Fenwick staff reunite at The Gresham ahead of local history month
Nearly 90 ex-Fenwick Leicester employees from as far away as Austria, Newcastle and London, returned to The Gresham on 31 March 2023 to see how the former department store where they used to work, has been converted into a luxurious 121-room aparthotel, which opened for business in 2021.
The reunion was exactly six years to the day since the iconic store closed its doors for the very last time. Previous staff and management– including 91-year-old former chair of the board, Mr. John Fenwick, who travelled from London with his son, Adam – all met up for the first time since the pandemic, to appreciate the impressive transformation of Fenwicks.
In its heyday, around 250 full and part-time staff were employed at Fenwicks. Many of these were guests on the night, delighted to see the legend of Fenwicks living on. They marvelled at how developers, Aimrok Holdings, had taken such care to ensure that the building retained its character and friendly warmth.
Many of the original features they remembered during their time at Fenwicks were still intact, including the hand-made bronze fluting housed within the magnificent grand staircase, installed in the 1920s by Mr. Joseph Johnson (the owner of the building before it was purchased by Fenwicks in 1962) replicating a design he spotted whilst on a cruise.
David Illingworth, who was the Fenwick Leicester store director for 21 years, helped to organise the event, including coordinating the attendance by members of the Fenwick family. He said, “I was delighted that so many people made the effort to attend and enjoy reminiscing about the good old Fenwick days, in such a wonderfully-revitalised environment for all to continue enjoying.
“Like the other former members of staff who were here, I was thrilled to see Mr. John again in particular, and he had a wonderful evening, so it was a great success!”
Mark Hills, The Gresham general manager, was on hand to welcome the special guests at the aparthotel. He said, “It’s great to know that the people of Leicester love The Gresham and its heritage so much. It is an iconic building full of character which has stood steadfast since the 1880s and it is a pleasure to work in, and be part of one of Leicester’s architectural gems.
“We want to make sure that this history is not lost so, as part of Local History Month this May, we are inviting people to send in their stories, photos and press clippings, so that we can collate and share these memories of bygone Gresham.”
The public are invited to send in their copies or scans and tales of the Gresham building’s past when it was Fenwicks and Joseph Johnsons, by 31 May 2023, by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org