A Spotter’s Guide to Marks & Spencer


Marks & Spencer was formed in 1894 and opened a penny bazaar in the Grainger Market, Newcastle, in 1895. Even then the penny price limit was sometimes surpassed. It was abandoned during the Great War.

Conservative Neo-Classicism

Marks & Spencer did not build shops until 1910, coinciding with Woolworth’s arrival on English soil (if, indeed, this was a coincidence – Woolworth was a direct rival!). The new and more familiar generation of M&S ‘super stores’ erected from the mid-1920s into the 1930s usually adopted a neo-classical style, executed in pale Portland or ‘Empire’ stone. Above the shopfront, these buildings did not follow a proscribed house style, with identifying motifs or logos – except for one thing: the name of the company, which was displayed in a shallow, central parapet. The approach was more akin to that of independent department stores than other multiple retailers.

Clapham Junction 2009 (9)

Clapham Junction (1930, photographed in 2009)

Newark 1999

Newark (c.1933, with odd lettering, photographed in 1999)

Many large M&S stores of this period followed the template established by Selfridge’s, with giant classical pilasters or columns rising through the upper storeys, dividing the elevation into vertical window bays or panels.

Carlisle 1999

Carlisle (1931, extended 1935,  photographed in 1999)

Boston 2000

Boston (1931; photographed in 2000)

M&S went upmarket in the 1930s – it developed middle-class, mid-range aspirations. Architecturally, it stuck to a modern rendering of neo-classicism. It dabbled in the red-brick neo-Georgian style, and even attempted ‘streamline modern’ on a couple of occasions, but had no truck whatsoever with the art deco faience fronts favoured by more working-class rivals, Woolworth and Burton. Similarly, M&S avoided the quaint neo-vernacular espoused by the likes of Dunn & Co., W. H. Smith and Boots. The company steered a steady middle course through the gamut of inter-war commercial architectural styles.

Leicester 2000

Leicester (1929, photographed in 2000)

Marble Arch 1999 2

Marble Arch, Oxford Street, London (1931, photographed in 1999)

Bronze Shopfronts

Quite a few examples of Marks & Spencer’s bronze-framed pre-war shopfronts, with their grey pearl granite stall-risers and curved corners, survive. They are rarely complete, however. In later years, showcases were removed to enlarge entrances at the expense of display (see Boston, above). New post-war elements, such as doors and columns were of shiny chrome or steel, in sharp contrast to the more subtle bronze finishes of the 1920s and 30s. Originally, the bronze shopfronts closely resembled those of Woolworth, with pelmets at the top to conceal the lights that illuminated window displays.

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Hull (1931)

No pre-war ‘M&S’ floor mosaics or lettered fascias are known to have survived. The signboards were red with gilt lettering until 1924, when the firm decided to distinguish itself from Woolworth by turning green. If any red M&S fascias were ever uncovered, it would be deeply exciting!

Lutyens’s Modular Fronts

As M&S grew, the company struggled to extend its premises without rebuilding the original store. In 1934 it turned for advice to the son of the great architect Sir Edwin Lutyens – Robert Lutyens (1901-71), who had designed several residential interiors for M&S’s managers and directors, and was involved in an extension of the Baker Street headquarters. Lutyens devised a modular grid-like type of frontage which would, in theory, make the extension of M&S stores a simpler process.

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Peckham (1934, photographed in 2009) with ghost lettering at the top. No longer M&S, but instantly recognisable.

Over 40 M&S stores were built with Lutyens’s modular fronts between 1934 and the 1950s. These façades were applied to steel-framed buildings designed by M&S’s regular architects: J. M. Munro & Son and Norman Jones & Rigby in Scotland and northern England; W. A. Lewis & Partners (later Lewis & Hickey) and Albert Batzer in southern England and Wales. In overall control of every project between 1912 and 1942 was M&S’s in-house architect, Ernest Edward Shrewsbury (1880-1966), whilst Bovis always took charge of construction. This standardisation marked a break from M&S’s earlier, more heterogeneous, approach to store design (see above).

Neath - Copy

Neath (1935).

A few of Lutyens’s modular façades were built from black granite (see below), but the majority can be recognised by their patchwork facings of grey and pale orange reconstituted Portland stone slabs measuring 10ins square. The patchwork was usually random, rather than being laid in a pattern – Romford being an exception.

Romford 2002

Romford (photographed in 2002)

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Woolwich (1938, photographed in 2007), with a typical post-war M&S shopfront.

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Bradford (1935, photographed in 2000)

Stylistically, Lutyens’s frontages were very austere, but they commonly included touches of classicism: a central arch, shallow rustication, or flat discs – a drastic simplification of the classical motif known as ‘paterae’. Sometimes the bold, blocky results were almost cubist in effect.

Black Granite Fronts

There was a short-lived fashion for dark, highly-polished granite fronts in the 1930s – this material suited the sleek, glamorous art deco aesthetic of the time. Like Burton’s, M&S experimented with this material, notably for The Pantheon on London’s Oxford Street (1934-38) and for the new store on Briggate, Leeds (1934-51). The granite was described as ‘ebony’.

Leeds 2000

Briggate, Leeds (opened 1951, photographed in 2000)


The Pantheon, Oxford Street, London (opened 1938, photographed in 1999)

Projecting Clocks

Many large branches of Marks & Spencer sport a clock. This invariably projects from the façade, with a face visible to pedestrians walking past in either direction. Some have elaborate classical cases – usually in M&S green – with scrolls and volutes, while others are more restrained. Likewise, some have Roman numerals, others Arabic.

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Falmouth (c.1933, photographed in 2000)

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St Albans (c.1960)

York 1 2000

York (1961, photographed in 2000)

While some pre-war M&S stores, such as Blackpool, incorporated a clock into the façade, the projecting clocks seem to have been introduced after the war. Those with a curvilinear shape (see Falmouth) appear in store photographs from the late 1950s; those with tapering sides (see St Albans) appeared shortly thereafter. A favoured manufacturer was Synchronome, who specialised in electric clocks.


N. Burton ‘Robert Lutyens and Marks & Spencer’, Thirties Society Journal, 5, 1985, 8-17.

N. Gregory, ‘Monro & Partners: Shopping in Scotland with Marks & Spencer’, Architectural Heritage (Journal of the Architectural Heritage Society of Scotland), XIV, 2003, 67-85.

K. Morrison, English Shops & Shopping, Yale University Press, 2003.

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Charles Morrison’s Diary, 15 to 30 April 1864

Morning Light Colour Reduces See-Through

The Morning Light – Kate Morrison emigrated on this ship in April 1864 (print dated 1860)

Friday 15th April

We got up at 6 and left for Glasgow at 7 where we arrived at 9.15 and put up in Mrs Diamonds. We called at Messrs J & A Phillips Andrew Shaw and at Mrs Gardner’s. We were at tea with Geo Phillips & Miss Kilpatrick in Grafton Square. We then went to Barlow’s circus on the Green.

Unidentified Glasgow prob Charles Morrison - Copy

Charles Morrison by Dewar of Glasgow (undated)

Saturday 16th April

We were at Dewar’s getting likeness then we went to Phillips. George went with us to the Cathedral. We then went to the Railway Station where we met them that were to accompany Kate and they all left by the “Blenheim” for Liverpool at 6 P.M. Poor Kate I was very sorry at parting with her. I hope she may have a prosperous voyage. I was at the City Hall evening concert. I was very much taken up with Miss Kirk’s singing. She has a sweet voice.

[Note The Blenheim, under Captain McPherson, was one of several passengers steamers which ran between Glasgow and Liverpool several times a week. Passengers left Glasgow by train at 4pm on 16 April, joining the Blenheim at Greenock and sailing  at 6pm).

Sunday 17th April

In the morning I went with Mr Geo. Phillips to the U.P.Church Greyfriars. The Revd. Mr Calderwood lectured from the 21st verse of the 10th chapter to the end of the 11th chapter of Exodus. In the interval of worship we went round Glasgow Green and we then went to the East Campbell St U.P.Church it is a fine large new Church and well filled. The Revd. Mr Wallace preached from the 7th chapter of Hebrews 26th verse For such an high priest became us who is holy harmless undefiled separate from sinners and made higher than the heavens. After dinner we went to the Necropolis. Then we went to Mr Handyside’s class in Bell’s Hotel Trongate St where there was a very nice class indeed. Afterwards we went to the West End Park accompanied by a young Lady.

[Note: The United Presbyterian Church on East Campbell Street was designed by Haig & Low and opened in 1864. It still stands.]

Monday 18th April

I had a letter from Christina. I called on Miss Smith Piccadilly St. I was at tea with Geo. Phillips then we went to the Princes Theatre Dunlop St where one of Shakespeare’s pieces Hamlet was acted and closed with a laughable farce Tom Tompkins

[Note: Hamlet was played by Mr H. Talbot and the Ghost by Mr Alex McLein. The Trial of Tompkins by T. J. Williams was licensed in 1863.]

Tuesday 19th April

I got my likeness taken. I went through Stewart & McDonald’s, Grieve & Cochrane & M & A Clark’s. I wrote home to father. I was at tea in Mr Gardner’s. I then went to the concert in City Hall in aid of S. Cowells family.

[Note: Sam Cowell, a well-known comedian and singer, or ‘comic vocalist’ died shortly after being bankrupt, leaving a wife and children without support. One of those singing in the benefit concert – advertised as a ‘Monstre Concert’ – was Miss Helen Kirk, whose voice Charles had admired on his previous visit to the City Hall, on 16 April.]

Wednesday 20th April

I went down by the side of the quay and came up on the south side. I got Kate’s carte de visite. This is the day she was to have sailed from Liverpool. It was a fine day. I went through to J & W Campbell & Co Warehouse. I bought some things. In the evening I was Geo. Phillips at tea. We went then to the Merchants Hall to see Professor Pepper’s Ghost.

[Note: Kate sailed to Melbourne by the clipper Morning Light, sister ship to the White Star. It arrived on 27 July. There is no evidence that Kate ever returned to Scotland. However, she and her family kept in touch with their Scottish relatives for some time; probably until Charles’s death. In 1890 Alex Morrison wrote home from San Francisco: ‘I saw my cousin Charlie Grant in Melbourne, he came down twice to the ship but I did not manage to get away to see them in Greenhill, it is about 60 miles from Melbourne . . .’. From this scant information it has been possible to discover that Kate married George Alexander Grant in 1865 and had several children including Ellen Ann (1866), John Alexander (1868), Charles Morrison (1871), Alexander Morrison (1874) and George (1875).  If anyone in Victoria has information about the family, who were still living in the Kyneton area in the 1940s – please get in touch! As for Alex Morrison – sadly he was drowned when the Lord Raglan went down with all hands on its home journey from San Francisco in spring 1890. His last letters were kept by his grieving relatives.]
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Four sons born to Charles and Christina Morrison predeceased their parents, including Alex, lost on the Lord Raglan returning from San Francisco in 1890. Their grandfathers’ names were Alexander and William.

[Note: Pepper’s Ghost is an illusion technique, first performed in 1862]

Thursday 21st April

In the morning the Lords came into Glasgow at 9.30. I went to Wilson & Matheson’s and bought a few things and in J & A Phillips. Afterwards I saw M. Clark he told me that Angus sent out fish with him and he sold them to Colin McEwen & Co Ann St. I then had to see them weighed. We began at ½ past 3 and finished at 10m to 5. I took the train at 5 to Greenock here I saw David McKay. We left at 7.30

[Note: ‘the Lords’ refers to the opening of the Glasgow Spring Circuit Court of Judiciary opened by Lords Deas and Neaves.]

Friday 22nd April

A fine night passing the Mull of Cantyre (sic) but I was a little sea sick. We arrived at Oban at ¼ to 11. I met some Stornoway people here going to the Circuit Court at Inverness. The Steamer had a very heavy cargo for here. Mr Fair Traveller & I had a walk round the hills. We left at ¼ past 2 and arrived at Tobermory at 6 where we had another walk. We left at ¼ to 8 it was a beautiful day.

Saturday 23rd April

When I awoke we were at Glenelg. We were at Kyleakin at 9 and then went to Applecross with Lord & Lady Middleton and Suite about 30 altogether and that detained us a long time. We then went to Broadford then to Portree where we arrived at ½ past 3. I had a long walk with John Robertson and had tea with him and I very near lost my passage. We left at ½ past 6 and arrived at Little loch Broom at 12 at night. It was today Kate sailed down the River and went out to sea.

Sunday 24th April

We went ashore at 10. I had a long walk up the Glen Ullapool being 6 miles distant and a fever raging there we could not go to church there. Mr McRae Ness being on board he preached a Gaelic sermon in the Inn then we went on board about 5.

Monday 25th April

Early in the morning we sailed to Ullapool Mr Fair in his hurry out ashore took away my hat case. We arrived at LochInver at 9 and left it at 10 and arrived in Stornoway at 2 o’clock. I wrote Lexy sent her a brooch with my likeness & hair into it.

Tuesday 26th April

I had a letter from Kate from Liverpool. I wrote father. I was at Goathill seeing Christina. I thought her very distant.

Wednesday 27th April

Not very busy Angus and I had a walk down by Sandwick we spoke about dissolving and had a good many sharp words.

Thursday 28th April

I was at John Nicolson about his shop but he would not let it without I would take his stock but I would not do that. I had a walk with Mrs Russell up the New Road and down by John Dores.

Friday 29th April

Not very busy today but dull being put about for a shop.

Saturday 30th April

In the morning Angus & I had a few words and he was quite determined not to let me stop until after the fishing I thought then if I would get any place it would be better than being with him he was to take the whole stock the draperies at 5% off and the rest at cost price the Book debts at 10%. At night I was at tea in Mr Cockburn’s afterwards I was speaking to John McKenzie to engage with me for 3 months. Our drawings for the month is £280-10-6.

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Boots’ Architects. 2. Michael Vyne Treleaven

Bury St Edmunds me (55)

Bury St Edmunds

Michael Vyne Treleaven (1850-1934) held the position of Boots the Chemist’s in-house architect for over a decade in the early 20th century, and was responsible for designing the company’s well-known mock-Tudor shops.

Treleaven came from the parish of Poughill, near Bude in Cornwall. In 1871 he was described as a wheelwright, but later in the same decade – following his marriage to Emma Deacon of Liskeard in 1876 – was variously identified as ‘builder’, ‘carpenter and joiner’ or ‘builder and contractor’. Shortly after constructing the Methodist Free Chapel in Bude in 1879, he was declared bankrupt. This called for a fresh start. Two years later, aged 31, he was living with his wife and young daughters in Brixton, south London, and working as a ‘builder’s foreman’.

There is no evidence that Treleaven received any formal training as an architect. Nevertheless, by 1891 – when he was identified as a ‘Surveyor (Builder)’ in the Census –  he had begun to design buildings. In that year he was responsible for the West Cliff Boarding House and Hotel in Southend, designed for William Stubbs. This five-storey red brick block (now rendered and painted white) contained few hints of the direction Treleaven’s work would take once he began to work for Boots.

In 1892, a year after designing the West Cliff Boarding House and Hotel, Treleaven became a Freemason, joining Stanhope Lodge in Camberwell. The membership register of the United Grand Lodge of England recorded his profession as ‘architect’. He was ‘excluded in arrears’ in 1896.

Treleaven appeared in Boots’ wages book in 1898 and two years later he succeeded James Young as Boots’ architect. Although Jesse Boot had been engaged in building work since the 1880s, it is unclear how long the company had employed an architect. Boot first established a Shopfitting Department in 1883, when he engaged two joiners. By 1892 this department was located on Island Street in Nottingham and managed by a man named William Fawcett. It was reported that ‘All the fittings for the Warehouse, Laboratory and Branch Establishments are manufactured on the premises’ (Derby Daily Telegraph, 15 August 1892, 4). The Building Department was founded in 1884, when Boot bought the business of his builder, Alf Fisher of Red Lion Square. An architect was probably appointed after 1892, when the new premises on Pelham Street, Nottingham, were reportedly ‘specially built from the designs of the Managing Director’. In other words, Jesse Boot himself was claiming some credit as an architect at this time. One of his acquaintances remarked: ‘nothing in life gave Mr Boot so much pleasure as building and, if it could not always be new buildings, then alterations’ (Morrison 2003, 210).

During his years with Boots, Treleaven must have worked closely with the Nottingham architect Albert N. Bromley, who enjoyed a lengthy association with the company. Bromley was responsible for Boots’ neo-Jacobean style terracotta-fronted shops of the 1890s and early 1900s. Treleaven, however, is more associated with Boots’ ‘black-and-white’ fronts, the mock-Tudor shops built in the decade prior to the Great War. Whether or not Treleaven came up with the original concept – and in this he may well have been steered by the aesthetic tastes and interests of Jesse and Florence Boot – he signed many surviving plans and drawings for these buildings and must be accepted as their architect.

It is difficult to fathom how Treleaven, with his scant experience as an architect, came up with such a sophisticated approach to commercial house style. He did, however, train as a carpenter or joiner and may have developed an interest in structural timber in his youth. Moreover, Boots had taken on a couple of genuine timber-framed buildings before beginning to erect new mock-Tudor fronts. These included premises in St Albans which had been taken over by the company and restored in 1900. It is unlikely, however, that this triggered an interest in timber-framing, since St Albans did not have exposed framing. The timber fronts belong to a widespread fashion of the time, seen in important urban stores such as Goodall’s in Manchester (1899-1902) and Whittaker’s in Bolton (1906-07), possibly inspired in the first place by the rebuilding of medieval shops in Chester, where Boots leased a property at 24 Eastgate Street. Significantly, this Chester shop had Venetian-style oriels, a distinctive feature later used to good effect by Treleaven.


King’s Lynn

In 1903 Treleaven submitted a scheme for a timber-framed front at 43-44 High Street, King’s Lynn: the building standing on this site today does not conform to the surviving design, and is not typical of Boots’ timbered fronts, yet it was certainly occupied by the company by 1908. It can probably be regarded as an early experimental venture in this style, and seems to have been the first to be completed.



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Later  examples of these ‘black and white’ shops include Winchester (1905), Trent Bridge (1906-07; later Boots Social Club, now ‘The Embankment’), Exeter (1905-07), Wellingborough (1907), York (1907), Shrewsbury (1907), Beeston (1908), Kingston-upon-Thames (1909), Lichfield (1909-10), Bury St Edmunds (1911) and Peterborough (1911-12). At least three other shops designed by Treleaven adopted a medieval or Jacobean style, sharing many features with the ‘black and white’ shops but without having exposed framing. These were Derby (1911-12), Newcastle (1912) and Edinburgh (1912).


York 2000 (2)


Shrewsbury 2000 (1)


Many of these buildings had oriel windows, not unlike those of Sparrowe’s House in Ipswich, while others had plain mullion and transom windows with leaded lights and stained glass panels. The infill panels of the walls were often covered in plaster decoration, and the timbers incorporated carvings of grotesque and comical figures.


Bury St Edmunds

The stone or plaster sculpture that adorned many of Boots’ Tudor-style façades was probably made by Gilbert Seale & Son of Camberwell in south London. At least, Seale is firmly documented as the sculptor of the statues at Bury St Edmunds (1911) and Peterborough (1912), and also, according to the PMSA, at Kingston-on-Thames (1909). There is a good chance that this prolific architectural sculptor, modeller and plasterer decorated the frontages of many Boots branches before the Great War. Seale did not have a monopoly, however: the oak statue of Bishop Leofric at Exeter is known to have been carved by Harry Heme & Son of Exeter.

Peterborough 1999

Peterborough in 1999

Records reveal that Treleaven and his family lived successively at two different addresses in Beeston, moving in 1902 from Lindon Grove to 228 Station Road, where they remained in 1912.

It is likely that Treleaven left Boots’ employment in 1912-13. In 1913 he designed part of Elliston & Cavell’s department store (later Debenham’s) on Magdalen Street in Oxford (Sherwood & Pevsner, The Buildings of Oxfordshire, 1974, 313). This ashlar-fronted building adopted a Gothic style, reminiscent of Boots’ in Edinburgh (1912) – quite different from the neo-baroque style which was popular for shops at this time. It had arched window heads, mullions and transoms, panelled pilasters and consoles, and medieval-style relief decoration.

In 1914, when Boots’ ‘black and white’ Gloucester shop opened, the architects were reportedly Bromley & Watkins, not Treleaven. This seems to have been the first Boots’ shop of this type to be ascribed to an architect other than Treleaven; the project could have been initiated by Treleaven before he left the company, and then handed over to Bromley & Watkins for completion. It was one of the last ‘black and white’ stores to be built by Boots – only that in Evesham might have been completed later. Interestingly, there followed a short revival of the earlier terracotta-fronted store type, notably at Birmingham (Bull Street, 1915-16) and Southend (1915). It is as if Bromley was reasserting his authority following Treleaven’s departure.

In 1919 F. W. C. Gregory became Boots’ in-house architect. Treleaven had become architect to Holsworth Rural District Council and was habitually using the initials MSA (Member of the Society of Architects) and FIA (Fellow of the Institute of Architects) after his name. He died in Windsor, where he had presumably retired, in 1934.

Main Sources

Stanley Chapman, Jesse Boot of Boots the Chemists. A Study in Business History, Hodder & Stoughton, 1974

Kathryn A. Morrison, English Shops & Shopping, Yale University Press, 2003

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Boots’ Architects. 1. Albert Nelson Bromley

Grantham March 2017 (46) - Copy - Copy


The prominent Nottingham architect Albert Nelson Bromley (1850-1934) designed many shops for Boots between the 1890s and the 1920s. At first he worked in a neo-Jacobean style, with a strong penchant for terracotta, but in the 1920s he switched to a monumental classicism. This reflected the changing architectural fashions of the times, but was also informed by Bromley’s experience of designing imposing financial institutions. In addition, it reveals a transformation in the image which Boots wished to convey to the public once it came under American ownership.

Bromley was born in Stafford but when he was just two years old his father, a surgeon, died. The family moved to Nottingham, where they lived with Bromley’s maternal uncle, the architect and surveyor Frederick Bakewell. As well as receiving some education in Nottingham, Bromley was sent to Mr George Shipley’s academy, a boarding school in Lincoln. He was listed there in the Census of 1871, as a lodger rather than a pupil. Described as ‘architect’s clerk’, he was almost certainly working at that time as an assistant to the architect Henry Goddard (1813-99).

While touring the Continent in 1872-3, Bromley painted topographical watercolours, some of which were hung in the Royal Academy. After a brief spell in Charles Barry’s office in London he returned to Nottingham where, in 1875, he was taken into partnership by his uncle. They designed a Board School on Huntingdon Street and some ‘Industrial Dwellings’. Bakewell soon retired, leaving Bromley to work on his own. As the practice grew, however, he took on partners. The first, in 1905, was Harry Garnham Watkins, the son of William Watkins, an architect who had worked with Henry Goddard in Lincoln. Then, in 1928, Bromley went into partnership with his grandson Thomas Nelson Cartwright, and his long-term assistant Thomas Herbert Waumsley. T. Cecil Howitt, who went on to design Nottingham’s Council House, was one of Bromley’s pupils. He worked in Bromley & Watkins office before enlisting during the Great War.

Bromley undertook commissions for Boots from 1895 until the late 1920s. In his lifetime, however, he was equally well known for his work as consultant architect to the Nottingham School Board. Bromley also designed a wide range of commercial and institutional buildings, including the National Provincial Bank (now Yorkshire Bank, next to the Council House), Lloyds Bank, Griffin & Spalding (latterly Debenhams), the Nottingham Hospital for Women (on Peel Street, now flats), and the Harlow Wood Orthopaedic Hospital, Mansfield.

Boots branches specifically mentioned in Bromley’s obituary in 1934 included Brighton, Leicester and Cheltenham (JRIBA, 24 November 1934, 143). These were imposing – even grandiose – neo-classical buildings built in the 1920s, perhaps influenced by Bromley’s work on banks. Bromley’s first work for Boots had been in a very different idiom.


11-13 London Road, Liverpool, 1896

One of Bromley’s earliest designs for Boots still stands, at 11-13 London Road in Liverpool. Dated 1896, this shop is of red brick with unglazed buff terracotta dressings. It is in a mixed Renaissance/neo-Jacobean style, with a shaped gable and mullion windows. Small barred openings in the side elevation may have securely lit and ventilated the pharmacy. A few years later, Boots’ shops in Bedford and Grantham were fully faced in unglazed terracotta.


Harpur Street and Silver Street, Bedford, 1898

Grantham March 2017 (46) - Copy

Grantham, 1899

Most of the shops designed by Bromley for Boots from around 1900 until the outbreak of the Great War were faced in creamy brown glazed terracotta (or faience). Like the earlier designs, the detailing – shaped or stepped gables and ornate mullions – was inspired by Renaissance and Jacobean architecture. Boots’ ‘central depot’ at 2-10 Pelham Street in Nottingham, of 1903, was the supreme example of this approach. With its corner turret and cupola, its open-plan interior arranged around a light well, its many departments, and its superb shopfront, it emulated large metropolitan emporia. It offered customers a café and a ‘Booklovers Library’.


2-10 Pelham St., Nottingham, 1903

It is rare for early Boots’ shopfronts to survive – in fact many have been treated very badly over the years, as the photographs published here reveal. The best example, with artistic art nouveau glazing, curved glass, and mirrored soffits, can be seen on Pelham Street. This was highly fashionable at the time. Stylistically, however, it contrasted with historicist elevations and may have been designed by a specialist shopfitter rather than Bromley.

Buxton 2 2001 (2)

Buxton, 1906

Scribbling Diary 1905 BB016870 c.EH - Copy (2)

6 High Street, Sheffield (c. The Boots Archive)

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Lytham St Anne’s, 1906 (photo: 1999)

Southend 1999 (1)

Southend, 1915 (photo: 1999)

Bromley’s involvement in Boots’ well-known half-timbered frontages of the pre-1914 period is uncertain. Most of the surviving working plans for these were signed by Boots’ in-house architect, Michael Vyne Treleaven, who was also named as the architect in several newspaper reports. Artistic touches were sometimes supplied by the London architect Percy Morley Horder. Surprisingly, however, the Gloucester branch of 1914 was assigned fully to Bromley & Watkins – albeit with a shopfront by Morder Holder (Gloucester Chronicle 9 May 1914, 9). It is likely that Treleaven had left Boots by 1914 and, as a consequence, this particular project was undertaken by Bromley & Watkins.

The Gloucester store was fairly typical of Boots’ half-timbered fronts, with its exposed beams and statuary. The local newspaper drew attention to lanterns hung under the soffit, and coloured lead lights by a Mr Bonner of London. The windows of the first-floor café incorporated the arms of the city and the see of Gloucester. Boots maintained that it was the company’s aim to ‘study and uphold the historic interest of the locality, and so catch the civic spirt of those places where their businesses have been established’ (Gloucester Chronicle 19 December 1914, 9): a corporate aspiration initiated by Jesse Boot, implemented for him by Bromley in the 1890s, taken in a different direction by Treleaven in the early 1900s, and abandoned around 1916.

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Bromley designed factories and other buildings for Boot, as well as shops. In the 1920s he was responsible for some robust classical designs, including those mentioned above. Cheltenham (late 1920s) and Brighton (1927-28) each sported a full pediment carried on four giant Ionic columns. Behind these, the frontage was recessed to create balconies. This grandiose approach – so different from Boots’ pre-war architecture – must have appealed to the company’s new American owners.

As well as being an architect, Bromley was an environmental campaigner, fighting ribbon development, unsightly advertising and, according to his obituary, ‘the demolition of historic places’ (Nottingham Evening Post, 18 August 1934, 8).

Main Sources

Stanley Chapman, Jesse Boot of Boots the Chemists. A Study in Business History, Hodder & Stoughton, 1974

Ken Brand ‘Albert Nelson Bromley’, Nottingham Civic Society Newsletter, 1988, 2-9; 1989, 14-17.

Kathryn A. Morrison, English Shops & Shopping, Yale University Press, 2003

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Charles Morrison’s Diary, 1 to 14 April 1864


Probably John Morrison as a young man (carte de visite from Charles Morrison’s Photograph Album c. Alison Mein)

Friday 1st April

It was pretty cold today. I was something busy. I took down some of the goods that was in J Stewart’s shop. At night I went to Goathill and was for some time with Christina.

Saturday 2nd April

Christina gave me a brooch for Kate. She gave me some of her father’s hair for to get into a brooch for her. I was at tea with Miss Betsey McDonald.

Sunday 3rd April

In the morning the Revd Mr Adam preached from 2nd Peter 1st chapter 19th verse We have also a more sure word of prophecy whereunto ye do well that ye take heed as unto a light that shineth in a dark place until the day dawn and the day star arise in your hearts. In the evening he preached from the 17th chapter of Job 13th verse If I wait the grave is mine house. It rained all day.

Monday 4th April

I called on Mr J Reid about John Morrison’s shop. He told me it would not be let till Martinmas. At 3 o’clock I went to give good bye to Christina. I was there for about an hour. The Steamer was to have sailed at 7 P.M. but did not leave until ½ past 9. The wind blew pretty hard from the east which caused a heavy sea. I was sea sick. It was ½ past 3 before we were at Portree.

Tuesday 5th April

Left Portree at ½ past 4 A.M. We arrived at Balmacara at ½ past 8. There John & I took breakfast with Mr Smart of Glasgow. We left there along with 2 shepherds at ½ past 10. We were across Strome ferry at 1 o’clock. At Loch Carron we had dinner and left there at 3 arrived at Craig Inn at 6 and Achnasheen at 9.20 the distance from Balmacara being 36 24 miles. We were quite done up and tired. It rained all day and we were quite wet. We went to bed at 11 o’clock.

[NOTE: Charles’s companion on this trip – to spend some time with his sister Kate before she emigrated to Australia – was his brother John Morrison, at that time apprenticed to Matthew Russell in Stornoway. John himself emigrated, to Canada, in 1867. Around 1900 three of Charles’s own sons also emigrated, to Canada and South Africa.]

Wednesday 6th April

I slept very soundly last night but got up with sore legs at ½ past 7. We left this at 8 and arrived at Achnanault at 10 where we waited for Breakfast. We left here at 20m to 12 and arrived at Dingwall at 7 o’clock quite tired. I do not believe John & I could travel any farther had we to do it. The distance from Achnasheen to Dingwall is 30 miles. We called at on Mrs C McDonald in Mrs Chisholm’s and had tea there which refreshed us a little. At 8 we went to the Railway Station to wait for the train expecting Lexy from Grantown. The train arrived at 8.20 and when Lexy came out I hardly recognised her and she did not know me. How glad I was to meet Dear Lexy once more. Her and I put up in the Caledonian Hotel there. John went to Dornoch where he arrived that night a little past 12.

[NOTE: Lexy – Charles’s sister, presumably going home to Dornoch for the same purpose. Kate’s emigration drew a gathering of the clans.]

Thursday 7th April

In the morning I got my luggage which came by the Mail from Balnacara. Lexy and I left Dingwall at 9.40 arrived at Invergordon at 10.20. We then got the “Defiance” coach and arrived at in Tain at 12.20 remaining a short time there I observed above a shop door the sign Miles McRae and on making enquiries thought it would be him that was in Stornoway. I called and knew him. We arrived at the Meikle Ferry at 1.10 and crossed it in 15 minutes. We arrived in Dornoch at 2.20. I found my friends all well. Lexy, Kate & I went out to take a walk but were obliged to return it being raining. I went then in with Mr Cobban the Baker a while.

[NOTE: Thomas Cobban, 55, the baker, lived with his sister Jane in Dornoch].

Friday 8th April

We went to Cyderhall in coming back called at Darachfin then we went up to the Poles. Afterwards I saw Alexr Gunn Drumdavan.

Saturday 9th April

We went up to the Muir. When I came home I wrote Christina.

Sunday 10th April

I had a kind letter from Christina. In the evening Mr Munro preached a Gaelic sermon from the 33rd chapter of Isaiah 15th to the 17th verses. In the afternoon the Revd George Kennedy preached from the 31st chapter of Genesis 13th verse I am the God of Bethel where thou anointedst the pillar and where thou vowedst a vow unto me. He shewed first the manifestation given & 2nd the remembrance made. In the evening we were at the Prayer meeting in the Schoolhouse.

Monday 11th April

I was through Dornoch calling on Georgina McIntosh, George Forbes, Mrs Nicholson, &c.

Tuesday 12th April

Kate & I called on the Revd Mr Kennedy. Lexy went then with us to Evelix & Clashmore. John & I were at tea with Mr John Grant. I then went to see Mr Wm McKay. He was an awful spectacle. I did not know him he wasted away that there was nothing of him but skin and bone and he had a most miserable look. I was up to 4 in the morning marking and packing up Kate’s things. I also wrote to Christina.

Wednesday 13th April

I got up at 6 made ready all things. We left at 10 for the Ferry. Left our luggage at Dornoch for the coach to take but it broke down and we had to go without the luggage. After crossing the ferry we could get no seat in the coach and had to travel to Tain. On the way J Gillespie, John & Robert overtook us with a gig and the luggage. We all took dinner at Tain and hired to Invergordon. We left Tain at 4 P.M. after remaining a while at Glastullick house for Kate’s trunk. We arrived at Invergordon at ½ past 6.

Thursday 14th April

We left Invergordon at 4.00 A.M. arrived at Inverness at 6.20 went through a part of the town. We had breakfast in a Temperance Hotel. Left Inverness at 8. We went through Culloden, Fort George, Nairn, Forres &c and arrived at Grantown at ½ past 10 when we had to part with Dear Lexy. We passed along the Spey calling at the different stations Aviemore, Kingussie &c. We passed the Glenmore hills also the B where I think there is a monument to the late Duke of Gordon. We passed on the one side the Boar of Athole and on the other the Sow of Badenoch. We passed through Blair Athol, Killiecrankie, Pitlochrie, the River Tay, Dunkeld. Through these places is the finest scenery I ever saw and the houses are all so neat and clean like. Near Dunkeld is Murthly Asylum where we saw the inmates out taking a walk. Dunkeld is a beautiful place very fine houses in it. We arrived at Perth at ½ past 3 left it at 4.4. It is a fine large place. I met Jane Forbes here. We arrived in Stirling at 5.6 and Edinburgh at 6.15. We passed through a very fine country from Perth to Edinburgh. We passed through the Bridge of Allan and saw Wallace’s Monument on the Abbey Crag Stirling. We put up for the night in Dunedin’s Temperance Hotel High Street. We were at the castle round Princes St, Holyrood Palace and up the back of Canongate.

[Note: The newly built County of Perth District Asylum for Pauper Lunatics (Murthly Asylum), had opened on 1 April 1864, just a fortnight before Charles Morrison saw the inmates out for a walk. It was positioned beside the Highland Railway, and travellers could probably observe the inmates in the grounds.]


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8 Classic Features To Help You Recognise an Old Woolworth’s Store

Heritage Calling

Researching Woolworth’s stores in Great Britain and Ireland allowed me to wallow in childhood nostalgia. I clearly remember the old counter-service Woolies – customers clamouring for the attention of the ‘girls’, or testing the gigantic red scales that always stood in the entrance.

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8 Historic London Shopfronts

This gallery contains 10 photos.

Originally posted on Heritage Calling:
London streets are lined with colourful shops, clamouring for our attention. Many are of considerable age, and have survived for our enjoyment only through careful maintenance by generations of shopkeepers. Kathryn Morrison, Head of Historic…

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