Fenwick’s at 140: The history of Newcastle’s department store and 20 photographs over time

Fenwick’s opened as a humble single store on Newcastle’s Northumberland Street in March 1882. Now, 140 years later, it’s the city’s most famous retail brand.

It’s 140 years since Fenwick’s on Northumberland Street in Newcastle began serving discerning Tyneside shoppers.

Opened on March 23, 1882, as a humble single store, the department store is now renowned as the region’s most important shopping attraction. With its high-end homewares, high fashion range, lavish food hall, variety of restaurants and cafes, and annual Christmas window display, the store has been cited as Newcastle’s own version of Harrods.

In 2022, the famous brand has branches in Bond Street and Brent Cross in London, and in Bracknell, Canterbury, Colchester, Kingston, Tunbridge Wells and York – as well as Newcastle where it all started. Kieran McBride, Fenwick Store Manager in Newcastle, said: “This is a very exciting year for us at Fenwick as we celebrate the 140th anniversary of our very first store here in Newcastle.

READ MORE: Then and Now: Northumberland Street, 1971

“To mark the occasion, we have a fantastic range of spectacular events starting with an exciting circus performance this Saturday inspired by our founder’s son’s love for the circus. There are also brand new celebratory experiences in store such as Café 140 and Exposition 140 which explores our rich archive and showcases future talent through our work with Northumbria University.

“We will be announcing a range of other events in the coming weeks which we are incredibly delighted to share with you all. Fenwick have always been proud to be a big part of the community here at Newcastle and we look forward to welcoming you all. join our celebrations.

As a longtime icon of the city, Fenwick’s has been around even longer than the Chronicle (which was founded in 1885), Newcastle United (1892) and Tyne Bridge (1928). It was a coat maker and furrier named John James Fenwick who opened a single shop at 5 Northumberland Street 140 years ago.

At the time, the street was becoming increasingly commercial, described as a row of old brick houses that “are rapidly becoming shops”. It’s hard to imagine today that the retail giant started life as a single-family house bought by the young seller for the sum of £181.

The fledgling business initially sold coats, silks, dresses, fabrics and trims, but expansion was rapid and Fenwick and his son, Fred, soon purchased the adjoining properties on Northumberland Street, numbers 37 and 38 – and later number 40. These formed the store. facade still in use by Fenwick’s in 2022.

Back in Victorian England, Fenwick’s next acquisition was a store in Bond Street, London, opened in 1891, and now one of Britain’s premier retail temples. It was Fred’s visit to Paris, however, that led to a shopping revolution. At Le Bon Marché, he witnessed a revolutionary form of retail, a department store, where a variety of goods and services were sold under one roof, as opposed to separate stores. This principle has been applied in Newcastle, London and beyond, and Fenwick’s has never looked back.

Check out our gallery of photographs recalling Newcastle’s favorite store over the years.

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