News

This section will include all of the news and views that will enable the membership and those who visit this web site to see what the group are doing and planning.

July 20th – “Kays at the Hive” – a whole day of activities inspired and based on Kays.  Heritage talks; coach trips to the Kays buildings; an especially commissioned play about Kays; a cat walk show and a silent disco.  All made the day memorable.

May 15th – The series on BBC2 that is entitled “The 70s” features the year 1978 and the presenter uses a Kays catalogue from that year to demonstrate how affluent the people of Britain had become.

May 12th – The BBC evening magazine programme “The ONE Show” features shell suits from the mid-1980s and uses a page from the Kays catalogue.

January 20th – The renewed interest in Jean Shrimpton has revealed that Kays used the young model in their catalogues of the early 1960s.

July 29th – The BBC Breakfast show features an article on the heritage collection and the work that the University is doing as part of its JISC funded “Lifestyle” project.

The local radio BBC Hereford & Worcester features the collection and the work that the University is doing as does the Daily Mail, on its website.

June 2011 – The “World of Kays” facebook page develops with pictures of catalogue pages featured almost daily.

November 2010 – Following the inital contact made by a TV production company woking for Channel 4 on a new series entitled, “The House that made Me”, a catalogue from the collection is featured in the programme on the childhood of the singer, Boy George.

Coincidently, the BBC One magazine programme “The One Show” features some images from the catalogues in an article on mail-order shopping, transmitted on November 29th.

Autumn – The entire heritage collection is rehomed at the University of Worcester.

August 2010 – The final stages of the demolition of the warehouse at 250 Bransford Road, Worcester take place.  The site is levelled and is up for sale for redevelopment.

February 2010 – The University of Worcester has agreed to be the custodian of the entire heritage collection and has created a reference area for students, academics and researchers within its campus at Worcester. Visit thie web site at http://www.worc.ac.uk/ils/635.htm

It has been announced by Shop Direct Ltd that they are closing the call centres that they operate in Newtown, Powys and Burnley, Lancs.  These were operational call centres for both Kays and GUS Home Shopping, respectively, and mark another loss of what was Kays and its heritage.

The Royal Welsh Warehouse at Newtown has been owned by Kays for many years and was created as a call centre in the mid-1980s.  The building was originally the warehouses and office of Pryce Jones who was the pioneer of mail-order in the United Kingdom.  The Royal Warrant was given to the business by Queen Victoria who often visited the premises on her way to Aberystwyth.

July 2009 –  Web site updated with new information.

February 2009 – The heritage collection is rehoused onto the University of Worcester campus.  After several months of negotiations, the University  has agreed to become the custodians of the collection to ensure its long-term preservation.

It is with sadness that the group has to report the death of former Managing Director, Mr Bruce Taylor.  Mr Taylor had been suffering with cancer of the bowel.

A few days later, Ray Crawford, who was the manager of the Midland Office in Worcester, died suddenly.

October 2008 – Demolition of the carton store at 250 Bransford Road is completed by the end of the month.  The skyline in this part of Worcester is now as it was before 1985 when the carton store was built.

An announcement is made by Shop Direct that the working patterns at the call centre at King’s Court are being reviewed and a consultation period with the workforce has started.

July 2008 –  Following some serious negotiations the group is near to reaching an agreement over the future of the heritage collection.  A press release will be made in the early autumn to announce the outcome of the talks.

May 2008 – Negotiations and discussions with approriate organizations have started in order to determine the future of the heritage collection now that it has been relocated to new storage facilities.

April 29th 2008 – Following the appeal for temporary storage space and the generosity of AA Global Group, the entire heritage collection has now been moved into its new home.  The group can now start meaningful negotiations with the appropriate organizations to ensure the future security of the collection.

April 17th 2008 –  The group is proud to announce that AA Global Language Services Ltd of Worcester (www.aaglobal.co.uk) have become a Patron the the group.  The managing director supports the work of the group in seeking to preserve the history and heritage of Kays and has offered storage facilities in his company’s offices for the archive.

April 2008 – An URGENT APPEAL is made to anyone who can offer the group some storage facilities for the heritage collection.  Ideally the collection should be stored within Worcestershire.    Consideration will be given to relocating the collection to a museum or academic institution who will preserve it for posterity.   Please contact the chairman if you can help.

March 2008 – The group has been given the sad news that it has to vacate its present storage facility for the collection.  Due to a change in ownership, the present storage facilities will not be available to the group after mid-May 2008, so work is now underway to find new storage facilities.

November 2007 – The “For Sale” signs go up on the site of 250 Bransford Road, Worcester.  A public consultation is launched by Worcester City Council to enable the public to voice their opinions on what should become of the site.

June 2007 – The talk on the “History of Kays” is delivered to the 5000th person during this month.  Since the talks were started in October 2002 the history of the company has developed thanks to the input from members of the audiences who have added their own memories and artefacts to the archive of the company.

May 2007 – The announcement was made that the National Sort and Distribution centre at Droitwich will be relocated to a site in the Coventry area within the next two years.  When this closes in Droitwich, it will see the end of the last vestiges of Kays and its commercial heritage disappear from Worcestershire.

March 2007 – Following the end of operations at Worcester, the Heritage Group has formed a new subsidiary group within its ranks.  Known as the Kays Association, this new group will act as a focal point for all social contact between ex-employees of the company from throughout the United Kingdom and beyond. Membership is open to all who were employed by Kays, no matter in what capacity.  It is hoped that enough interest is shown in the formation of the association to allow regular social events to be held bringing ex-colleagues back into contact with each other. Contact the Group for more information.

February 23rd 2007 – Today marks the final day of operations at the warehouse in Worcester.  This effectively ends any links that Kays as a company had with Worcester after over 200 years.  The new owners, Littlewoods Shop Direct, are concentrating their operations in the north-west of England and see no role for the Worcester based operations.  The last remaining management and staff were very emotional as they left the site for the last time.  Our best wishes to them all for the future.

February 2007 – After several months of work to dismantle the two-faced station clock stored at the Worcester warehouse, the Gloucestershire & Warwickshire Railway Trust, based at Toddington in Gloucestershire, have moved the clock and its movement to their storage facility.  The clock will be restored by them and if current plans come to fruition the clock could be placed, in working order, on a railway station on their line, in Worcestershire.

January 2007 – The Kays Heritage Group is proud to announce the news that White’s Electrical Services Ltd have been become patrons of the group.  Managing Director Lee White says, “I see the preservation of the history of companies, such as Kays, as very important.  The mail-order company had an impact on most families in the city of Worcester and my company is proud to support the Kays Heritage Group.” 

November 2006  – The entire heritage collection has now been placed in storage boxes and will be placed into storage within the next few weeks.  This will restrict the work of the group until a more permament home can be found but the group can still carry out research using the local facilities of the County Record Office and History Centre.

October 29th – BBC Radio Stoke features “catalogue shopping” on its mid-day show this Sunday.  Our chairman, Bernard Mills, was interviewed on air about the catalogue history that is Kays.

October 2006 – Following some publicity in the local newspapers, the group has now been offered a temporary home for the heritage collection.  This generous offer, by a local businessman, will mean that the collection has now been saved for posterity while plans are made to house the collection in a more permanent home.

September 2006 – Negotiations with an appropriate organisation to accept the donation of the two-faced railway platform clock have moved on and it is hoped that a successful transfer of this historic timepiece can be announced in the near future.

August 2006 – A new home for the Kays Heritage Collection is being sought as the existing “grace and favour” arrangements within the site of 250 Bransford Road, Worcester are likely to end in December 2006.  The group hopes that a benefactor can be found who would allow the collection to be re-housed in or around the city of Worcester.  Articles appear in the Worcester News and the Worcester Standard seeking help from their readership for a suitable room in which to store the collection.

June 2006 – Discussions have now started with an “appropriate” organisation over the donation of the two-faced station clock to them.

The two-faced railway station clock, that is at present stored within the warehouse at Worcester, was to have been donated to the STEAM museum at Swindon but they have declined the offer.  A new home in a suitable museum related to the railways is now being actively sought for this impressive piece of railway history (see Kays Watches and Clocks section).

May 9th 2006 – Littlewoods Shop Direct Home Shopping Ltd announce that the warehouse operations at 250 Bransford Road, Worcester are to cease in December 2006, with the loss of approximately 500 jobs.  This effectively ends Kays association with Worcester. The call centre operations, now known as Optimum Contact Services and located at King’s Court on the site of the Worcestershire Royal Hospital, are not affected.  As this operation has never really ever been Kays, the closure of the warehouse will mean that after 212 years, Worcester will no longer have any of the company’s operations within the city.  A sad end to such an important name in Worcester’s commercial history. 

May 2006 – On the 77th anniversary of the death of William Kilbourne Kay, flowers are laid on  his grave at Hallow church, north of Worcester.  An article in the Worcester News is published. 

March 2006 – Bernard Mills travels to Trowbridge in Wiltshire to deliver a talk of the history of Kays to the local history society.  

February 2006 – A new set of displays is put in place at the Tudor House Museum in Friar Street, Worcester.  Kays Heritage Group has now been given more space to display its history in a first floor room within the Tudor House.

November 2005 – Despite extensive research, the group has been unable to obtain a photograph of the house that the Kay’s family lived in after 1918.  The Elms, at Battenhall in Worcester, was demolished in the late 1960s to make way for a new estate in what is now known as Goodwood Avenue.  Do you know of any pictures of this house, if so let the group know please.

September 2005 – Shop Direct announces proposals to close the site at 250 Bransford Road in the summer of 2007 and starts a consultation period with Unions and staff.  

April 2005 – The Heritage Group joins the local History Forum.

March 2005 – New research into the genealogy of the Kay family has revealed that William Kilbourne Kay was born in Portsmouth and not Market Harborough as originally thought.

February 2005 – The group is now researching the production of the Kays catalogue and an article appeared in the Worcester Evening News on Monday 21st of February asking for information from ex-employees and models, both professional and amateur.

February 2005 – The Heritage Group becomes a “Friend” of the Worcester Heritage and Amenity Trust (WHAT), that is maintaining the Tudor House in Friar Street, Worcester and keeping it open to the public.  The Heritage Group has had a display on Kays, in the Tudor House, since it opened its doors to the public last May. 

September 2004 – Worcester City Heritage Day  This annual event was once again held in the historic Guildhall in Worcester. 

June 2004 – Kays (Lancaster) Heritage Group formed. After contacting the Worcester based group, ex-employees who worked at the Lancaster office have formed now their own group which plans to meet regularly and document the history of Lancaster office.  (Contact the group’s chairman (Contact the Group) if you are interested in forming a similar group.)

24th April 2004 – The group particpated in the South West division of the Industrial History Societies conference on held in Worcester.  

22nd February 2004 – The Heritage Open Day – This was another great success having been held on a Sunday for the first time.  Over thirty people came and shared their memories of Kays with the group members.

22nd February 2004 – The Heritage Open Day – The Heritage Collection will be opened to the public from 10:00 a.m. until 4:00 p.m. on Sunday 22nd of February.  This will be an ideal opportunity for visitors to see the wide range of memorabilia that the Heritage Group has collected to preserve the history of Kays.  The venue will be at the Heritage Centre at Kays warehouse on 250 Bransford Road, Worcester and admission is free.  There is ample parking for those coming by car.      Bernard Mills will be signing his recently published book on the History of Kays, on the day.

December 2003 – This month sees the publication of the book on the history of Kays written by Bernard Mills, the chairman of the group.  The book contains a brief history of the company and a collection of photographs and images from the archives owned by the group.  The title of the book is simply, “Kays of Worcester” and may be obtained direct from the Heritage Group at a cost of £9.50, including postage and packing.  Please e-mail the group at if you want to buy a copy and we will send you the instructions on how to order a copy of the book.

14th & 15th September 2003 – Heritage Days at Worcester’s historic Guildhall.  The Heritage group will be participating in this event organised by Worcester City Council.  

14th May 2003 – Kays Heritage Group joins the Friends of Worcestershire County Record Office.  At the Annual General Meeting of the Friends, a talk was given on the History of Kays. 

26th April 2003 – Kays Heritage Group Open Day – The Open Day was a great success.  A steady flow of visitors thoroughout the day ensured that everybody who did come along could take their time to look, read and discover for themselves the history behind Kays.  Members of the group were kept busy by their guests, many of who brought along their own memorabilia.  Some ex-employees met each other for the first time in years and shared their memories of past times working for the company.   The Heritage Group now plan to hold further Open Days in the future so visit the web site regularly for news.

Heritage Open Day – Saturday 26th of April 2003 – The Open Day will start at 9:30 am and continue until 4:00 pm.  There will be displays of artifacts and documents tracing the history of the company back over the last 100 years.  Visitors will have the opportunity to examine the collection of Kays catalogues and see many of the interesting items held by the collection.  The venue will be at the Kays Warehouse at 250 Bransford Road, Worcester and the route to the Heritage Centre will be signed to direct visitors.

5th March 2003      BBC Hereford & Worcester will be broadcasting live from the Open Day.  Mike George’s “Mike in the Morning” show will be at the Heritage Open Day throughout the show to update listeners on what is going on.

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