Manchester’s favourite ever shop will be revealed at an exhibition that recreates the golden age of the high street.

The 100 Manchester Shops project has collected nominations and cherished memories of the city’s best-loved retail therapy spots.

From grand Victorian department stores to ‘Madchester’ record shops, the results will be on display at Manchester Central Library from February 28 where the overall winner will also be revealed.

Recreations of iconic shop windows, from when the only way to shop was on the high street, will feature in the exhibition – allowing visitors to take a literal stroll down memory lane.

Professor Jon Stobart and Michala Hulme, historians from Manchester Metropolitan University, have worked with Manchester Archives + on 100 Manchester Shops.

They have delved through the entries – as varied as fashion boutiques, toy shops, butchers and chippies – to unveil the region’s favourites.

Hulme, Lecturer in History and a Manchester local history expert, said: “The aim of this exhibition is to really shine a light on the history of Manchester’s high street. From Lewis’s to Woolworths, from Chelsea Girl to Freeman, Hardy & Willis, we really hope that people will enjoy reminiscing about their favourite shops.”

Prof Stobart, Professor of History and a retail history expert, said: “100 Manchester Shops is all about telling the story of Manchester through its shops; but it’s also telling that story from the viewpoint of Manchester residents.

“The 100 Manchester Shops website is a place where people can post and share memories of favourite shops and the exhibition is bringing that to life by recreating some favourite shop windows. There will be some fond memories and some surprises, I’m sure.”

Some of the shops guaranteed to feature are:

Kendal, Milne & Co, which can lay claim to being the oldest department store in the country – tracing its origins to a Deansgate bazaar in 1832 before bought out and converted into a drapery emporium by three young store holders: Kendal, Milne and Faulkner. By the 1840s, they also sold haberdashery, carpets, upholstery and furniture, and grew considerably as the old store was rebuilt as part of the improvements made to Deansgate in the 1870s. Continued trading as Kendals until 2005, and was recently saved from closure after House of Fraser went into administration.

Anne from Salford, on the 100 Manchester Shops website, said:  “I remember going to Kendals in the 1970s to buy the wedding suit for my husband. It was more upmarket than some of the other department stores and we could only afford to shop there for special occasions. Manchester was a special place to shop in those days.”

Lewis’s, established as a drapers in Liverpool in 1856, gradually adding more lines and expanding its premises to become a department store. This was typical of the way in which many early department stores grew, but Lewis’s was innovative in that it opened branches: in Manchester (1877) and later Birmingham and Sheffield.​ From the outset, Lewis’s had a reputation for innovative retailing, including self-service and one of the world’s first Christmas grottoes. There were poster campaigns, processions, public events and pamphlets, as well as commemorative goods, and special promotions. The latter included an offer made in 1885 to ‘pay the railway fare of visitors from a distance whose purchases amount to £2 and upwards’.​ Ceased trading in Manchester in 2002, and now the home of Primark.

Former Lewis’s shopper Caroline said: “Lewis’s was a traditional haunt for us. My great-aunt started work in the accounts dept at 14 years old in 1916 and retired aged 63 as head of cashiers dept, managing all the cash and tilling for the whole store. We always went up to get her staff discount pass in the 1970s & 80s. Lots of expensive purchases came courtesy of her pass – carpet for our first house, my cot and pram in 1988. I’d love to see their famous ballroom – my aunt saw it in its hey-day.”

Woolworths,  Founded in Pennsylvania 1879, Woolworths came to Britain in 1909, replicating the five-and-dime formula as 3d-and-6d stores. By 1914, there were Woolworths stores in 40 British cities, including Manchester, and they spread rapidly in the 1920s, the 400th store being opened in Southport in 1930. As in their American stores, Woolworths sold a wide range of goods, from hosiery and homeware (including the now iconic Homemaker design) to toys and confectionary.​ Closed in 2009.

Zoe from Stockport said: “I loved going to Woolies in the early 1970s with my 6d pocket money to buy sweets from the Pick n Mix. It was like an Aladdin’s cave looking at all the toys hoping that I would get one from Father Christmas.”

The launch of the 100 Manchester Shops exhibition takes place at Manchester Central Library on Thursday February 28 at 6:30pm. More details:

Photo credit Manchester Archives + 


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