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Remember When: SUPERSTORE; Remembering Bainbridge's - a world first.

Byline: RAY MARSHALL

BAINBRIDGE was a one-time institution in Newcastle, but it also laid claim to being the first ever department store in the world.

Emerson Muschamp Bainbridge, 170 years ago, at the age of 21, went into partnership with William Alder Dunn, and opened a draper's and fashion shop in Market Street.

Its claim came from the fact that as early as 1849 the shop's weekly takings were recorded by department, hence it became the first known department store.

The first Bainbridge ledger survives and is kept in the John Lewis archives.

Emmerson Bainbridge learned his trade when he was apprenticed, at the age of seven, to Newcastle draper William Kidd, for five years, to learn all about the trade.

He also gained experience in London before returning to set up his business with Dunn.

They prided themselves in offering a wide range of goods and sales were made in ready money only.

The shop was an instant success but differences caused the partners to fall out and eventually Dunn left the business.

Bainbridge introduced strict rules on staff, but it is said they were treated better than in most other business-es. Most of the shop assis-tants lived in a hostel close by. In 1870 Bainbridge intro-duced the Albert House Benevolent Society to help employees who had fallen on hard times.

Emerson Bainbridge died in 1892 and is buried in Jes-mond Old Cemetery. Control of the store passed to his sons. In 1897 the business was turned into a private lim-ited company and during the following years new technol-ogy was embraced, including gas-powered cash tubes.

In 1923 Bainbridge opened a 'marble-lined' food hall, which offered such del-icacies as sausages and hag-gis. There was also a thriving trade in unusual services, such as the production of trade union banners.

Centenary celebrations in 1938 were marked by the publication of a booklet 'A

Century of Service'. This title became the shop's logo.

As the great depression hit the North East the shop employed agents who oper-ated in the less prosperous areas, collecting payments in weekly instalments, meaning people on low incomes could continue to buy.

Even more difficult years were to come. When war was declared in 1939, part of the shop was requisitioned. A large air-raid shelter was built and observation turrets on the roof provided lookout posts for air-raid wardens.

Moving into the 1950s it became clear that if Bain-bridge was to survive it need-ed to join forces with a larger organisation and in 1953 it became part of the John Lewis Partnership.

In 1976 the store moved from its original site into Eldon Square where in 2002 Partners - all staff are known as Partners, as they have a share in the business - decid-ed to join most of the other department stores in the John Lewis group and take the name of the founder.

Even today, six years after the name change, Tynesiders still know the shop as Bainbridge's.

CAPTION(S):

THE FOUNDER: Emerson Bainbridge; NEW SITE: Staff moving from the old store to the new store in Eldon Square in October 1976; CHANGING TIMES: above, Bainbridge on Peace Day in 1919; below in August, 1952
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Publication:Evening Chronicle (Newcastle, England)
Date:Apr 5, 2008
Words:527
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