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Marks & Spencer celebrates 100 years of trading in Gravesend with three-day celebration

The store began as a penny bazaar

The store began as a penny bazaar

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Marks & Spencer in Gravesend is celebrating 100 years of trading with a special centenary event for customers and a trip down memory lane of the store's history.

Gravesend Marks & Spencer in 1927Gravesend Marks & Spencer in 1927

The store will mark its anniversary with a special three day event from this Thursday to Saturday.

A variety of in-store activities will be taking place, including food and wine tasting sessions and bucks fizz on arrival. The Mayor of Gravesham will also visit the store on Friday at 11.30am.

Customers will also have the chance to learn more about the 129 year history of M&S, from its beginnings as a Penny Bazaar market stall to an international retailer.

A temporary exhibition will showcase the store’s heritage, with photos, documents and examples of products sold throughout its history, as well as the first ever employee uniform.

The Gravesend Marks and Spencer store in 1961The Gravesend Marks and Spencer store in 1961

Some members of staff will also wear replica uniforms of those worn by employees in Gravesend in 1949.

Katie Berry, store manager at M&S Gravesend, said: “As one of the longest standing retailers in town, this is an important milestone for both the store and our customers. We are very excited to be welcoming customers to visit us and enjoy our special celebrations to mark this historic occasion.”

M&S Gravesend opened at 39 New Road in 1914 and relocated to New Street in 1927, where it remains today.

During the extension of the store in 1959, builders found private papers, a diary, and legal documents belonging to a wheelwright’s apprentice named Robert Biggs – all of which were wrapped up in a red linen neckerchief. According to dates found on the documents they had lain undiscovered for over 200 years.

Employees from the store have always been very passionate about fundraising. In 1978, two Gravesend sales assistants leapt out of a light aircraft in their first ever parachute jump raising over £130 for the Miss Sparks charity appeal.

In 1981, the Gravesend Round Table raised £2,000 with an M&S fashion show and donated £1,000 of the total to ‘Riding for the Disabled’ and in 1989, the store raised £1,000 for the local Lions Hospice Appeal by organising sponsored walks, a swim, cake stall and a jewellery auction.

The M&S Company Archive has a collection of over 70,000 historic items and was unveiled at the University of Leeds’ Michael Marks Building in March 2012.

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