On this day 1838: Jenners department store in Edinburgh opens

Jenners in the 1860s on the corner of Princes Street's east end, where it still resides today. Picture: Lost Edinburgh
Jenners in the 1860s on the corner of Princes Street's east end, where it still resides today. Picture: Lost Edinburgh
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For nearly 180 years the ‘Harrods of the North’ has been an iconic part of Edinburgh’s city centre.

Opened on 1 May 1838, two men, Charles Kennington and Charles Jenner opened their flagship store on 47 Princes Street, where it still resides today.

Kennington & Jenners - now known simply as Jenners - was to provide Edinburgh residents with the finest silks and linens - previously only sold in the fashion houses of London.

Charles Kennington and Charles Jenner, had been recently sacked from their jobs as Edinburgh drapers for having the impudence to attend the Musselburgh races rather than turn up for their shifts. Luckily the pair had managed to back the right horse and made what would turn out to be a sound investment with their winnings.

Jenners was the oldest independent department store in Scotland until it was acquired by House of Fraser in 2005.

By 1860, the store had subsumed 48 Princes Street, as well as Nos. 2, 4, 6 and 8 on South St David’s Street.

The original Jenners store before it was decimated by fire in 1892. Picture: Lost Edinburgh

The original Jenners store before it was decimated by fire in 1892. Picture: Lost Edinburgh

By the time 1890 came around, Charles Jenner & Co. had expanded further to 49 Princes Street as well as adding Nos. 10, 12, 14 and 16 on South St David’s Street, marking it out as the largest store of its kind north of the border.

Disaster struck in November 1892, when a mighty fire ripped through the Princes Street store causing £250,000 of damage.

The Scotsman reported at the time:

“The most disastrous fire which has occurred in Edinburgh within living memory.

the aftermath of the 1892. Picture: Historic Environment Scotland

the aftermath of the 1892. Picture: Historic Environment Scotland

“Within a couple of hours..the whole block was in flames and the efforts of the firemen to put it out were futile.

“About 120 of the people employed by the firm [Jenners] who were housed on the premises only escaped with the clothes they stood in.”

Celebrated Scottish architect William Hamilton Beattie was appointed in 1893 to design the new store. Sadly, Charles Jenner died in October of 1893, and never got to see the redesigned store, which opened in March 1895.

The company bought the old Edinburgh Stock Exchange in 1903, and revamped it as part of the department store, extending Jenners up to Rose Street.

Coronation decorations outside Jenners in 1953. Picture: The Scotsman

Coronation decorations outside Jenners in 1953. Picture: The Scotsman

Further refurbishments in 1922 took the frontage to 52 Princes Street, and in 1962, the building on the south side of Rose Street was knocked down (including the infamous Crane’s Bar) and a modern building was built for Jenners on the same site.

Jenners has held a Royal Warrant since 1911, and is often referred to as the ‘Harrods of the North’. Royal Warrants have been issued to tradespeople or businesses supplying goods or services to the royal court for centuries, lending prestige to the supplier. Queen Elizabeth II visited Jenners as it celebrated its 150th anniversary in 1988.

In 2005, it was announced that the Douglas-Miller family had held talks to sell the business to the House of Fraser, for a price between £100 million and £200 million, although it was eventually sold for £46.1 million in April 2005.

Jenners exterior from Scott Monument, 1960. Picture: The Scotsman

Jenners exterior from Scott Monument, 1960. Picture: The Scotsman