With the coming of Witham’s expansion in 1966, the town centre was ‘modernised’ with a new shopping precinct. A large Georgian house known as 'The Wilderness' was demolished, together with a number of adjoining shops, to provide the space needed for redevelopment. The Newlands shopping precinct and some new shops were then built on the site, being completed in 1969.
The Wilderness was a late 18th century three storey building, originally two private residences. In 1929 the ground floor was converted to three shops. From then until just before demolition the left-hand shop had been Reginald Turner’s Tailors and Outfitters and the two on the right were the Home & Colonial Stores.
Next to The Wilderness was an early 19th-century building consisting of a double fronted shop with living accommodation above. The upper floors extended over a wide cart entrance on the right. Its hipped slate roof was hidden behind a parapet. It had double sash windows with inset and concealed frames, and behind was a large warehouse. The shop had been a grocer run by many owners from the 1800s until closure in 1965. The last occupier was a Budgen supermarket.
Further to the right was a two-storey timber-framed building with two gable ends facing the street. Throughout the 20th century many businesses had occupied the building including Gage hairdresser and tobacconist, Rippon’s tobacconist, Planter’s Tea & Coffee Merchants, and Danes the cleaners.
Other shops demolished were a corn merchants, Richardson & Preece, a fancy goods and fruit shop run by E & A Braid, and Edward Spurge's Drapery and Milliners shop. These shops were around where Boots now stands.
The postcard view below shows the row of shops before redevelopment.