Former Debenham’s store named site of huge importance as it gains Listed status

todayApril 11, 2022 2

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There are hopes that the former Debenhams building in Nottingham city centre will have its future secured after it was granted listed status. The former retail store, located along Long Row and forming part of the Old Market Square, has been listed at Grade II by the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport on the advice of Historic England – giving it greater protection and recognition.

The historic Griffin and Spalding building has been based in Long Row for more than 180 years, with the shop closing its doors back in May 2021 after Debenhams entered administration. It’s not yet known what the building will next be used for – it has remained vacant ever since shutting its doors to the public last year.

However, it’s now been confirmed it has been granted listed status, which means it is seen as being of special architectural or historic interest – and considered to be of national importance and worth protecting.

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Hilary Silvester, vice chair of the Nottingham Civic Society, said: “I think it’s amazing news, it’s something that we have been wanting to see and have suggested before. The building is a great contribution to Nottingham and the square. It’s a fine 20th-century building and it’s a very good example of some of the impressive retail buildings we have here.

“It’s important because Nottingham is a city that has character, it’s not so far become totally overpowered by tall buildings like cities such as Brmingham, Sheffield and Manchester. This character goes back to medieval times – we have a great big square in the middle of our city, which people use to meet up with one another.

“Buildings like this one are a distinctive feature of the square – which I think is one of the largest of its kind in Europe. It has got a long and proud history and a character of its own, a character that it’s important we keep and one that the people of Nottingham have got used to. Hopefully, they can find a use which is respectful of the building’s history.”

Many will not know of the building’s history, having been developed by entrepreneurs Mr W Griffin and J.T Spalding, who purchased a draper’s shop on the corner of Market Street back in 1878 and renamed it after themselves. Over the years Griffin and Spalding acquired several neighbouring buildings in order to expand, including the Mikado Café, which was kept as a separate enterprise until around 1960 – when it was then incorporated into the store. However, some of its decorative mouldings remain on the east side of the building.

A queue outside Debenhams in Nottingham City Centre
A queue outside Debenhams in Nottingham City Centre

The business was sold to Debenhams in 1944 and the name was retained until 1973 when Debenhams embarked on a national re-branding scheme. Griffin and Spalding and the Mikado Café were well-known, long-standing institutions in the city of Nottingham, which contributed to the city as a provincial and regional destination for shopping and socialising. By 1978, it had 37 trading floors and was one of the largest department stores in England.

It was often ahead of its time in terms of ‘retail theatre’, holding in-store fashion shows and with marketing from the 1950s encouraging shoppers to make a day of a store visit by booking into the hairdressers and lunching in the restaurant. Independent Retail Anaylst Nelson Blackley told Nottinghamshire Live: “The news that the ex-Debenhams building on Long Row and Market Street has been granted Grade II listing under the Heritage Category, for both its architectural and historic interest, is, of course, good news for those who were keen to see the building’s appearance remain as it has been since 1924, when the main sections of the building were given a facing of Portland stone.

“Although this will not necessarily stop any future repurposing or development that might be planned which would alter the building in a way that affects its character as a building of special interest, this will now require listed building consent from the local planning authority.

“It’s possible that this additional bureaucracy, and the associated time and cost, might now possibly reduce the interest of some potential developers, although it remains a landmark site of almost 200,000 square feet in a prime city centre location.” He added: “The total number of department stores in the UK have slumped from almost 500 in 2016 to less than 100 today and so I believe there is very little likelihood of the ex-Debenhams building in Nottingham being re-occupied by a single retailer.

The iconic Debenhams store in Nottingham city centre has been boarded up following its closure.
The iconic Debenhams store in Nottingham city centre boarded up following its closure.

“It’s much more likely to be developed as mixed use, with space at street level becoming home to smaller retailers or food and beverage outlets, but I still think the most likely future use for the space on the other floors are city centre apartments.”

Historic England architectural investigator Elain Harwood, who was born and raised in Nottingham, said: “Griffin and Spalding, as it is still known to many Nottingham folk, was the city’s paramount store. Its importance is reflected in its dominant position on Nottingham’s premier shopping street, Long Row, overlooking the Market Square.”

A recent report from SAVE Britain’s Heritage had called on the store to be protected and classed it as ‘high risk’, along with five other Nottinghamshire former department stores such as the city’s very first Woolworths in Lister Gate.

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Written by: thehitnetwork

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