THIS week marked the 20th anniversary since the departure of one of the best-loved clothing stores in Southampton – C&A.

The store opened more than 65 years ago when customers were eager to be among the first to shop to at Southampton's newest fashion store.

The modern glass-fronted building was an important symbol of the new Southampton as it emerged from the austere post-war period when bomb sites still reminded local people of their struggle in the aftermath of the Blitz.

Those days were forgotten for a moment when, on Monday, February 28, 1955, C&A Modes opened the doors of a store the company claimed to be "the finest on the south coast, entirely devoted to ladies' and children's fashions".

Daily Echo:

The shop had first appeared in Southampton in September of 1936, but the building was destroyed in an air raid on the night of November 30, 1940.

For almost all of the next seven years, shoppers had to make do without C&A.

In a report at the time the Daily Echo said: "When a temporary, prefabricated building of concrete and corrugated asbestos was opened on the site in May 1947, the immediate response of Southampton's fashion-conscious women showed that C&A had not been forgotten."

The new store, opposite the Civic Centre and just a few minutes walk from the former Hants and Dorset bus station, boasted more than 20,000 sq ft of showroom space and employed 80 members of staff.

Daily Echo:

"For the first time since the bombing of 1940, really spacious accommodation can be given to all departments - coats, suits, furs, rainwear, day and evening dresses, knitwear, blouses, skirts, millinery and children's wear,'' a company spokesman said.

With its huge, glass-fronted arcades stretching back beneath the canopied facade, the new store was an immediate hit with customers and soon a men's department was added to the shop.

The store was particularly proud of its lighting and heating system, which were said to be the most modern available.

C&A continued to be a favourite with shoppers but finally closed in March 2001 when the company ceased trading in the UK.