Leicester Mercury

Before the flats... before Fenwick


WITH this week’s planning applicatio­n to transform Leicester’s iconic Fenwick department store building, we thought we would take readers back to the days when the building was home to another wellknown city name.

This fabulous photograph from our archive, which was taken in August 1955, shows the junction of Belvoir Street and Market Street, with Joseph Johnson’s, later Fenwick, on the right and Barnetts on the opposite corner of Market Street.

Then, as now, the scene is dominated by the two splendid buildings which were both designed by the same architect, one of Leicester’s most distinguis­hed – Isaac Bar- radale. Leicester draper Joseph Johnson began his career as an apprentice with Adderley’s store, in the Market Place.

In 1869, he opened a fancy drapers’ store in Market Street, in partnershi­p with a Mr Halsall.

Two years later, Johnson was the sole proprietor and, although he “lived over the shop”, he employed five others.

So successful was Joseph Johnson that, by 1884, he had commission­ed Barradale to design the purposebui­lt department store that still dominates the area between Market Street, Belvoir Street and Bowling Green Street.

It was further extended four years later.

The store was unashamedl­y “high class”. There were strict rules for shop assistants, who were carefully supervised at all times.

The venture proved a great success and became a Leicester institutio­n for almost 60 years before it was taken over, in 1962, by Fenwick, which enjoyed a similarly fine reputation before the plug was pulled on the store by its owners in March 2017.

Almost 100 members of staff lost their jobs.

Now, plans are afoot to transform the building into 111 serviced apartments, with access from Market Street.

There would also be seven shop or restaurant/bar units on the ground floor, along with start-up office space and a guest gym in the basement.

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