COLCHESTER’S landmark department store, Williams & Griffin, is changing its name.

The store’s owner, the Fenwick group, which has a total of 11 branches nationwide, has applied to Colchester Council replace the W&G name on its High Street shop front with new illuminated green Fenwick signs.

The change is part of a £30million redevelopment of the store which is expanding its retail space by 50 per cent.

Fenwick bought the store in 2008 and at the time, said it planned to keep the name – a fixture on the High Street for more than 50 years.

Williams & Griffin – known affectionately in the town as “Willie Gees” first appeared in 1963, when ironmonger and agricultural machinery businessHE Williams & Co merged with H L Griffin & Co.

The decision to rename the award-winning department store as a Fenwick store has promoted a mixture of reactions in the town.

Colchester MP Will Quince said: “It is a shame, but it is a commercial decision for Fenwick.

“I have seen some of the refurbishment and they are aware of the heritage.

“I hope they incorporate that and provide some history, because it would be a real shame if we lost that.”

Mr Quince said despite the name change, he and many locals were likely to continue calling it Williams & Griffin.

He said: “I think it would be detrimental to lose the name, as there is so much goodwill and history around the brand, which is really important.”

However, local historian Jess Jephcott said it was time for a change. He explained: “I expected them to change it. It is a fresh start and good for Colchester.

Williams & Griffin has been well known, but Fenwick is a classy name and these things happen all the time.”

Tim Young, Labour borough councillor responsible for tourism, said: “Fenwick is a wellknown name in parts of the country. They want to expand and get recognition down here.

“Williams & Griffin has been with us a long time and it is a bit of a shame to see the name leaving the High Street. But I think the store is going from strength to strength.

“There will be a degree of sadness, but we owe a debt of gratitude for the investment Fenwick is making in Colchester and the excellent store. For quite a while yet, people will still call it Willie Gees.