Get involved: send your pictures, video, news and views by texting TANEWS to 80360, or email
How M&S has left its mark
It almost took a direct hit in the Second World War, and three of its staff lost their lives in the conflict.
And in the austere post-war period, Bradford’s Marks & Spencer store opened up its kitchens to the public.
Now the 106-year history of the city centre shop has been documented in a new archive which is open to the public and to academics for research use.
Housed in the new Michael Marks Building at the University of Leeds, the company archive contains more than 70,000 items, including photographs charting the history of the retailer’s presence in Bradford. The archive was moved from its previous London home in March.
Bradford’s association with M&S dates back to at least 1906 when a Marks’s Penny Bazaar was opened in the city. It sold a range of items such as sewing equipment, biscuits and sheet music and, with the exception of a few luxury items, almost everything was on sale for one penny.
In marked contrast to most shops at the time, goods were displayed on tables and an ‘Admission Free’ sign outside encouraged people to browse.
A new shop opened at 38-40 Darley Street on November 29, 1929, and closed in 1935, to be replaced by a second store in Darley Street on March 29, 1935. The same year, the Bradford store was one of only three in the country, alongside Leeds and Marble Arch, to serve food to the public.
The outbreak of war had a significant impact on the store. It was used for the storage of cotton mill equipment to allow the mills to be employed as camps for German prisoners of war and was the first example of damage to company property when, on August 31, 1940, an incendiary bomb dropped on the adjacent property. The store’s night-watchman raised the alarm and assisted in fighting the fire.
Three members of staff were killed in action during the war, Sapper J Brotherton of the Royal Engineers, 2nd Lieutenant SJB Clements of the Royal Artillery and Seargent I Price of the RAF.
After the war, in 1949, Bradford’s cafe bar invited the public to come and inspect its kitchens. This was prompted by a local press report claiming that no cafe or store would dare open its kitchens for public inspection.
Staff at M&S went on to show hundreds of customers around the kitchens daily for two weeks.
The store was extended five times between 1952 and 1965, before a first-floor sales area was added in November 1976, taking the total retail space to 41,000sq ft. The store was further modernised in 1987.
Two years ago the-then company chairman, Sir Stuart Rose, opened the £40 million ProLogis Park warehouse alongside the M606, which created more than 1,000 jobs.
M&S Bradford store manager Gill Reed says: “It is fascinating to take a look at how much the store and its products have evolved with changing consumer trends over the last 106 years.
“The Company Archive is a unique opportunity for the public to immerse themselves in social history and to see for themselves how M&S has helped shape British high streets.”
Visitors to the Leeds archive and exhibition can walk through M&S’s 128-year history, charting the company’s progress from the first buttons sold on Michael Marks’s Penny Bazaar stall in Leeds’s Kirkgate Market to today’s iconic British retailer.
Archive photos and information are also available at marksintime.marksandspencer.com, an online portal to the archive. The site features an interactive M&S timeline and profiles of significant people from its history.
The archive, at the Michael Marks Building, the University of Leeds, is open from Monday to Saturday, 10am to 5pm. For more information, visit marksintime.