On 22nd June 1960, models posed with items for sale at John Barker’s department store on Kensington High Street, London. You can see the pictures below. But before you do, it’s useful to know some history of the store that once rivalled the grand shops on Oxford Street in London’s West End. Kensington High Street was home to three department stores: Barker’s, Derry and Tom’s and Pontings. All three were under the same ownership.
Dave Walker tells us:
The John Barker Company had acquired Ponting’s in 1907 and Derry and Tom’s in 1920. It was they who built the architecturally demanding Derry and Tom’s building (1929-31, with the Roof Garden being completed in 1938) along with their own flagship building (1936 -1958 work being interrupted by the war).
House of Fraser bought Barker’s in 1957. It provides a history of the place:
The store itself comprised sixty-four departments, selling goods of all kinds including clothes, books, stationery, fancy goods, furniture, carpets, china and glass, groceries, wine and spirits and cigars. The store also had departments for drug-dispensing, building, plumbing and refreshment catering. By 1895, the company owned every property on the High Street between King Street and Young Street except numbers 73 and 85. In 1895, new jewellery, watch and bicycle departments were opened and depository facilities were acquired in Cromwell Crescent. In 1897, the company rebuilt its Ball Street property to house office staff. In 1898, it acquired 48, 52, 54 and 56 Kensington High Street and, in 1900, it also acquired 73 Kensington High Street. In about 1900, work began on rebuilding 42-60 Kensington High Street as a large warehouse with flats above. Later, the depository facilities in Cromwell Crescent were also reconstructed. In 1907, the company acquired Ponting Brothers, a large drapery store on Kensington High Street, which was continued as a separate concern.
In November 1912, the east section of Barkers’ main block was devastated by fire. Temporary premises were found on the opposite side of the street and reconstruction was begun in 1913 by the company’s own building department. The company also suffered during the First World War. By 1915, trade was diminishing leaving the business over-stocked and over-borrowed. Unprofitable departments were closed, wages were reduced and the delivery service was curtailed…
In 1925, Zeeta Co Ltd, a chain of high-class catering shops, was acquired. Between 1922 and 1930, the area of property owned by the company doubled with acquisitions on both sides of Kensington High Street. In 1926, a large furniture store, known as the Ladymere building, was built at 26-40 Kensington High Street. The company had occupied temporary premises here since the fire in 1912 and had taken a long lease in 1919.
In the 1930s, work began on a phased redevelopment of Barkers and Derry & Toms, setting Barkers back by 30 feet to reduce the acute congestion in Kensington High Street. The first stage involved the closure of Ball Street, which was built over between 1927 and 1929, and the erection of new administrative offices and household showrooms. Meanwhile, Pontings was developed southwards along Wrights Lane. Architect Bernard George was commissioned to produce designs for both stores, and work on Derry & Toms began immediately. The new store was opened in March 1933. Work was also begun on Barkers but was only two thirds complete when war was declared in 1939…
In 1953, it opened a new store with thirty departments in Terminus Road, Eastbourne. In April 1955, work was resumed on the redevelopment of the Barker building in Kensington. The new store was opened in September 1958.
In February 1971, Pontings was closed and the site sold. The entire Pontings stock was installed in the lower ground floor of the Barkers building where it became known as Pontings Bargain Basement. In the same year, Derry & Toms was sold, although the store was not closed until January 1973. In late 1972, work began on the refurbishment of Barkers in order to capture the trade of the closed stores.
In 1975, House of Fraser acquired Army & Navy Stores Ltd and Barkers became the flagship of a new Army & Navy division. In 1976, the food hall was revamped and a new china and glass department and restaurant opened. In 1977, automatic lifts were installed. and the Pontings basement closed. Further modernisation work was undertaken in 1978 with the construction of a new main entrance on the corner of Derry Street and the opening of a new fashion area on the first floor and electrical and hardware departments on the lower ground floor. In 1982, the number of sales floors was reduced from seven to four and architects were commissioned to refurbish and develop Barkers as a compact store alongside a new arcade of nine boutiques, office space and garden terraces. The new department store was completed by November 1986 and the shopping arcade opened in 1987.
The company was wound up voluntarily in 1988.
John Barker’s was closed in 2006. At the time of writing the site it once occupied is home to a branch of Whole Foods Market.
Now bring on the models and those fancy goods: