the Hempstead Valley website
There is currently (2010) a proposal to redevelop the Hempstead Valley shopping centre to modernise areas of it. You can view the proposal on the Hempstead Valley website here When it is completed in 2015 it will make a huge difference to the appeal of the centre as a shopping destination.
What may seem commonplace now was groundbreaking in 1978 as there were very few other out of town shopping centres of this size at the time. Hempstead Valley was the second Savacentre (Washington Tyne & Wear opened in 1977). At the time of opening Savacentre was one of the largest out of town shopping centres in the South East. The original Picnic Parlour was the first Food Court in the UK. You can see more info about Sainsburys Savacentre here
When originally opened the main shop was Sainsburys Savacentre, the brand they originally created for their large hypermarkets. At the time Sainsburys was by far the largest supermarket in the UK with Tesco trailing far behind – a far cry from the current situation with Tesco leading the field. The originally Hempstead Valley offered 250,000 square feet of shopping space but when the centre was redeveloped in the early 1990s with an extension and new shops like M&S being added, this was increased to 330,000 square feet.
The challenge is to remember all the original shops that were there when the centre opens….Sainsburys, Presto (which then became Safeway) - but which others?
So far the following shops have been suggested for the original opening
NSS (Newsagents) then became Forbuoys
Post Office (not one of the original shops)
Wimpy Burger Bar
Later additions when the extension was added in early 1990s were WHSmith, Marks & Spencer.
Notice in the aerial shot the area to the bottom right which was developed for large housing estates shortly after the shot was taken.
Photos on this page are clickable to view higher resolution versions.
Above: Looking towards Hempstead Valley from Sharsted Way, Underground car park to right of shot, Abbey to left of shot
Above: Looking towards Hempstead Valley from roundabout. Petrol station would be to middle right of photo
Above: Looking towards Hempstead Valley from Sharsted Way. Underground car park to right of shot, Abbey to left of shot
Above: Aerial photo of Hempstead Valley Savacentre 1980. Sharsted Way runs along left hand side of photo