Our Story: 140 Years of Fenwick

 

Fenwick is known for providing the finest selection of luxury from around the world across fashion, beauty and lifestyle, curated into a sophisticated shopping space and bestowed with in-store events, treatment rooms, bespoke services and popular restaurants. Loyal to our brilliant and British heritage, Fenwick is proudly the largest family-owned group of department stores in the United Kingdom.

 

John James Fenwick

John James Fenwick, known as JJ, was born in Richmond, North Yorkshire, in 1846. Early in his career, he learned his trade as a shop assistant, where his passion for retail and customer service was instilled and nurtured. In 1882, his ambition came to fruition when Fenwick bought and renovated a doctor's house for £181 and 4 shillings at 5 Northumberland Street in Newcastle upon Tyne. This would become his first store and the start of his legacy: JJ Fenwick, Mantle Maker and Furrier.

Together with two assistants, he sold an unparalleled range of mantles, silk goods, dresses, fabrics and trimmings. JJ's keen eye for luxury and exceptional care of his clientele made the store especially popular, and soon he expanded his space by purchasing 37, 38 and 40 Northumberland Street. Today, the flagship Fenwick store still stands on this exact site, offering the same incomparable service, the finest products and enjoyable in-store experiences as founded by JJ over a century before.

 

JJ's son Fred joined the business in 1890 and was sent to Paris to train in the art of retail. Here, he embraced the revolutionary concept of department store, perfectly exemplified in Le Bon Marché. When JJ and Fred introduced this set up to their Newcastle store, they started what would become a family-owned retail empire. With originality, relentless hard work and the highest standards of excellence, we know JJ would be proud of the nine department stores that respectfully bear his name today.

 
 

1846

John James Fenwick is born in Richmond, North Yorkshire.

1882

On 23 March, John James Fenwick opens the doors for the first time to his new store at 5 Northumberland Street – much to the delight of the well-dressed women of Newcastle. Offering a carefully curated selection of silk goods, dresses, fabric and trimmings, its high quality, luxurious goods were quickly sought after. 

1884

As his business thrives, John James Fenwick decides to expand, taking over the lease of a larger property at number 39 Northumberland Street (a former doctor’s house). A year later, in 1885, he extends further, incorporating number 37.

1891

Fenwick opens at New Bond Street, in London’s most luxurious shopping district. The first fashion store on the street, Fenwick quickly becomes a must-visit for affluent, stylish women eager to discover the latest styles in elegant environs.

1902

Fenwick hosts its first ever Christmas Bazaar, welcoming customers to explore and browse in store at their leisure, with no obligation to buy – anticipating the forthcoming trend of more relaxed and recreational retail.

 

1913

Fenwick Newcastle unveils its new neo-classical frontage and celebrates with a lavish opening day.

1935

Typically forward-thinking, Fenwick is the first establishment in the UK to advertise on public transport, and to use rich illustrations in its advertisements.

1962

Looking to grow the business, John Fenwick, with brothers Christopher Fenwick and Peter Fenwick, acquires the Joseph Johnson store in Leicester. This is subsequently rebranded as Fenwick of Leicester, heralding a new era of expansion. 

1971

A beloved tradition is born as Fenwick Newcastle debuts its first animated Christmas window display. The now-yearly lavish and imaginative Christmas installations have since attracted millions of visitors and are a highlight of the city’s events calendar. The very first theme was Camberwick Green, bringing to life a favourite children’s television show at the time.

1976

Fenwick is present at another landmark retail moment under John Fenwick, as the UK’s first large, enclosed shopping centre, Brent Cross, opens, with Fenwick as its flagship store.

1984

Fenwick opens in York’s Coppergate Centre, with James Fenwick as Managing Director.

1986

The expansion of the Fenwick business sees it acquire Ricemans in Canterbury, which is later rebuilt and branded as Fenwick, with Hugo Fenwick as Managing Director.

2001

Under the chairmanship of Mark Fenwick, great-grandson of founder JJ Fenwick, Fenwick significantly expands with its acquisition of the Bentalls Group. All but Bracknell and Kingston upon Thames are sold, with these two stores brought into the Fenwick fold, under Managing Director Adam Fenwick.

2014

The Daily Muse launches online, delivering fashion news, product announcements and lifestyle advice to its dedicated readership.

2018

Fenwick launches Fenwick Food, the re-launch of its own-label ventures, followed by Fenwick at Home, its inaugural homeware range, in 2021.

2022

Fenwick launches a year of celebrations to mark 140 illustrious years, and to look towards a future that is every bit as bold and brilliant as what has gone before.

 

Our Stores Throughout The Ages

Take a look back at Fenwick throughout the ages. From our very first Newcastle store, when women wore corsets, men wore top hats and deliveries were made by horse and cart, through to our most recent openings, we have a rich history that has shaped who we are today.

 

Fenwick and Fashion

Since it first opened its doors in 1882, Fenwick has been at the forefront of luxury fashion, offering its clientele an unsurpassed selection of brands and garments for every wardrobe requirement. Although fashions have changed radically since the days of our first store, our commitment to finding the perfect dress, jacket, trousers, shoes or bag never has. We’ve proudly dressed our clientele for many years gone by, and we look forward to dressing them for many years to come.

 

Fenwick Memories

We hope every experience at Fenwick is one to be treasured and remembered. Here, we recount some of our favourite Fenwick memories from our 140 year history...

A Dress for Dorothea Baird

In 1896, actress Dorothea Baird requested JJ to design her dress for her role in the play Trilby. Her grandfather built 37-39 Northumberland Street – the site of the first Fenwick.

Fund-Raising at Fenwick

Philanthropy has always been a core value at Fenwick. Here, we see Fenwick employees raising money on Red Cross Day in 1953, standing in front of the Newcastle store on Brunswick Place.

Koringa and her Crocodile

In the 1920s and 30s, Koringa, a celebrated circus performer in the Cleo Mills Brothers Circus, was a regular at Fenwick Newcastle, often accompanied by her pet crocodile.

Fit for a King and Queen

In 1937, Fenwick advertised its ability to make Coronation robes for the ascension of King George VI and Queen Elizabeth. The illustrations show a regal gown and mantle of red and white.