The architectural heritage of Montague Burton’s Art Deco shops

Anyone who follows me on Twitter will, over a number of years, probably have got fed up with pictures of storefronts and ghostsigns.  A common theme in this has been the architecture that is being lost – something that this blog has commented on as well, for example generally (place vandalism) and very specifically in Hull.

Amongst these tweets have been the more than occasional photo of an old Burton the Tailor’s store.  Sometimes it is the store front, sometimes a detail including foundation stones, occasionally an elephant.  Elements of these store sightings have appeared in the blog as well, for example at Halifax, Dublin and Greenwich.

The historic building of Burton’s are architectural gems in many cases, but they also offer more than the façade.  I am known to always look up when walking in a town, trying to spot interesting historical store features.  Burton’s however gets me looking down as well, in search of foundation stones, mosaics or grilles, as these photos from Aberystwyth show.

In many cases when I tweet on Burtons I tag in @KA_Morrison for her historical shop expertise (follow her wonderful blog at Building our Past), but also @laidbymonty, an expert on all things Burton.  Between them they seem to know most things on the subject. ( you might like Kathryn Morrison’s Spotter’s Guide to Montague Burton, the Tailor of Taste Part 1 and Part 2, which explain more about the design, the stones and so on)

Last week because of this I fell down a virtual rabbit hole.  @laidbymonty (you can find out more here about the background to the development of their database of Burton’s stores) has produced a website using their database, cataloguing all of the Burton’s stores in the UK and Ireland, those surviving and those that we have lost.  Where to start?  It is a labour of love and a masterpiece.  Hours of fun for any retail history buff and if you are interested in Burton’s or retail architecture, then heaven.

The website outlines each store (present or gone) and provides as much details as it can, especially on features, foundation stones and elephants.  Where available there are photos.  A comparison feature allows you to see similar stores. Links to articles and further information about the individual stores are also present where available.

Are there gaps?  Yes, of course.  The site remains in development and the intention is that it will be added to.  I am happily sending in my photos of Burton’s stores, foundation stones and other features. If you have any, then there is a link to get in touch with @laidbymonty on the site.

This site is a brilliant addition to the virtual streetscape of British retail history and I recommend it to everyone.  

At a time when we are still struggling to see the beauty of what was built for us, those years ago, and seem to want to replace it with identikit nonsense (yes, looking at you Marks and Spencer and Oxford Street, amongst others), it is sobering that @laidbymonty writes “Surprisingly, only six locations throughout England and Wales are listed buildings (Scotland does better)”. I defy you not to be fascinated by the wonderful retail heritage and stories in this new website.

About Leigh Sparks

I am Professor of Retail Studies at the Institute for Retail Studies, University of Stirling, where I research and teach aspects of retailing and retail supply chains, alongside various colleagues. I am Chair of Scotland's Towns Partnership. I am also a Deputy Principal of the University, with responsibility for Education and Students.
This entry was posted in Architecture, Art Deco, Burtons, Dublin, Halifax, Heritage, Historic Shops, Hull, Oxford Street, Places, Retail History, Uncategorized, Urban History and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

1 Response to The architectural heritage of Montague Burton’s Art Deco shops

  1. Roger Boyle says:

    I’ve been a Burton spotter for years.
    Thanks for the pointers to websites I’d not known of.

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