Newport M&S

Below is an illustration I created to commemorate the closing down of Marks and Spencer, 9-12 Commercial Street, Newport. The grade II* listed building hosted Marks and Spencer until 2013.


I am not exactly sure when Marks and Spencer moved into the building, but “Marks & Spencers, Ltd., general bazaar” is listed as occupying 10-11-12 Commercial Street in 1938, with “Burge Bros., Ltd, fishmongers” occupying 9 Commercial Street. In his book, The Buildings of Wales, John Newman writes that 1-13 Commercial Street were originally all “gothic design, constructed c.1880, with steep pavillion roofs over the centre and ends of what was a symmetrical composition. Broad riel windows with notched brackets and pointed lights. The composition is now incomplete, as in the 1930s Nos. 9-12 were rebuilt in an Art Deco style for Marks and Spencer.”

I worked at M&S, Newport, from around 1996 until 2005, together with my twin sister, Hannah. My mother worked at this location for over 30 years—and my father patiently waited on Corn Street to pick her up after work for almost as many years.

Mum started working at M&S, Newport, at around age 16 (1960s) and remembers the building before the Upper Dock Street ‘Olympia House’ extension (home to the Newport Passport office) was added, later in the 1960s. The much smaller store had children’s wear, menswear and the food court downstairs in the basement, and ladies fashions upstairs. The extension almost doubled the size of the store and created additional stock room space upstairs. I remember the stock room was rumoured to be haunted, though I did not ever see the ghost myself, thank goodness! Mum says that a tiny, 2-story Boots pharmacy (with a spiral staircase) occupied the store to the right of M&S, at 13 Commercial Street. When I worked there in the 90s, I remember a Clinton cards in that location.

Mum also remembers the staff cafeteria area upstairs, serving up roast dinners and other fantastic lunches. There was a staff hair salon, dentist and medical office—what a wonderful convenience for the sales associates!

The fancy gabled building with the decorated porch opposite 1-13 Commercial Street is the location of the historic Westgate Hotel. On 4 November 1839 local politician and activist John Frost led a march of 3,000 Chartists into the centre of Newport. Here he discovered several Chartists had been arrested and were held in the Westgate. British Army troops protecting the hotel opened fire on the marchers, killing over 20 people and wounding 50 more. Bullet holes from the insurrection can still be seen in pillars in the frame of the main door of the Westgate hotel. The original hotel was rebuilt in 1897 with the only thing that may be existing from the 1839 hotel being the cellars below ground, and of course those bullet holes.

Here are some images of Commercial Street/Westgate corner, that I found interesting:

1910 Zoom1910Above: Commercial Street, Newport, c.1910. The cream, Art Deco style building was not even in existence when this photo was taken—The buildings at 9-12 Commercial street are gothic and similar to 1-13 Commercial Street. I zoomed in to show a closer look at 9-12.
Photo Source: Peoples Collection Wales 

Johns’ Newport Street Directory for Commercial Street around this time:
9, Burge, Bros, fishmongers & fruiterers (listed in both 1897 and 1914 directories)
10, Liscombe, J, currier, leather merchant & saddler (both directories)
10, Edington, R, solicitor (1897)
10, Chas M, ASAA, chartered accountant  (1897)
10, Ayliffe, FA, dental surgery (1914)
10, Powell, (Digby), Liscombe & Mackie, solicitors (1914)
11, Jeffreys & Sons, pork butchers & sausage manufacturers (both directories)
12, Lawrence, John Ltd,  grocers (both directories)

Monmouthshire,-Newport,-Commercial-Street-and-Town-Hall-1910'sAbove: Scene looking in the opposite direction down Commercial street, c.1910. 9-12 Commercial street is hidden behind the tram. Electric trams ran through Newport from 1904 until 1937.
Source: Old UK Photos


Above: Newport, somewhere between 1904–1937. Everything looks so grand!
Source: Newport Past

Coomercial St Newport & T Hall gsCommercial St & town hall Newport_Undated01Above: Undated photos of Commercial Street. Hard to distinguish the details of the buildings but very cool to see the people. These photos are clearly all pre-1930s because the original gothic buildings stand at 9-12 Commercial Street. Considering there are trams in these photos, they date between 1904–1937.
Source: Mongenes 

Commercial Street_Newport_1950Above: Monmouthshire, Newport, Commercial Street, early 1950s. This scene seems earlier than that to me, but the trams are gone so it must have been taken post 1937. Here we see the new, cream-coloured, Art Deco building at 9-12. Note the little Boots shop sign half-way up the building at 13 Commercial Street, to the right of M&S.
Source: Old UK Photos

Newport, Commercial Street c.1955

Above: Newport, Commercial Street c.1955. I see the Boots shop sign hanging at 13 Commercial Street. Mum was a child during this time period.
Source: Francis Frith (great old photos at this site!)

UndatedAbove: Newport, Commercial Street, undated. I like the high-pants-fast-talker-looking man, smoking a cigarette, in the foreground.
Source: Newport Past

Johns’ Newport Street Directory for Commercial Street around this time:
9, Burge, Bros, fishmongers & fruiterers (1946)
10 – 11 – 12, Marks & Spencers, Ltd., general bazaar (1946)

Above: Commercial Street and the Old Town Hall, Newport, Monmouthshire, 1971. Interesting that even M&S is shown with an awning. The Boots sign still hangs! Mum had started working in M&S during this time period.
Painted by Bert Canham  Source: BBC

Screen Shot 2015-08-23 at 8.46.07 PMScreen Shot 2015-08-23 at 8.44.41 PMScreen Shot 2015-08-23 at 8.44.09 PM Screen Shot 2015-08-23 at 8.43.54 PMAbove: Screenshots from Google maps, created before the closing of the store, 2012


Above: After closing down, 2013
Source: South Wales Argus

(*particularly important buildings of more than special interest)

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