A CITY centre without Marks and Spencer? It’s unthinkable! But, like Busbys, Woolworths, Rackhams and Debenhams, M&S looks set to close its doors in Bradford.

Marks and Spencer says it is “rotating store estate” and this week the T&A reported that the retail company is proposing to close its store in The Broadway. The branch has been in the shopping centre since it opened in 2015.

To the loyal customers who have always shopped at M&S, for everything from lasagne-for-two to sensible underwear, the news is a bitter blow.

Marks & Spencer started in 1884, when Michael Marks, having arrived in the UK as an immigrant with little money, secured a stall at Kirkgate Market in Leeds. His slogan ‘Don’t ask the price, it’s a ’Penny’ was popular with shoppers and the stall, selling simple homewares, thrived. When he teamed up with Tom Spencer, a cashier from wholesalers Dewhirst, the Marks & Spencer partnership set up Penny Bazaar stores, and the business began to develop.

From clothes to food, how we shop to how we live, M&S has been at the heart of British retail and social history.

Bradford’s Marks & Spencer history dates back to 1906 when a Marks’s Penny Bazaar opened here, selling a range of goods, including sewing equipment, biscuits and sheet music. With the exception of a few luxury items, everything cost one penny. In contrast to most shops at the time, goods were displayed on tables and an ‘Admission Free’ sign encouraged browsing.

Bradford Telegraph and Argus: Marks & Spencer has been in Bradford for more than a century Marks & Spencer has been in Bradford for more than a century (Image: Newsquest)

An M&S shop opened on Darley Street in November, 1929 and closed in 1935, replaced by a second store in Darley Street in March, 1935. The Bradford store was one of only three in the country, alongside Leeds and Marble Arch, to serve food to the public.

Bradford Telegraph and Argus: The bottom of bustling Darley Street in 1970The bottom of bustling Darley Street in 1970 (Image: Newsquest)

During the Second World War the store was used to store mill equipment. On August 31, 1940, an incendiary bomb dropped on the property adjacent to M&S. The store’s night-watchman raised the alarm and assisted in tackling the fire.

Three members of staff were killed in action in the war: Sapper J Brotherton of the Royal Engineers, 2nd Lieutenant SJB Clements of the Royal Artillery and Sergeant I Price of the RAF.

In 1949 Bradford’s M&S cafe bar invited shoppers to take a look at its kitchens - 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 1976, taking the total retail space to 41,000sq ft. The shop was further modernised in 1987. The then company chairman, Sir Stuart Rose, opened the £40 million ProLogis Park warehouse alongside the M606, which created more than 1,000 jobs.

Bradford Telegraph and Argus: Darley Street in the 1980sDarley Street in the 1980s (Image: Newsquest)

When The Broadway opened in November 2015, M&S left its Darley Street home and moved in as one of the new shopping centre’s anchor stores. The old M&S building on Darley Street has now been demolished, with the new city centre market currently being built on the site.

Bradford Telegraph and Argus: The Darley Street Marks & Spencer building being demolished The Darley Street Marks & Spencer building being demolished (Image: Newsquest)

News that The Broadway Marks and Spencer store is to close has prompted T&A readers to share their reactions as well as memories of shopping at M&S in the city. Here are some of them:

“This is devastating news,” says Alice Nicholson. “I go to M&S cafe with my grandma once a week, the place is fantastic as you can sit and watch shoppers and have a natter. She doesn’t get out much but this is an easy place to get to and we look forward to it weekly. The elderly generation love the cafe, as it’s so accessible.

Bradford Telegraph and Argus: M&S, The BroadwayM&S, The Broadway

“It is very friendly to disabled people and wheelchair users. Losing the M&S cafe in Bradford will negatively affect many lives. There aren’t many places like this in Bradford. Please don’t shut the cafe!”

Malcolm Hardy says: “Stunned is the word for this - a disaster for the centre of Bradford. M&S is virtually the only reason I go into Bradford, and I visit a few other places whilst I’m there.

“White Rose is substantial but has a poor cafe; simply too small for the store, and it’s a fair distance. Halifax store is poky and has a limited selection of clothes. Getting to Pudsey is okay outside busy times but the road system to there is poor.

“M&S Bradford has helped keep the standard up in Bradford, particularly in The Broadway centre. I fear footfall will be substantially reduced.”

Sally Adams says: “I’m devastated! The only good shop in Bradford shutting. I will miss their Eccles cakes.”

Pravin Patil says the news is “very sad and disheartening”, adding: “It’s me and my family’s favourite shop, specifically for groceries and clothing.”

Mrs Shaw says: “We are very sad to see M&S leaving Bradford. There will be no quality shops left in Bradford and not everyone is able to drive to Birstall and Pudsey. Why is it that all quality shops have to leave Bradford? #M&Sshould stay#in Broadway#in Bradford.”

“Deeply saddened” is how Gavin Colley felt at the news: “I’ve shopped in the store weekly since it opened. It’s a great store, I really cannot believe that M&S are pulling out of a city the size of Bradford.

“I’ve been a loyal M&S Bradfordian shopper for the past 30 years. I certainly won’t be travelling to Leeds to shop there.

Bradford Telegraph and Argus: M&S was a familiar high street name on Darley Street from 1929 to 2015M&S was a familiar high street name on Darley Street from 1929 to 2015

“Some of the people of Bradford are to blame. Bradfordians constantly kick the city in the teeth and spend their money in Leeds. As the saying goes, use it or lose it.”

Sharon Howroyd says: “I am very upset. It’s such a great store and serves a large area of Bradford district. I would have to go much further to Owlcotes or Leeds. Not everyone shops online and older people would find it difficult.”

Says Sudheer Bathula: “It’s really so sad to hear the news. I hope see a new store in our Bradford soon and best wishes to the employees.”

“Well that just about finishes our food shopping in Bradford!” is Bruce Barnes’ reaction.

Joanne Ward says: “I think they’ve not really given their older Bradford customers any thought whatsoever. There are many people over 50 that have used and supported M&S in Bradford for many, many years.

“The proposal and attitude of M&S that customers can use Pudsey or other stores is impossible to those who don’t drive. Elderly customers can’t get to Pudsey but look forward to shopping at M&S and have done for 50 years-plus.”

Victor Lynette Hall says: “I loved Marks and Spencer on Darley street. It was the best street to shop in Bradford. I bought most of my clothes from there. Such lovely quality.”

“Can’t they at least keep the food hall open?” says Cath Priestley. “It’s always busy when I use it. That shop is the only reason that many people, like me, go in to town.”

“My mum and I used the Darley Street M&S for years,” says Debbie Buchan. “When the Broadway one opened we loved it. We’ve spent happy times in the cafe, watching the world go by. I buy a lot of clothes and food from there, I did my Christmas shopping there. The closure will be a massive blow for Bradford. Such sad news.”