NOSTALGIA: Marks and Spencer in Boston

In the distance of this photograph from early 1962 Marks and Spencer can be seen before its expansion in the autum of that year. Its neighbour, the New Theatre, is set for demolition.
In the distance of this photograph from early 1962 Marks and Spencer can be seen before its expansion in the autum of that year. Its neighbour, the New Theatre, is set for demolition.

If Marks and Spencer closes in Boston, it will bring to an end more than 100 years of history in the town.

He we reproduce a piece carried in the Standard in late August 1962, looking ahead to the opening of Marks and Spencer’s extended store the following month.

The Standard reporting on the extension of the store in 1962.

The Standard reporting on the extension of the store in 1962.

It reveals the length the business went to care for its staff at the time (regular visits by a doctor, dentist, and chiropodist) and also how it grew in the town from a Penny Bazaar, opened in 1914.

(Our photographic negatives from the time were lost in the flood of 2013. If you have any old photos of the store, we would love to see them at david.seymour@jpimedia.co.uk).

* Boston’s new Marks and Spencer store will be twice the size of the present shop when the first extension is opened next Friday, September 7 (1962). And on completion in November the sales floor will be three times the size of the old store.

The store, which has been almost completely rebuilt – though customers probably haven’t noticed, the ceiling has been replaced, and so have the lighting, walls, and the floor! – first opened as a Penny Bazaar in 1914 with a staff of less than 20. At that time it was half the size of the present size and was extended to its present size some years later on the acquisition of the old Corn Exchange.

There’s no doubt about it that we work in a way no other firm does. We spend a great deal of money for the benefit of the staff that the public knows nothing at all about. But we all work better as a result, and that’s very important.

Recently, the former New Theatre was bought by the firm and demolished, and the first stage of the extension to be opened to Boston shoppers will be a section at the rear of the present store.

Following this opening, work will continue on the second and final stage, which will include a new frontage to the shop, another shopping area running alongside the present building, making the total sales floor almost three times the original size, and new stockroom and staff quarters.

Commented Mr Alec Shepherd, who took over as manager when the building work began in March, “Ranges of all existing goods will be extended, and for the first time we shall get West End fashion at exactly the same time they go into our big London stores. We shall get top priority because we shall be a much bigger and much important store.”

But much of the extension and modernisation won’t be seen by the shoppers – the luxurious lounge and dining room for the staff, the new streamlined kitchen, the staff hairdressing salon, the medical room, and the light, airy modern cloakrooms.

“We believe in having a happy staff,” commented Mr Shepherd. “They enjoy their work much more and do a better job too.”

The firm, it is true, certainly seems to do more than most for their staff.

A local doctor calls at the store each month and sees any girl who has been ill since his last visit. The staff doctor does not attempt to take over from the girl’s own family doctor, Mr Shepherd stressed, but simply ensured that the health of the employees was maintained to the company’s standards.

The doctor also makes a monthly hygiene check of the store itself, and a dentist and chiropodist pay regular visits for the benefit of the staff.

Hygiene in all parts of their premises is an aspect to which great importance in attached, and this policy is not relaxed where the builders, with their conglomeration of apparatus and all that goes with it, are concerned.

On most building sites you might find workmen sitting nonchalantly eating sandwiches taken from a paper bag with grubby fingers. But not at Marks and Spencer’s. It is the firm’s policy to provide the workmen with a canteen equipped with washing and toilet facilities, and hot and cold running water – in the case of work on the Boston store the old St John Ambulance headquarters were bought and converted with them in mind.

Men are employed, too, whose full-time job it is to sweep up and generally keep tidy the part of the store where building work is actually going on.

The staff are carefully protected against anything which is remotely unhygienic in this way, and in many other ways, while the re-building operation is taking place.

For instance, the girls’ cloakroom has been demolished, but there’s no question of their having to ‘make do’ or share any other cloakroom. A temporary cloakroom, complete with hooks and individual lockers, has been built for them on the roof. And all the temporary corridors upstairs which lead from one temporary office to another have had their bare concrete floors covered with brand new linoleum – purely for the comfort of the staff!

The girls have no dining room to use at present, either, and each day groups of them are taken by ‘bus to Butterwick where they have their lunch in a brand new canteen built, in conjunction with Marks and Spencer’s, by one of their vegetable supplies, Marshall Bros.

“There’s no doubt about it,” said Mr Shepherd. “That we work in a way no other firm does. We spend a great deal of money for the benefit of the staff that the public knows nothing at all about. But we all work better as a result, and that’s very important.”

Mr Shepherd, who is married with two children – a boy, Gary, who is nearly five, and six-year-old Lorraine – comes originally from Burnley.

He began as a trainee manager in Lancaster ten years ago and since then has been in stores at Preston, Manchester and Blackpool, and also spent a time in one of the buying departments at the head office in London. He came to Boston in March from Preston, where he was assistant manger.

Mr Shepherd and his wife are having a house built in Lindis Road, and hope to moving in soon. At present, they are staying at the White Hart Hotel.