Few retail organizations in the world have achieved the international reputation of Marks and Spencer.

In 1884, on a trestle table in the open market of Leeds, Michael Marks set up in business. His goods, haberdashery and small wares were laid out in baskets. Over the stall appeared a sign reading “Marks Penny Bazaar.” Another read “Don’t ask the Price – it’s a Penny.” The idea was novel, and appeared irresistible. He works hard and gave good value.

In 1898 he took into partnership Thomas Spencer, an employee of Isaac Dewhirst of Leeds who had supplied him with wholesale goods. Through Spencer he obtained direct access to manufacturers and as a result the firm was able to offer at the same price a wider range of goods and better in quality.

Neither founder survived long into the 20th Century: Spencer died in 1905 and Marks two years later. William Chapman took the helm until 1916, when Michael Marks' son Simon became chairman. Ten years later the business was floated as a public limited company.

Marks and Spencer first opened in Salisbury in 1913 at 11 Minster Street, before moving to Silver Street in 1934 with a sales area of 8,700 sq. ft. The store then moved to New Canal in October 1969, where it remains today. It underwent an extension in 1971 and a redevelopment in 1990, using the largest self-contained crane in the world at the time in the construction. During excavations for the foundations several relics of the past were discovered including a 19th Century copy of the Daily Telegraph and a small pot of ancient ointment for curing gout!

The excavation also entailed shoring up the adjoining building while foundation material was “injected” under it. The building was a steel framed construction built on 30 concrete mass bases each weighing 18 tons.