ON Tuesday the large Art Deco-style clock which gazed down on Regent Street from McIlroys will be auctioned by Kidson-Trigg in Highworth.

To mark the occasion, we look back more than 20 years to the last days of the Swindon department store.

Our main photograph was taken at the end of April, 1998, and shows some of the last customers descending the grand wrought iron staircase which was a key feature of the store.

We have not been able to discover the staircase’s ultimate fate, although it seems to have been taken to a London salvage yard. There have been unconfirmed rumours over the years that the staircase was sold, crossed the Atlantic and now adorns a mansion in California.

On January 13, 1998, our front page story began: “McIlroys, one of Swindon’s best-known stores, announced today that it is to close with the loss of 183 jobs.

“Mackays, which owns the department store, blames the decision on growing competition from Debenhams, the House of Fraser and the Great Western Designer Outlet Village in the town.

“McIlroys chief executive Martin Cryer said he expected the Regent Street store to close by the end of June.

“Mr Cryer said it had been a difficult decision to make in view of the store’s 123-year history in the town.”

Reporting on the final day of trading, we said: “Tears were shed as faithful customers made a special trip to the shop to say goodbye to their favourite sales assistants.”

After the store closed its doors to customers for the last time, a sale of fixtures and fittings was organised for late May.

Items up for grabs included ranks of cash registers, troops of mannequins and job lots of soap dispensers, hand dryers and mirrors from the toilets.

There were shelves, display cabinets, curtains and carpets, as well as more unusual items including a shop window Father Christmas and a large china dog which had become familiar to thousands of people as it stood guard outside the lifts.

Do any readers have memorabilia?

The clock to be auctioned on Tuesday was disposed of in a private sale. It was a relatively recent addition, having been installed in the 1960s during a refurbishment which included the demolition of a corner clock tower.

Time was rapidly running out for the old structure, which was to be cleared and new shop premises built in its space.

On September 12 of that year we photographed the now levelled and rubble-strewn space from a high window opposite.