LITTLE did William Plummer think he was establishing a Southampton institution when he first opened his shop back in 1873.

Over the many decades which followed, his store, in its various forms, standing on the corner of Above Bar and Commercial Road, became a local landmark and the byword for personal service and the latest in style and fashion.

There are still many people who fondly remember the department store, Plummer Roddis, which closed in 1993.

At the height of its commercial activity in the late 1930s the company had established 15 shops all along the south coast from Folkestone to Weymouth.

At the outbreak of the Second World War this chain of shops found themselves on the frontline during enemy bombing raids and most were damaged to a greater or lesser degree.

Plummer’s Southampton shop, a building on the grand scale with marble floors and soaring columns was totally destroyed by the Luftwaffe in 1940.

The years that followed brought many problems for the company, which, for almost half a century, had played an important role in Southampton’s local economy.

With the main building nothing but a pile of rubble the shop was forced to use scattered premises in various parts of the town, as it was then, together with a temporary property on the Junction site.

As time went on more land was acquired and improvements were made periodically to meet a programme of steady expansion. In February 1947 the Daily Echo carried a story that Plummer’s had opened a “commodious and comfortable’’ restaurant, while a few months later many hundreds of women attended the official opening of a new fashion department.

Alderman Frederick Smith, the Mayor of Southampton, said at the time: “Looking back to the days of the Blitz in 1940 the town’s main shopping centre was reduced to ruins, a picture which will never be erased from my mind.

“Now we must have another picture, this time of a fine shopping centre, better in every respect than the old one, with wider streets and facilities for enterprising firms.’’ It took until spring 1962 until finally plans were confirmed and work could begin on a new store. In March of that year construction began and the Daily Echo welcomed the development – “By early 1965 Southampton will have its most modern store, a worthy addition to those which have risen Phoenix-like from the ashes of wartime devastation.’’ With its clean, modern lines, the shop could boast of moving escalators, four sales floors, several “transatlantic ideas’’ incorporated in its design and even a gardening department.

Plummer’s new premises almost completed the Above Bar post-war building programme.

During the 1970s and 1980s the store was popular with shoppers, but in the early part of the following decade a dark cloud of uncertainty gathered over the store.

Financial constraints, the rise of out-of-town shopping centres and suggestions of a brand new retail complex, which eventually would become WestQuay were all blamed for falling sales at Plummer’s. In July 1992 the death knell began to sound with the emergence of a scheme to turn the shop into a teaching centre for the former Southampton Institute of Higher Education, as part of its aim to upgrade to university status.

Plummer’s was given a number of reprieves but on Saturday, August 14, 1993, time ran out for the shop and its 80 members of staff and the doors were locked for the last time.