“ Westgate Shopping Centre / Centre Management Office / 37 Westgate Galleries / Oxford / OX1 1NZ / Tel: +44 (0)1865 725455 / „
The Westgate Shopping Centre is located in Oxford City Centre & sticks out like a sore thumb compared to it's surrondings but not for the right reasons. When you think of Oxford, you think of the dreaming spires & the magnificant skyline, however the Westgate offers a building which is well dated & looks as though it should be derelict.
If you thought, this was bad don't visit the attached multi storry car park as this is even worse. I would never want to use the lifts & the escalator has now been out of action for over 10 years & has all sorts of growth on it. There is always an awful smell in the surrondings of the car park, so I always choose to park elsewhere.
On a positive though, the centre contains a small amount of decent outlets including a fairly large Primark department store. Also featured is a Next clearence store which provides exceptional value.
It isn't a huge shopping centre but plans have been approved to re-develop the centre, which in my opinion is long overdue. This wil involve a new centre, three times the size of the original featuring a new John Lewis department store. This scheme has temporarily been put on hold due to the current economic climate. but I hope it starts getting under way soon to redevelop the centre into something more modern which fits in the beauty of the city.
I go to Oxford on shopping or sightseeing expeditions quite regularly as it isn't too far from me and it's always nicer shopping in a nice environment. Last week I decided to stop in Oxford on my way home as I wanted to visit a couple of the shops in the Westgate Shopping Centre (and it beat sitting in the Friday afternoon traffic on the A34). I never drive into Oxford as parking in the city is awkward and expensive, I much prefer to stop at one of the Park and Ride car parks and get the bus in (parking is free and a return on the bus costs £2.20 or £4 for two people, there is probably a discount for children but I don't have any so I don't know about that). This week I parked in the Redbridge P&R, the bus drops you off near the Oxford Castle and from there the Westgate Centre is about a 200m walk back towards the town centre. It is located on Queen Street on the west side of the city.
Unfortunately the Westgate Centre is not one of Oxford's beautiful buildings, it is a 60s/70s concrete monstrosity but as it is just opposite the uglier Central Library it doesn't stand out too much. The shopping centre has a multi storey car park attached to it but I have never used this so can't comment.
The shopping centre is described as "Oxford's Premier Shopping Centre" on www.oxfordcity.co.uk but I'm not sure what it has done to deserve that accolade, and not sure that it means all that much either when there is on one other conventional shopping centre in Oxford city centre. I'm not saying that the Westgate Centre is not worth a visit because it is. It has many high street favourites both inside the centre and around the outside (the outside shops cannot be accessed from within the centre) such as Primark, Whittards, Claires, Oasis, New Look, Sports Direct, Game and Thorntons. All good shops but nothing that could be considered in the premier league except perhaps the Sony Store and the Moben show room. None of the shops are particularly spacious or grand either, just exactly what you'd find on many other high streets in the UK. There is a Sainsburys towards the back of the centre which is bigger than the Sainsburys Local on St Giles. The Shoppping Centre itself isn't much to write home about either and there isn't much that would enduce you to spend time in there except the shops. The only place where you can sit and have a break from the scrum in Primark is in the Thornton's cafe or one one of the benches dotted throughout the centre whilst enjoying your purchase from Sainsbury's or Millies. And I really wouldn't recommend the nearby toilet facilities which are under the shopping centre and can be found by smell alone. Having said that the centre is clean, well lit and warm which will ensure that you can happily spend time in there browsing the shops. The shopping centre is single level, although Primark and Sports Direct have an upper floor, and it is fully accessible to wheelchair users - the car park even provides a shopmobility service. There are also sometimes little independent stalls in the space between the shops - this week there was an eyebrow threading salon and a pick and mix sweet seller.
Basically the Westgate Centre is a fairly average shopping centre with a selection of popular shops within and without it but without any additional bells and whistles that you would find in a more modern shopping mall (such as a food court). It definitely couldn't be considered one of Oxford's must see tourist attractions.
The Centre is open 7 days a week, with traditional opening times although Sainsburys does stay open a little later so you can nip in after your shopping expedition to stock up on essentials.
I wanted to write about a car park. Clearly the suggestions team at Dooyoo thought otherwise as theyve chosen to add the shopping centre instead. But I will rebel and publish anyway. This after all contains vital information needed to shop at The Westgate.
It was more than damp and The Boyfriend and I were trying to work out how to spend a Saturday in Britains new Monsoon Season. We were bored of Reading, not too keen on the idea of sitting in the leaky caravan with its tiny telly and a little fidgety after being stuck indoors all morning. Before they revamped Reading with The Oracle, the choice of shopping was either Oxford or London when you needed a chain store (we didnt even have a New Look!) and we still shop there as both a hangover from the past and a change of scenery. The drive is a pretty one, out through the South Oxfordshire countryside, past the delightful post modernism of Didcot power station and into the tangle of hideous Ring Roads and faux Tudor MacDonalds on the outskirts of the city.
I must say at this point, Oxford dutifully supply a Park & Ride on every entrance to the city. These are fully listed at http://www.oxford.gov.uk/transport/park-and-ride.cfm and provide secure car parking. You simply leave your car here and catch one of the frequent buses into Oxford City Centre. However, as we sped past the Redbridge car park, we had no idea how frequent or otherwise the buses were and the crowd of soaking people huddled at the bus shelter looked like they might have been there some time. Instead, we decided to bravely go for City Centre parking at The Westgate.
The Westgate provides a dilemma for me on the one hand I have an Archaeology degree (and this car park has ruined a mediaeval street plan and covered over evidence of the Greyfriars monastic order) but on the other I am a big a fan of seventies architecture and convenience. (I even lived in Coventry.) I cant decide if I love or hate the pebbly grey monstrosity, as it rises out of the city of spires like the tomb of good taste.
Arriving at Westgate, we took our ticket at the barrier and parked. The shops are not well signposted, with the occasional dingy sign which once lit up from inside but is now blank and redundant. The whole feeling would be that the place was disused were it not for the constant traffic jam in and out and the lack of a parking space.
Luckily, we had a vague idea of the way. As we walked up the concrete stairwell the smell of urine was so overpowering that we had our jumpers over our faces. Puddles on the floor made it treacherous underfoot and the narrow corridors prevent people from trying to pass each other.
Along one side of the car park is a bright yellow escalator ramp which must have been intended for use by the shopmobility service the car park provides. Perhaps this worked when the car park was opened in 1974? I have fond memories of being 6 years old and shopping with my parents in Oxford, running up and down this ramp chasing my little brother. It had long since been out of order then and twenty years on, it remains in situ, recently blocked off thanks to health and safety.
As you cross from the car park into the shopping centre, there is a line drawn across the floor. Beyond this line is the glittering, tidy and well lit shopping centre and behind you lies the totally decrepit car park. Its a surreal moment of heaven or hell. The advantage of the Westgate Shopping centres attachment to the car park is that theres no need to get wet. And with the modern freaky weather thats no small potato.
Primark, Sports Soccer and a Next Clearance store are all available, well sized and stocked. Millys Cookies and Thortntons give off a pleasant aroma while potted plants and benches remain unvandalised. The high glass ceiling gives space and light without a greenhouse effect. A few steps from The Westgate are The Clarendon Centre, Carfax Tower and a whole host of high street shops. In short, The Westgate Car Park is about as convenient as it gets for central Oxford.
Well, we shopped, squabbled over how long I took to choose trainers and headed back to the car park. Here, the problems began. I was * desperate * for the loo. Id necked a bottle of Buxton on the drive to Oxford and the smell of urine and the running water in the car park werent doing much to help the situation. There was a monster queue (around 30 people) for the only parking machine in sight, but thankfully there was also a high-vis jacketed attendant. I rushed over to ask where the toilets were and he helpfully pointed me across the bridge. There was a narrow corridor and a padlocked steel door. No toilets. I rushed back. A man with a small girl was asking the same attendant why the toilets were locked. Dont know he replied after too much consideration. Try the night toilets, down the steps across the road. As we headed in that direction, I noticed that it was a bit too late for the kid.
Needless to say, there were no toilets of any description. Now we know why the place stank as much as it did. Spotting a pub on the corner, I left The Boyfriend outside and went for it. Being polite (and knowing how annoying it is when people treat your business as a public toilet rather than a public house) I stood at the bar. Can I help you ? a skinny man asked incredulously, looking at me like I had two heads.
I gabbled my request and headed up the stairs. Wipe the seat first! he called after me. I dashed into the Ladies past a large woman putting her lipstick on in the mirror. Emerging, I finally spotted her hairy hands, the Gay Pride posters and the fact that I was the only woman in the rainbow signed pub.
The Boyfriend was outside, leaning against the door of the pub and twirling my handbag. He was now cross because 1) There was a big queue to get out of the car park. 2) I hadnt bought anything and 3) we had to walk back the way wed come. We walked back up the filthy stairs to find that the original machine had packed along with another two. There was at least a 15 minute irritable wait for each queue for the remaining two machines which only took coins, no cards. Can I give this place minus stars? They charge a fortune and they still dont want to take your money!!
I cleverly established that there was a pay office in area 1C and we went off there in the hope of hastening our departure. For just over an hour, the charge was around £4.00. So, your pockets would need to be bulging with change if you planned on a day in Oxford. An American tourist was clearly delighted with Oxfords reasonably priced visitor facilities, screaming Thirty Six Dollars??! again and again at the fat attendant. (Hed been there four hours, so £18.00.) After that light humour, we were finally allowed to join the queue of cars and head home along the main road, The Boyfriend cursing under his breath.
Having spoken to Dad about our little adventure, he gave me a handy tip; if you need late night parking in Oxford, not only is this central, but by 9.30 the unattended barriers are always ripped off their hinges and the car park is effectively free of charge. Its also worth knowing that its not a good place to commit suicide but again, if you can get someone to pretend, they will evacuate the car park and you wont have to pay.
Car parking in Oxford is a blow to tourism and commerce. For Britains most visited city outside of London, something more than a few overpriced concrete spaces are needed. For once, Id recommend that they build something new here, they just cant do any worse. Still, Id suggest you park here if youre in Oxford, everything else is too inconvenient!
Fully undercover on a single level, Westgate Shopping Centre is directly linked to the multi-storey car park in Oxford City Centre. The car park provides a Shopmobility service. The shopping centre is easy to reach by Park & Ride buses, and is found on the west side of the city, close to the station. Open on Bank Holidays except Christmas Day and Easter Sunday. The Westgate Shopping Centre offers a wide range of shops including stylish clothes for men and women, ranging from designer fashion to the latest high street trends. Create a brand new look for your home or surprise your family with the latest computer games. Whether it is the latest mobile telephone, this season's sunglasses, that special birthday, Valentine's Day, Mother's Day or Father's Day present - it's all here. With so much for the sports enthusiast, and a super specialist golf floor in Sports World, the range for sports fashion or activity wear will really have you spoilt for choice. And what about a break? From lunches to afternoon tea, we can meet your needs. Relax over a continental coffee, have a hot meal or treat yourself to luxury chocolates. Maybe you prefer to just window shop under cover in warm dry malls with Customer Service staff to hand should you need them. The Westgate Shopping Centre has something for everyone to make your visit pleasant and memorable - young, old, students, parents - a family shopping mall.